A near constant exposure to sun can have its drawbacks. Be prepared
Living in Dubai means almost constant exposure to the sun. Find out how to enjoy the conditions without damaging your health.
‘A combination of strong sun, high temperatures and humidity puts your skin at a higher risk in Dubai compared with other countries,’ says Samar Maatouk of UAE-wide cosmetic skincare centre Silkor.
She explains that as a result she normally advises people to avoid being in the sun during peak hours, which occur between 10am and 4pm. If you insist on going out, she continues, ‘wear a hat, sun-protective clothing and sunglasses.’
Of course, some sun worshippers won’t be deterred, in which case Samar underlines the risks in the case of repeated or overexposure. ‘There is a tendency for your skin to turn dry and lose its elasticity, so fine lines and wrinkles become more visible,’ she warns. ‘Freckles and skin pigmentation appear on exposed skin, causing hyper-pigmentation, in which the chemical melanin plays an important role in darkening various parts of the skin. The most dangerous problem is skin cancer, and ultraviolet radiation emitted from the sun is the main cause of this.’
Sun cream is the main way to shield your skin, but surprisingly few people understand how sun protection works and how to apply it. Confused? Take note of the following…
Beware of both UVA and UVB rays While UVAs are the ageing (wrinkling) rays, UVBs are the burning (skin cancer) rays. Most sun protection takes care of UVB (the SPF figure refers to your protection from UVB rays), but you need to protect against UVA, too. Look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ on products, and look at the ingredients. If you see ‘avobenzone’ or ‘zinc oxide’, you’re UVA safe. Avobenzone has a reputation for being unstable (disintegrating after a few hours), but some brands add oxybenzone, which lessens the breakdown, meaning you’re protected for longer.
Wear higher SPF for longer protection SPF doesn’t refer to the strength of your protection, it refers to the time. So, if you’re using SPF 10, you’ll be able to stay in the sun for ten times longer than normal before burning. If you use SPF 30, it will take 30 times longer to burn. So, assuming it takes your skin ten minutes to burn with no protection, using a single application of SPF 30 will give you 300 minutes of protection. But as soon as you swim or sweat, you need to re-apply, or you’re back to zero protection. And you don’t get another 300 minutes, you just pick up where you left off when you jumped into the pool.
Use sun cream generously It’s vital that you use enough product. Roughly one teaspoon per limb is required for your SPF to do its job at the strength indicated on the bottle. If you use too little product, your SPF 15 could be more like an SPF 4. Silkor, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 348 0500).
Sun protection for children
Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable in hot weather and can suffer both short and long-term damage from sunburn and heatstroke. This is because their ability to regulate temperature is still developing, and they can easily lose excess water and salt through their skin. They are also more vulnerable than adults to sunlight and burning. And as studies show that one sunburn incident during childhood may raise their risk of developing melanoma as well as wrinkles later in adulthood, babies less than six months old should be kept out of the sun on hot days as much as possible. Dr. Sam Hassan, consultant paediatrician at City Hospital’s Mediclinic, shares his top sun-savvy tips…
Choose your times Outdoor play should be limited to early mornings and late afternoons only. The sun’s rays are at their strongest between 10am and 5pm – so avoid these hours. Some surfaces such as cement, sand, water and snow reflect the suns’ rays and increase the risk of sunburn, too. Grassy, shaded areas are therefore safer. It’s not the heat that causes sunburn either, but the UV light, so your baby may get burnt even if the weather is cloudy. UV light can damage the skin at any time of the year and is worse in summer. But always take precautions, because sunburn is not immediately obvious and may not appear for a few hours.
Cover up Keep your baby in a protected spot away from direct sunlight. When he/she is in the stroller or pram, use a pop-up stroller shade that is UV light protection certified. Shades without UV protection cannot provide a complete barrier from UV light. If you are planning to spend a full day at the beach, for example, it’s better to keep your baby in a tent with built-in UV protection. Babies should also be dressed in lightweight and light-coloured clothes that reflect rather than absorb heat. It’s better to use fabrics that don’t allow light to penetrate (tightly woven). You can confirm this by holding the fabric up to the light to see if it shines through. Fabric with UV barriers are available too, and you can keep kids’ heads covered with a brimmed sun hat. Protect their eyes with ‘baby’ sunglasses.
Sunblock savvy The American Academy of Pediatrics has advised that it is okay to use a little sunscreen on babies less than six months old. Choose a brand that is baby-safe (ask your pharmacist to recommend one). However, the first defence against the sun should be keeping babies shaded and covered up, rather than slathering them in sun cream. Sun block for older kids needs to be applied around 30 minutes before you go outside, and then needs to be re-applied every two hours, or after swimming, towelling and perspiration. Make sure the sunscreen is fresh, too, because if it’s old, it will lose its effectiveness.