Dubai: UAE-based dermatologists have cautioned residents to be more mindful of skin care during winters as neglect can result in premature ageing, pigmentation, aggravated acne triggered by masks, and other issues.
Dr Chantal Sciuto, specialist in dermatology, cosmetics and aesthetic dermatology at the Dermalase Clinic in Jumeirah, Dubai, listed the top five reasons for winter skin breakouts that most commonly affect people.
“During winters, owing to the dryness in weather and people being outdoors, there are five common problems my patients walk in with”, said Dr Sciuto. while listing the skin problems as:
2. Dryness with exposure to winter air and hot baths results in poor skin tone and early lines around the eyes and mouth,
3. Winter acne, which these days is triggered by constant wearing of mask, dehydrated skin as people drink less water
4. Pigmentation and patchiness with over production of melanin
5. Wrinkling of the tissue due to poor nutrition.
Dr Sciuto explained that pigmentation of the skin occurs in summers but is noticed in winters. “In the summers, our skin goes into overproduction of melanin, the natural pigment of our skin that is produced more during summers as it has the ability to absorb harmful UV rays of the sun. Sometimes the melanin production is not evenly spread and this results in pigment patches and provides uneven skin colour. During winters, when we spend more time outdoors, these patches become more evident and we notice them.”
Dr Fatima Zohra Rezgui, specialist dermatologist with American Board certification in cosmetic laser surgery, skin biology and dermatological sciences at the Aesthetica Clinic, Dubai, provided an analysis of the kind of sun damage to facial skin suffered in this region.
She said: “In Middle East and Asia, the sun rays are stronger than in Europe, US and other temperate zone countries. The World Health Organisation [WHO] has established a UV Index [UVI] for various regions depending on the exposure to harmful Ultraviolet rays from the sun in any season. In the UAE, the UVI is six in winters, which is a very high number.”
The UVI is a measure to determine the intensity of UV rays. In temperate zones, the UVI is around four in summers and not more than three in winters. “Here the UVI goes up to nine in summers and in winters too, it is as high as six. Sun exposure causes photo- ageing of the skin. This results in many serious skin issues including skin cancers and damage such as wrinkles, damage to the Collagen and sagging of skin. Therefore, it is important for people to use adequate sunscreen of over 30 Sun Protection Factor [SPF] when stepping out. The use of sun- shades such as umbrellas and hats is also advised even in winters.”
During winters, the air is dry and lacks moisture; this results in dryness of the skin. “Besides that, we often step into hot baths and showers to keep us warm. While this is soothing, it further aggravates the dryness,” said Dr Scioto. “This results in itchy skin, circulation issues and results in premature lines especially on areas that are prone to premature ageing such as the neck, the side of the mouths, under and side portion of the eye. “
The human body is 70 per cent water, and lack of proper hydration results in premature ageing of facial skin. Dr Sciuto said: “We tend to drink water only when we are thirsty. In winters, we are not as thirsty as we do not perspire so much. However, there is loss of water constantly happening through various processes of our metabolism and we must replenish our water.”
She added: “Besides, we tend to have a plenty of hot beverages such as tea, coffee, and smokers tend to smoke more as well as alcohol consumption goes up during the winter with festivities and outdoor social events. All of these dehydrate the skin. Lack of hydration is one of the main reasons for premature wrinkles. We must stay adequately hydrated even during winters, have at least eight glasses of plain water to keep our skin from shrivelling up.”
The main reason for skin outbreaks in winter is allergies and itchiness because of dryness and constant wearing of masks. Dr Sciuto said that incidence of ‘maskne’ had gone up in the last two years and more people were suffering frequent outbreaks. “People tend to neglect hygiene, wear the same mask for many hours, even days. The outer surface of the mask is contaminated with allergens and dust and constant rubbing of it on the skin stimulates more sebum production.”
Sebum is the yellow, oily extract of the sebaceous glands that seals the moisture in our skin.
“However, when the sebum is contaminated with dust and allergens, it results in irritating the top surface and causing outbreaks. People must wash their skin with a hypoallergenic soap or face wash, use a good moisturiser and wear a mask for not more than two hours. They can take mask breaks when there is suitable social distance like in a car or sitting alone in a park. Let your skin breathe and if you have the slightest allergy, speak to your doctor. Wear a cloth mask and change it often,” she advised.
While most women tend to spend a fortune on expensive creams and lotions, many tend to overlook balanced nutrition for the skin. Both Dr Sciuto and Rezgui emphasised a diet rich in micronutrients such as vitamins, enzymes, trace minerals and antioxidants that could replenish folic acid, zinc and vitamin C.
It is essential to have a generous serving of fresh green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and oily fish, for natural micronutrients such as vitamin C, folic, acid, the B vitamins, zinc and calcium to support the needs of the skin, hair, nails and bones. If that is not enough then see a dermatologist and get some vitamins and minerals prescribed, the dermatologists said.
Dr Scioto said: “Just as we are mindful of our physical body, watch what we eat, exercise regularly, stretch, etc, we need to be equally mindful about the skin care routine. Keeping it clean, well hydrated, well moisturised and nourishing it with a balanced diet and good restful sleep, can go a long way in keeping wrinkles and pre mature ageing at bay.”
• While protecting the skin from harsh rays if the sun is important, it is equally crucial for you to expose your skin, without sun block, to the early morning sun. Try and catch early morning sunlight without sun protection for about 20 minutes each day to get adequate Vitamin D. But this must be very early in the morning, soon after dawn
• Do not forget to drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated
• Do include a generous amount of micronutrients in your natural food (salads, nuts, seeds can provide the much needed zinc, folic acid and other trace minerals for your skin health)
• Avoid too much tea, coffee, alcohol and cigarettes as these result in long-term oxidative damage of the skin.
• Follow a good night routine of cleaning, toning moisturising. Do not forget to take off the make-up, wash you face with lukewarm water, gently pat dry. Then cleanse tone and massage a good skin serum with vitamin E and other antioxidants that will heal your skin through the night as you sleep.
• Consult a good dermatologist to understand your specific skin needs and tailor you skin care routine according to your needs.