5 Easy DIY Steps to Recreate a Traditional Hammam Ritual
Indulge in the purifying ceremony of personal wellness in your home.
Originating in Morocco, the ancient bathing ritual of the hammam aims to cleans your body with pampering baths and massages set in a peaceful environment. The five-part procedure helps to cleanse, nourish, and rehydrate the skin, while being profoundly relaxing and rejuvenating.
But you don’t have to jet to Istanbul to experience the hammam – simply follow our five easy steps to enjoying the bathing experience of a lifetime in your own home.
STEP 1: Get steamy
Start by creating steam room-like conditions in your bathroom by insulating windows and door gaps with towels so no steam can escape. Run a hot shower and drench yourself in the water, which will help relax any tension in the muscles. Feel the steam soften your skin.
Must-have: Rituals Hammam Scented Candle
STEP 2: Soap up
Apply a thin layer of black soap all over your body and let the product work its magic for about 10-15 minutes before rinsing it away.
Must-have: Noir Black Hamman Soap
STEP 3: Scrub away
Prepare your Kessa glove prior to the bath by soaking it in warm water for about 30 seconds and letting it dry. Rub the glove in circular motions all over your body to remove dead skin cells and grime. Don’t rub too hard, though – kessa gloves are abrasive and overscrubbing can hurt your skin.
Must-have: The Ritual of Hammam Kessa Glove
STEP 4: Clay time
Continue your blissful experience with Moroccan red clay powder, also known as rhassoul clay. Mix it with a splash of water and apply it to your whole body, including your hair. Leave it to dry for 15 minutes and rinse off. Fun fact: rhassoul clay can be used as both hair mask and shampoo.
Must-have: Now Solutions Moroccan Red Clay Powder
STEP 5: Oil it up
Slather your skin in argan oil while still moist to allow full penetration of oil goodness. Massaging your body with oil helps combat dehydration and will keep your newly soft skin smooth and supple.
As the seasons change, so should your skincare routine. And with summer officially back with a vengeance, it’s time to ditch the heavy-duty moisturisers in favour of lighter options that still nourish and hydrate. Here are our five favourites.
C.E.O. Brightening Serum by Sunday Riley
Sunday Riley’s C.E.O. Brightening Serum is a must-have for every woman’s summer skincare routine – it’s a true all-rounder and perfect for all occasions, so you can wear it under makeup or on its own. Powered by 15% advanced Vitamin C, the serum targets dullness, dark spots, and discolouration while diminishing the signs of ageing. The skin feels firmer and plumper as a youthful bounce and an even tone is restored.
C.E.O Brightening Serum, AED 330, available at Sephora
Damascan Rose Facial Treatment by Aesop
The rule of thumb for skincare? Daytime is about protecting your skin, nighttime is about repairing it. We love a few drops of Aesop’s Damascan Rose Facial Treatment before our retinol and moisturiser at night. Packed full of vitamins and fatty acids that replenish distressed skin, this liquid gold goes a long way – our bottle lasted us for over six months.
Damascan Rose Facial Treatment, AED 280, available at Bloomingdale’s
Drops of Youth by The Body Shop
Targeted for the first signs of ageing, this serum enhances your skin with a refreshing gel-like serum (cooling for the summer if you keep it refrigerated) and includes three plant stem cells that will leave it feeling smooth and replenished with moisture.
Drops of Youth, AED 126, available at The Body Shop
Ultimate Lift Face Serum by Ixora
This one’s perfect for the summer thanks to its fast-absorbing capabilities. There are 47 (yes, 47) natural and organic ingredients in one bottle! The Ultimate Lift Face Serum is also rich in antioxidants to provide treatment for ageing skin and touted as a powerful elixir to restore and rejuvenate.
Ultimate Lift Face Serum, AED 336, available at Ounass
C-Firma Day Cream by Drunk Elephant
Drunk Elephant launched in Dubai last year and has already become a skincare staple. This day serum is a super-potent formula packed with vitamin C, essential nutrients, and fruit enzymes, all working together to firm and brighten the skin’s appearance throughout the day. Just don’t forget to add sunscreen after applying it!
If you suffer from oily or breakout-prone skin, you probably will have heard of salicylic acid, the magical ingredient that can fight acne, clear skin, and dissolve oil. Salicylic acid is also known as a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) and is derived from willow bark. In skincare, there are two groups of acids: AHAs (alpha hydroxy acid) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acid) – and both exfoliate the skin.
Many people make mistakes in skincare – skincare experts and aestheticians included. When I first learned of salicylic acid, I overused it and damaged my skin barrier. Now I know better, so here’s what you need to know to not make the same mistake as me!
What’s the Difference Between AHA and BHA?
BHA is oil-soluble and can penetrate through pores and decongested dead skin and oil that may be stuck there, whereas AHA cannot as it is water-soluble. AHA works on the surface of the skin by removing dead skin and revealing new skin, while BHA works on a deeper level by decongesting clogged pores.
What Does Salicylic Acid Do?
Salicylic acid breaks down the bonds between skin cells that act like glue holding the skin together. It can also dissolve skin debris that clogs pores. Some of its pros and cons include:
It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
It effectively treats blackheads and whiteheads.
It exfoliates surfaces and inside pores.
It reduces excessive oiliness.
Overuse can cause sensitivity and skin dryness.
It could cause a burning or stinging sensation.
It could lead to dry or flaky skin.
How Should You Use Salicylic Acid?
I recommend ignoring what the label says and using salicylic acid as needed because when it comes to skin, one size does not fit all. Some products recommend using it daily in the morning and at night, which can work great for certain skin types, but it can be too irritating for others and may sensitise the skin.
I would recommend incorporating the acid into your routine two to three evenings a week, and then building it up gradually. If it is a cleanser-based salicylic acid, start by using it in the morning. And if it is a cream or oil-based cleanser, start by using it in the evening. You could even begin with a salicylic cleanser and slowly introduce salicylic serum as and when you need it. In the case of salicylic acid serums, you can use it as a spot treatment in areas where it’s necessary, such as for blackheads or whiteheads.
However, if you have acne or cystic acne, benzoyl peroxide may be a better alternative for you as it is more anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, though ongoing use can cause ageing and damage to the skin, so make sure you consult a professional aesthetician or dermatologist. As always, make sure to use sunscreen, and avoid using it on the same day as when you’re applying retinol. Salicylic acid is also a salicylate, which is part of the aspirin family, so you should avoid it if you have any allergies to aspirin.
This cleanser by Cerave effectively exfoliates and and promotes radiance. Its key ingredients include salicylic acid, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and vitamin D. It can improve skin texture, reduce oiliness and blackheads, and smoothen and hydrate your skin. I love that it doesn’t make your skin feel tight or stripped of its natural oils!
Tip: If you don’t usually use a foam cleanser, alternate with a cream-, oil-, or, balm-based cleanser until you get used to it.
This cleanser by Skinceuticals can help prime your skin prior to professional in-clinic skin rejuvenating treatments. It can remove excess oil, accelerate skin surface exfoliation, smooth irregularities, and brighten the skin. Its key ingredients include glycolic and salicylic acid.
Tip: If you lather this up and leave it on for five minutes whilst in the bath or shower, it also acts as a mini exfoliating mask.
This oil-free face serum reduces the formation of acne and clogged pores, while improving the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone. Its key ingredients include 2% dioic acid with an alpha- and beta-hydroxy acid formulation. It does tingle when applied on your skin, which is to be expected. You can spot-treat areas with it, whether it’s breakouts or blackheads, but it will cause drying and flaking if used in excess.
Tip: Follow this serum with a moisturiser with ceramides to lock in the moisture and avoid crusting when applied to breakouts.
This is a great product if you’re unsure at first as it comes in two different sizes. It can improve redness, breakouts, blackheads, and enlarged pores while exfoliating dead skin cells, smoothing wrinkles, and evening out the skin tone – all while being gentle enough for sensitive skin with the perfect 2% of salicylic acid (the maximum for at-home use). It also contains green tea, which can do wonders for your skin.
Tip: Don’t use this on cotton pads as it wastes the product, while also making it more abrasive. It’s best to gently tap it in with your fingers.
These pads act as dual-action exfoliators that remove dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores and reduce oiliness. Additionally, it can also calm and soothe irritated or inflamed skin, and provide a clearer complexion. Its key ingredients include glycolic acid and 2% salicylic acid. I love that this product is made for us lazy girls as it’s so easy to use. Initially, I wouldn’t use these twice a day (as stated) as it could be too much for your skin, so start by using it two to three times a week, and take it from there.
Tip: These come in a pack of 60 and are pricey, but you can cut them in half and double your use. If you’re using them every few days, they will last about three months. Another hack: tip the tub upside down occasionally so that the serum is fully absorbed into the pad. The pads do actually come with a lot of serum, but you can sometimes squeeze them a little so that when you’re done, you have some extra serum to use at the bottom of the container.
With a five-day Eid break on the horizon, it’s time to address a very specific aspect of self-care. We all know that flying takes its toll on the skin, and you tend to feel and look tired by the time you reach your destination. This is due to dehydration caused by low humidity plus all that nasty, recycled, pressurised air inside the cabin. The result? Dullness, fine lines, and even increased oil production, all of which will exacerbate acne-prone skin. However, not all hope is lost as you can reduce these effects by drinking more water and having a specialised skincare regime whilst on board. Read on.
But First, Water
You should aim to drink at least 250ml per hour when on your flight. Airlines tend to serve water in those tiny 150ml cartons, sometimes only twice on a seven-hour flight – and that’s just not enough. My tip is to purchase a 750ml bottle at the airport before you fly and then ask the cabin crew to fill it up for you throughout the flight.
Think Skin Refreshments
There are four great products to refresh the feel and look of your skin while you fly, and all of them can be used over makeup if you don’t like to fly barefaced. Even better? You can purchase these from Dubai Duty Free before you fly to save extra pre-holiday shopping.
Apply the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Concentrated Recovery Eye Mask during the second half of your flight. Leave on for 10 minutes to hydrate your undereye area and plump any fine lines.
The Lip Balm by La Mer nourishes your lips whilst protecting against further damage while you fly. Use whenever your lips start to feel dry.
The Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Flawless Wear Concealer patted under the eyes, over the residue from the eye mask, will brighten any dark circles caused not only by dehydration, but also the early mornings and lack of sleep when travelling.
An hourly spritz of MAC Cosmetics Fix+ not only feels amazing, but also gives an instant boost of vitamins and minerals to refresh tired skin.
Detoxifying and purifying – this scrub does it all.
Detoxifying body scrubs are an often overlooked element when it comes to boosting our overall state of well-being, but we’re changing that today. A favourite of The Gaggler team? The Detoxifying and Purifying Matcha Body Scrub. Let’s start by exploring its key ingredient: matcha.
What Is Matcha?
Matcha is a powdered Japanese green tea produced from finely ground dried tea leaves. It has been a staple of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries, but it has recently gained popularity far and wide due to its health benefits. Matcha, like green tea, is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. It is, however, cultivated differently and thus has a distinct nutrient profile.
What Are Its Benefits?
Matcha has several benefits ranging from high antioxidants (which can prevent cell damage) and boosting brain function to even promoting weight loss! But what about the benefits for your skin? Well, you’re in luck as this wonder powder is rich in chlorophyll (the green pigment found in plants), which can protect your skin from sun damage and its related ageing symptoms, like wrinkles. It can also shield your skin from toxins and chemicals in the environment that can clog your pores.
Another important compound found in Matcha powder has antibacterial and antibiotic properties that are great for acne-prone skin. It also promotes smoother and more supple skin by rejuvenating skin cells and supporting skin structure. And that’s not all! Matcha has the incredible ability to reduce puffiness, skin inflammation, and dark undereye circles due to its high content of vitamin K, a vitamin that promotes better blood circulation.
Incidentally, people often interchange green tea and Matcha powder. The benefits of green tea include increased mental alertness, improved working memory, headache relief, promotion of weight loss, and digestive relief. Studies have shown that green tea can have several benefits for your skin – fighting free radicals and calming redness included. And while both green tea and Matcha powder have similar health benefits, the latter has 10 times the potency because of the unique processing method used in pulverising the entire tea leaf.
Watch the Video: How to Make Matcha Body Scrub
Below, we’ve rounded up the ingredients you’ll need for this Matcha Body Scrub:
Yes, This Skincare Ingredient Can Change Your Life
All hail vitamin C!
Vitamin C is the science-backed and expert-approved underdog of the skincare world. There are several benefits to adding this potent ingredient to your skincare routine, but for a first-time user, the sheer number of products, formulations, and instructions can be daunting – but it doesn’t have to be that way! Vitamin C isn’t as complex as it seems. Here’s why.
What Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant known as Ascorbic Acid or L-Ascorbic Acid. It helps protect your cells against free radical damage which, in short, are unstable molecules that cause damage to cells resulting in premature ageing, dark spots, breakouts, and wrinkles. Vitamin C is one of the best studied ingredients in skincare and it’s so celebrated that it even has its own dedicated day – Vitamin C Day is marked annually on April 4th!
Before I go into the benefits of vitamin C, I want you to understand that although it does have incredible benefits, it’s not a quick-fix product. In fact, it can take up to 12 weeks to see visible differences. Think of vitamin C as a product to prevent skin damage and protect your cells like an armour. Another important thing to remember is that not all vitamin C serums are created equal, and formula and clinical studies matter.
When Vitamin C is paired with vitamin E and ferulic acid, it can enhance the product enormously. But this may be hard to find as the vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid combination is actually patented by Dr. Sheldon Pinell (the founding scientist and chief medical advisor of SkinCeuticals), who was the first to discover how effective this combination was through years of research and clinical studies. He currently has 10 patents on his products.
What Does Vitamin C Actually Do?
In a nutshell, it can have the following functions.
In my opinion, yes! You wouldn’t go to war without armour, so why stop now? Vitamin C helps in protecting yourself and preventing damage. It works in perfect synergy with sunscreen for even further protection, though there are some differences in opinion. If you want to protect your skin from any of the above issues, it can be achieved by using other ingredients, too. However, as mentioned before, vitamin C is still a highly acclaimed ingredient in skincare – not without reason!
Does Price Matter?
When it comes to skincare, you can always find a bigger price tag, but does it actually make a difference? Not necessarily.
The costs of such products could stem from a variety of things ranging from rare ingredients, concentration, potency, and clinical studies to marketing and packaging. So, a more expensive product does not always mean a better product. When looking for skincare products, consider available clinical studies, potency of ingredients, and formula.
How and When Should I Use Vitamin C?
Use it first thing in the morning, after cleansing, and follow up with sunscreen. Sunscreen works in synergy with your vitamin C serum and improves UVA and UVB protection. One application of three to four drops on the face and neck will last you 24-72 hours without needing to reapply, depending on the product. Some brands may direct you to use the product in the evening, but that really depends on the ingredients. For instance, if it contains resveratrol, it may be a repairing antioxidant that can be applied in the evening, but as a rule, most vitamin C serums should be used in the morning to give you better protection when paired with your sunscreen.
Vitamin C in Forms Besides Serum – Yay or Nay?
In short, the type of vitamin C product you use comes down to your preference, budget, and time, but each form has its own pros and cons.
Longer shelf life
The most stable form
You must be careful with how much you apply – too little is not effective, too much can be irritating
You must dissolve it into a serum with the correct pH level, something that most people are unlikely to do
Could be unsuitable for sensitive skin
Oil and Silicone Form
To identify these products, look at the texture – is it oily or does it have a silicone feel, unlike water?
More stable than water-based serums as oils and silicones are protected from water, oxygen, and light in this form. Hence, it lasts longer and can safely be stored for a long period of time
The texture is an acquired taste and can be slimy and gritty
Those with oily skin may not like this form as they won’t like the feeling of oil or product on their skin
This will have a water-based consistency.
Easy to use
Shelf life isn’t as good as the other forms
Some people can be put off by the scent of water-based vitamin C – it’s commonly thought to smell like coffee or hotdog water
Why Does My Skin Tingle When I Use Vitamin C?
This can happen for several reasons.
The potency may be too strong
Incorrect pH level
If you’re using the powder form, you may have used too much that, again, increases potency and causes it to become unstable
Skin sensitivity – try using a lower percentage (around 10%)
Rosacea – if you suffer from rosacea, start with a lower percentage (around 10%)
How Should It Be Stored?
Store it in a cool, dark place. You’ll find that some vitamin C serums come in brown, blue, or green glass bottles to protect the serum from breaking down due to light and heat exposure. If this happens, you’ll notice the serum becoming darker.
Vitamin C serums should be almost colourless or very light in colour. Once the serum degrades, it changes colour to yellow, orange, dark orange, and then brown. The darker the colour, the less effective the product will be. If your vitamin C serum becomes dark quickly, the formula may not necessarily be that great or it may have expired.
Can I Use Other Acids/Products Alongside Vitamin C?
Benzoyl peroxide is known to oxidise vitamin C, so avoid using this at the same time as it can make your vitamin C less effective. But aside from that, yes, you can use other acids and retinols or retinoids. Just use them in the evening as it may otherwise cause irritation.
Are Vitamin C Products with a High Percentage Better?
The maximum L-Ascorbic acid you can use is 20%. After that, it doesn’t do much more than lower percentages. High percentages can actually be irritating, so they aren’t always recommended. 10-15% is optimal.
With So Many Vitamin C Products Available, How Do I Choose One?
When trying to find the perfect vitamin C product, consider the following.
Always look for this type of vitamin C as it is the gold standard. It must have a concentration between 10% and 20% (less isn’t effective, more is unnecessary).
For better efficacy, find a formula that also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid. If you have acne or breakout-prone skin, I advise against getting vitamin E and try to shop for an alternative.
Buy products with dark or tinted glass, or airtight packaging.
As discussed before, each formulation has its own pros and cons, so pick based on your preference.
pH of 3.5
A pH of 3.5 allows for optimal absorption. Also, be sure to avoid products with unnecessary ingredients, fragrance, low potency, and no clinical studies. Personally, I recommend SkinCeuticals antioxidant serums as they remain universally unmatched. If you have the budget, go for it!
Herbalist Tracey Ryan happens to be obsessed with oils. “But I’ve noticed that some people are hesitant to use them in their skincare routine because either they have oily skin or are unsure how oils can benefit their skin,” says the Master Formulator of clean skincare brand Codex Beauty’s best-selling skincare range, Bia. Even in today’s world, where many of us are well-versed in skincare ingredients and rituals, certain myths and misconceptions persist about these botanical elixirs. Here, The Gaggler asks Tracey to set the record straight on what facial oils can – and can’t – do to your skin.
Myth #1: Oils Moisturise Your Skin
The Truth: “Oils do not introduce moisture to the skin; they help to seal in the moisture already present in the skin by stopping it from evaporating from the skin’s surface,” says Tracey. “In order to actually add moisture, you’ll need to use a hydrating moisturiser that contains sodium hyaluronate, a small molecule hyaluronic acid derivative that attracts water deep into the skin.”
Myth #2: All Facial Oils Are the Same – And Make You Break Out
The Truth:“There are so many differences between oils – from the thick and surprisingly drying like castor oil to the fatty and nutritious, such as avocado oil, and thin and fast-absorbing like kiwi seed oil,” says Tracey. “Selecting the correct one for your skin type and needs is key. In our Bia Facial Oil, we have chosen mostly thin, short oils – including kiwi seed, prickly pear, and rosehip – that are light and fast-absorbing and give the skin a beautiful primed appearance without clogging pores.”
Myth #3: Applying Oils Will Make Your Skin Oilier
The Truth: Cleansing with oils can actually help balance your skin and prevent it from being too oily. “The theory is based on the scientific principle that fatty compounds dissolve similarly fatty compounds,” says Tracey. “When you cleanse with Bia Wash Off Cleansing Oil, it easily breaks down and removes excess sebum and makeup, but doesn’t overly strip the skin of healthy, necessary oils, thereby helping to maintain moisture balance.”
Myth #4: Facial Oils Don’t Do Much
The Truth: “In addition to cleansing and protecting the moisture in our skin, facial oils also contain antioxidant constituents, anti-inflammatory compounds, and essential fatty acids that help protect and nourish skin,” says Tracey. “So there genuinely are a lot of benefits!”
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We’ve Made Skincare Resolutions for 2022 – Join Us?
New year, new habits for healthier skin.
Happy New Year to you and your skin! After the holiday season’s festivities, your skin is likely feeling dry, dull, and possibly even breaking out, so now is the perfect time to start some new skincare habits in order to bring the life back to your complexion. Here are the five skincare resolutions that everyone should make – and stick to.
Drink More Water
This sounds like an easy one, but so many of us don’t drink enough water throughout the day. Did you know that dehydration is one of the main causes of dullness and fine lines on the face? Essentially, a lack of water can actually cause you to look older. There are so many more skin benefits to drinking water – it not only helps to reduce lines, but hydrated skin cells are also plumper and firmer which, in turn, gives you glowing and visibly firmer skin. Skin cells are more efficient in repairing damage that causes ageing when they are hydrated, too, so drinking more water actually has anti-ageing benefits.
A top tip to ensure you are drinking the recommended two litres (or three litres in the warmer months) of water a day: invest in a large reusable water bottle and set yourself a goal for how many times you refill it per day. Also, most fitness apps (i.e. Garmin, MyFitnessPal, Fitbit) have a water-tracking option where you can set a goal and input your intake each day. It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable.
Wear Sunscreen Daily
We all know that it’s important to wear sunscreen on the beach and by the pool. We want to avoid burning and increasing our risk of skin cancer, but not everyone is aware that sun damage can happen through the mildest exposure to the rays and even when it’s cloudy. Here’s why you want to protect the skin on your face from sun exposure: UV rays can damage the skin’s elastin and collagen, leading to premature ageing. This damage only shows years down the line, but just because you can’t see it today does not mean it isn’t happening.
Sun exposure also causes pigmentation, sometimes called “sun spots”. You can reduce the appearance of pigmentation with certain products or regular skin peels, but it is much easier to prevent the effects by using sunscreen every day. The great thing is that many skincare brands now produce lightweight facial sunscreens with very high protection, such as the Clinique Super City Block Daily Face Protector SPF 40. This can be applied over your moisturiser and under makeup without feeling heavy on your skin and is perfect for daily use.
Add a Serum to Your Skincare Routine
The most basic skincare routine usually involves a moisturiser, but do you use serum? A serum is applied underneath your moisturiser and gives you extra skincare benefits that you just can’t get from a moisturiser alone. There are so many options when it comes to serums for every skincare concern and every budget, which means you can personalise your routine to exactly what you need. For example, if you want anti-ageing benefits, The Regenerating Serum from La Mer helps to diminish lines and wrinkles. GlamGlow’s SUPERSERUM, meanwhile, is fantastic for reducing open pores and refining the skin’s texture.
Start Using Facial Massage Tools
Tools such as a jade roller or gua sha stones not only feel amazing on your skin, but also help with lymphatic drainage and relaxing facial muscles which, in turn, helps to reduce both puffiness and lines. They also help your skin serums and moisturisers absorb better, so use them as part of your nighttime skincare routine to really get the best out of their benefits. If you prefer to use a facial massage tool in the morning, keep yours in the fridge for an instant pick-me-up in the morning. Unsure of where to start? Follow @fit_faces on Instagram to learn some great techniques from Natalia Broberg.
Change Up Your Nightly Routine
Your skin cells repair themselves at night, mostly between the hours of 11pm and 2am, which is why a good night’s sleep is so important when it comes to keeping your skin youthful and preventing premature ageing. To help this process even more, you can add in extra products and moisture to your nighttime skincare routine to create the optimal environment for skin cell repair.
Night creams such as Resilience Multi-Effect Night by Estée Lauder give you double the richness and benefits of the day cream to nourish skin while you sleep. The brand’s Advanced Night Repair serum actually helps in the repair process and reduces the ageing effects of daily skin damage, so it’s another great addition for your nighttime skincare routine. These are just examples, but you can add richer creams, oils, and repair serums to really give your skin a helping hand and wake up with beautifully glowing skin. Now go forth and stick to your skincare resolutions!
Think winter, think dry skin and moisture loss. Sadly, the cooler months require as much attention to your skincare routine as summer. If you haven’t already adjusted your skincare routine to match the weather (beyond simply continuing to apply sunscreen), you might want to consider these winter skincare tips to make your skin glow.
Tip One: Exfoliate
Nobody wants to do a full-body exfoliation when it’s cold, but you accumulate more and more dry skin on the surface of your skin when you don’t. This makes skin look scaly, dry, and wrinkled – or older than it is. The problem is made worse with age as the rate of our natural outer skin shedding (desquamation) goes from 28 to 40 days.
Tip 2: Take Care of Your Lips
It is tempting to keep drinking scorching drinks in the winter, but doing so means that your lips are constantly exposed to hot surfaces and burn. This contributes to increasingly chapped lips that no amount of lip balm can seem to fix. Also, if you are South Asian, you may notice your lips become darker during the winter – I believe the excessive hot drinks makes this worse. Exfoliating your lips, even with just a simple mix of sugar and honey, will reduce the dryness. My favourite lip product is NIOD’s Bio-Lipid Concentrate, which evens lip colour over time.
Tip 3: Use a Mild Soap and Don’t Take Scorching Hot Showers
Hot showers increase the rate of trans-epidermal water loss, which causes the skin to lose more water (moisture) and become dehydrated. Your skin will thank you for taking short and warm showers instead. Also, use a milder soap as the surfactants (cleansing agents) are less harsh on your skin. The mildest soaps (with fragrance) that I have used are from Forest Essentials – the brand makes excellent handmade silk soaps that I absolutely love. As the product contains very few hardening agents, I take it out of the shower and allow it to dry between uses. Otherwise, it will just turn into an unattractive puddle!
Tip 4: Apply Moisturiser Straight Out of the Shower
You have a couple of minutes when you come out of a shower before the rate of trans-epidermal water loss from your body starts to increase, so be sure to reach for your body and face cream to moisturise! Also, penetration of moisturisers is easier when the skin is damp. Damp skin in the winter is the perfect time to use body butter as the oil forms an occlusive layer (essentially, a film) on the epidermis, thereby preventing water loss.
Tip 5: Use a Mild Cleanser and an Overnight Face Mask
Our facial skin takes a real beating during the winter. The temperature indoors and outdoors can vary widely, and this difference can make your skin barrier very sensitive. Be kind to your skin and use a mild cleanser or cut down on your current cleanser. An overnight face mask adds more hydration to your skin without much effort.
In my experience, the standard response to this question is:
“It’s winter – why do I need to wear sunscreen?” “It’s cloudy and overcast, so no.” “I have no plans to go out today.” Or my favourite: “Sunscreen is for Caucasians, and I am much darker, so why should I wear sun cream?”
Almost all skincare experts agree that if you live in a place like Dubai, you should wear sunscreen 365 days a year, especially if you are Caucasian (and even if you are not). But let’s delve further into the why.
What Is the Difference Between Solar Radiation and UV Radiation?
Solar radiation – or the sun’s rays – includes ultraviolet radiation (UV), infrared radiation (IR), and visible radiation (which enables us to see). In this article, we are only interested in UV radiation which, for our purposes, comprises of UVB radiation and UVA radiation.
UVB radiation is the shorter, more energetic radiation and about 5-10% of total UVR. The inflammation of the skin (sub burn) and the resulting reddening of the skin (erythema) are mainly caused by UVB radiation. UVA radiation has a longer wavelength and less energetic radiation, and forms about 90-95% of total UV radiation. Therefore, the bulk of UV radiation reaching us is, in fact, UVA.
UVA, because of its longer wavelength radiation, penetrates our skin deeper and is responsible for photoageing (premature ageing of skin caused by sun exposure). UVA radiation is a longer wavelength radiation and penetrates our skin deeper, which causes the breakdown of collagen (what gives our skin its structure and resilience) in our dermis (second layer of the skin).
This can lead to premature ageing characterised by hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and so on. Tanning is also mainly caused by UVA. Both UVA and UVB negatively impact the body’s immune system. It’s also possible for the skin on your eyes to burn, causing inflammation and cataracts (the latter in the long run), which is a major source of blindness globally. Most notably, both UVA and UVB have been implicated in skin cancer (UVR, including UVA and UVB, is a recognised carcinogen).
Sun Damage Can Be Worse than You Think
No amount of serum or anti-ageing product changes the fact that sun damage is cumulative. That means your skin does not ‘forget’ the number of times you forget to apply sunscreen. If it did, then we would not age. In fact, the main cause of extrinsic ageing (which is ageing caused by diet, lifestyle choices, and the environment) is exposure to UV radiation. Some estimates attribute visible ageing by UV radiation to as much as 90%. Unfortunately, by the time we are adults, we will have experienced the bulk of sun exposure. Based on a 78-year lifespan, the Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that by the time we are 18, we will have experienced 23% of sun exposure – and this rapidly increases to close to 50% by the age of 40.
Where Does Sunscreen Fit In?
Sunscreen products can be effective in preventing sunburn. Scientific findings also suggest that they can prevent the damage linked to photoageing and protect against induced photo-immunosuppression (suppression of adaptive immune responses caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation). Therefore, it’s really important that sunscreens contain filters that protect against both UVB and UVA radiation.
Why Should You Wear Sunscreen Every Single Day?
The temperature in our environment changes by season. In Dubai, the temperature can even go well below 10ºC in the winter. But temperature is not related to UV radiation. The factors that affect UV radiation (and therefore photo-damage) are geography, altitude, time of year, day and weather conditions, and reflection.
Weather conditions refer to cloud cover – while it may be hazy due to sandstorms during the summer months in Dubai, that’s certainly not the case in winter. The skies are clear, and that means there are no blockers for UV radiation. Similarly, surfaces such as snow, sand, water, and grass reflect UVR, which can hit us if we are not wearing adequate sun protection. If you like to go trekking during the winter, keep in mind that the higher the altitude, the greater the UVR exposure as the atmosphere is much thinner there.
Do I Need to Wear Sunscreen If I’m Not Caucasian?
There is no such thing as totally UV-resistant human skin. All people of all skin tones stand to benefit from sunscreen. As an Indian who’s concerned with the vanity aspect of sunscreen and how it delays photoageing – which not only includes wrinkles and fine lines, but also uneven skin tone and pigmentation – sunscreen is a really cheap and effective method to preserve the existing health and age of your skin. So, using it even if you are Asian might be the smartest skin investment that you make.
But Does It Matter If You Spend All Your Time Indoors?
Remember that UVA radiation is the enemy here and, unlike UVB (which cannot penetrate glass), UVA (which causes premature ageing) can penetrate glass – irrespective of whether it’s a car, train, or office window.
The first rule about buying “reef-safe” sunscreens is to ignore any labelling claims (including logos) such as “marine-safe”, “marine-friendly” and “coral-reef safe”. Why? Because there is no agreed definition on what coral reef-safe sunscreens are. In fact, less than 10 countries have taken any action in protecting coral reefs from controversial sunscreen ingredients, and less-than-scrupulous manufacturers use such labels as vacuous marketing terms as there is no law preventing them from doing otherwise.
What Are Coral Reefs?
Corals are living organisms that join each other to form coral reefs that can stretch hundreds of miles (think: the Great Barrier Reef in Australia). They have also often been described as the “rainforests of the seas”. What coral reefs contribute to our ecosystem and economy is hard to appreciate. The Environmental Protection Agency (an American government agency) estimates that coral reefs contribute to at least 25% of all marine life. These delicate ecosystems are vital to the survival of at least half a billion people globally through food, coastal protection, and supporting local economies (through fishing and tourism).
Modern-Day Threats to Coral Reefs
It’s unsurprising that coral reef sites (such as in Australia or Hawaii) are also very popular tourist destinations. However, there are several threats to coral reefs including pollution, rising ocean temperatures (via global warming), and the acidification of oceans. Corals derive their beautiful colour from algae that they hold and, when stressed, they expel their algae. This leads to coral bleaching, which can kill them.
Coral Reefs and Your Sunscreen
Sunscreens contain ingredients called UV filters that are designed to filter out specific UV rays to prevent the skin from getting affected by some of the damaging effects of these rays. In most countries, only specific ingredients are permitted as filters. The most controversial filters are:
Oxybenzone (or Benzophenone-3)
Octinoxate (or Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate)
Avobenzone (or Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane)
Hawaii specifically bans all four ingredients. A 2015 study by a group of scientists, including a US government body and Dr Downs of Haereticus Lab (HEL), found that Oxybenzone was highly toxic to juvenile corals in four ways:
Inducing coral bleaching (which can lead to their death)
Damaging DNA (which can prevent them from reproducing)
Acting as an endocrine disruptor
Causing juvenile coral to become deformed
Octinoxate pretty much has the same effect. Avobenzone and Octocrylene were only recently banned by Hawaii (with final measures coming in 2023) and the state government notes that these chemicals can not only affect corals, but also disrupt human hormones. Octocrylene can also degrade into a carcinogen.
Other Ingredients You Should Look for in Sunscreens
The HEL laboratory lists out 11 ingredients that it suggests you look for in sunscreens and other personal care products. The most relevant are:
Note that ingredients such as Parabenzoic Acid and Methylbenzylidene Camphor that are listed are not found in most sunscreens anyway. Both Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are commonly referred to as “mineral” sunscreens in the USA. Mineral sunscreens tend to sit on top of the skin and leave a not-so-flattering white cast. Nano or micro-sized Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide sunscreens have smaller particle sizes and, therefore, do not leave a white cast and are increasing in popularity. A US government study indicates that, at high concentrations, they can be damaging to aquatic life – not just corals. But further research needs to be carried out to confirm the specific impact on corals. Specifically, Nano Zinc Oxide – also called Coated Zinc Oxide – can accelerate coral bleaching.
Where Does That Leave Us?
Not many countries ban sunscreen ingredients, and most cannot police every sunscreen bottle that tourists bring into the country. Therefore, it really is up to you and me to do the responsible thing. That means opting for non-Nano Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide sunscreens.
Which Sunscreens Should You Use?
My primary criterion for selecting a sun cream is how harmless it is for corals and marine life. I’ve gone through each ingredient label and personally tried products, arriving at these top three sunscreens:
When this sunscreen first came out, the brand touted it as being the price of a coffee. I find that to be quite a disservice to this decent tinted sunscreen, with the only caveat being that it smells like chalk.