It’s been a long, hot summer – and while we have been hiding inside every space that has air conditioning, our favourite weekend beach and pool spots have gone neglected. Thankfully, temps are starting to plunge and we can make time for them again, but that means we need to ensure our skin, eyes and hair are protected in the sunshine.
We’ve spoken to a group of experts to find out what happens to our bodies, faces, eyes and hair when we expose them to the sunshine – and what products we can use to repair the damage after a session in the sun…
Ever wondered why our skin develops a tan when exposed to sunshine? Skincare scientist Dr Lars Lindmark, who founded supplement brand Imedeen, explains, ‘When UVB rays penetrate the top level of skin – called the epidermis – a natural, brown-coloured pigment called melanin is produced to protect it from the sun.
This causes a tan to develop – but with continued exposure, the structure of the skin starts to deteriorate. UVA rays penetrate into the dermal layer where they destroy collagen and elastin fibres. Skin loses suppleness, elasticity, and the ability to retain water.’
Sharon Hilditch of skincare brand Crystal Clear adds, ‘Think of how a peeled apple looks like after 10 minutes. It starts to go brown and look damaged – and that is exactly what is happening to our skin when it is exposed to too much sunshine.’
So how do we protect it?
‘Seek shade between 11am and 3pm and always apply a high SPF,’ advises Boots suncare research and development manager Clare O’Connor.
Try: At the luxury end of the spectrum, Shiseido Expert Sun Aging Protection Lotion Wet Force SPF50+ (Dh214, Bloomingdale’s) is well worth the investment, especially if you plan to spend a long time in the water. In fact, this clever new launch actually becomes more effective in water with genius Wet Force technology, protecting our skin from both UVA and UVB damage as we make a splash.
For a budget buy, it’s hard to beat the effectiveness of Nivea Sun Protect & Refresh SPF30 (Dh59.50, Boots nationwide), which provides high quality UVA and UVB Protection. The formula is non-sticky and easily absorbed, while the spray nozzle allows for quick and easy application.
Finally, a welcome addition to the SPF market is solid sunblock Lush The Sunblock SPF30 (Dh100, stores nationwide), which is designed to be smoothed over damp skin in the shower before sun exposure. It promises to protect every inch of skin with broad-spectrum sunblock – and is the perfect tool for those pushed for time in the mornings.
So what about the skin on our face? ‘Skin is one organ,’ explains Dr Jennifer Jones for Garnier. ‘What affects the body affects the face in much the same way. The big difference is that the face is almost always exposed.’
Tom Ogden at Australian skincare brand Alpha-H continues, ‘The sun switches our ageing clock to fast-forward, so that the level of damage normally incurred over 20 years will happen in five. Wrinkles deepen, skin loses pliability and firmness, and blood vessels across the nose and cheeks weaken and burst. The greatest issue, however, is pigmentation – age spots and darker patches are the truest indicators of a damaged, unhealthy, prematurely aged complexion.’
So here’s the key; we really should be wearing SPF on our face on a daily basis – and not just for those weekend jaunts to the beach.
‘To protect your face use a minimum SPF 15 every day all year round,’ advises Sally Penford, education manager at The International Dermal Institute.
Try: Elemis Liquid Layer SPF30 (Dh185, Elemis.ae) is a wise choice as daily defence against UV rays. The lightweight formula contains both antioxidants to protect against daily pollutants and polymeric spheres to reflect UVA and UVB rays. Apply it after cleansing, toning and moisturising - but before applying make-up, so you are always protected when you step out into the sunshine.
When you need extra protection – such as when you are heading for a few lazy hours on that sunlounger – opt for a higher level of SPF. Bioderma Photoderm AR SPF50 (Dh119, Basharacare.com) ensures the highest level of protection and is the perfect choice for complexions that are prone to sensitivity and redness.
Most of us are aware that we should be looking after our skin when we head out into the sun – but the health of our eyes is often forgotten.
Rob Hogan at Boots Pharmacies warns, ‘Exposure to UV light is known to be the key cause in Age-related Macular Degeneration of our eyes (known as AMD), which is the leading cause of irreversible sight loss in the Western world.
‘Furthermore, UV rays are also implicated in the formation of cataracts – cloudiness within the lens – in later life.’
Scary, right? And if we buy sunglasses from a budget store, we are taking a huge risk for the health of our eyes.
Try: Sunglasses should offer 100 per cent protection against UV rays. This will be signalled by a sticker on the lens – but if in doubt, ask staff before you part with cash.
Heading to an optician is the safest way to buy your sunglasses – and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the perfect frames in the UAE. Al Jaber Optical is a great place to start, with the likes of Bvlgari Cat’s Eye Frames (Dh1,449) as an investment – or at the other end of the spectrum, similarly stylish frames by affordable brand Vogue (Dh329, both at Al Jaber Optical).
Do we really need to protect our hair in the same way that we do our skin and eyes? The experts are in agreement that the answer is a definite yes. ‘In the same way that the sun will burn your skin if exposed and unprotected, it will have an effect on your hair,’ explains world-renowned colour expert Jo Hansford.
‘People tend to forget that hair needs protection too!’
Redken colour ambassador Jason Welch adds, ‘UV light attacks the colour pigment, shattering the melanin cells and making colour look brassy and faded.
‘It also depletes the natural moisture content of the hair, making it dry and fragile, and ruffles the outer cuticle, giving locks a dull, frazzled appearance.’
Try: ‘It’s important to use products designed specifically to protect hair against UV rays, chlorine and sea salt,’ explains hair guru Sacha Mascolo-Tarbuck.
Invest in a UV sunscreen for hair, such as Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil (Dh120, www.aveda-me-com), which promises to lock in protection for up to 16 hours of sun exposure. The formula is infused with wintergreen and cinnamon bark oils to help protect hair from damage, while organic oils of neroli and ylang ylang condition the hair after exposure.
So you’ve protected your skin and hair – but what about after-sun care to infuse them with moisture post-exposure? We take a look at the products we should be adding to our bathroom shelf for use after those beach sessions…
For body, it’s hard to beat Lancaster After Sun Moisturising Lotion (Dh195, counters nationwide) for efficiency. Expect skin to feel cooler, softer, and suppler after application – and if you’ve picked up some colour on that sunlounger, it will help to extend your tan too.
Another good choice is Lush Sympathy for the Skin (Dh140, stores nationwide), which is filled with natural ingredients to infuse skin with goodness and moisture. From fresh bananas to almond oil and cocoa butter, it smells divine – and it can be stored in the fridge for an extra cooling treat when you step out of the shower.
For your complexion, La Prairie Soothing After Sun Mist (Dh408, Paris Gallery) is a wise choice. Formulated with rich minerals and extracts, this gentle mist works to balance the skin, while calming redness and irritability. It’s a luxury, but a little goes a long way – and your skin will thank you for it.
So what about your locks? Follow sun exposure with a shampoo that contains a UV shield, followed by Sachajuan Intensive Repair Conditioner (Dh150, Glamazle.com), which promises to nourish and treat hair that is damaged, porous, dry, or has just been exposed to the sun. UV protectants penetrate hair follicles and remain after rinsing to provide maximum protection.
Finally, boost the condition of sun-exposed locks with an intensive, repairing hair mask, such as L’Occitane Repairing Mask for Dry and Damaged Hair (Dh159, Loccitane.ae). The beautifully scented, rich mask promises to nourish and restore hair capillary fibres, while infusing each strand with moisture.