What are the most frequently asked skincare queries in UAE? Top dermatologists offer insights

From mole mapping and pigmentation to sagging necks, skin experts address the most common challenges faced in hot, arid climates


Somya Mehta

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Published: Fri 21 Jun 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 27 Jun 2024, 3:15 PM

The climate in countries such as the UAE and the broader Middle East region poses particular challenges for skin health, aggravated by intense heat, high UV exposure, and low humidity. While sun damage is a primary concern, with strong UV rays leading to sunburns, premature ageing like wrinkles and age spots, dehydration and skin dryness are also common issues that people face due to low humidity levels, causing skin to feel tight and flaky. Acne is another skin concern that thrives in hot climates due to increased sebum production and pore-clogging from sweat.

Managing skin health in hot climates demands proactive sun protection, hydration, and tailored skincare routines to counteract the environmental stressors of heat, UV exposure, and humidity levels effectively. As a result, we reached out to top dermatologists across the UAE to uncover the most common skincare queries from their patients and how one can maintain fresh, glowing skin despite these arid conditions.

1) What products constitute an ideal skin care routine?

While it’s undoubtedly one of the most frequently asked questions in a dermatologist's office, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question! “In clinical practice, we advocate for products that are customised to suit your specific skin type and concerns,” says Dr Maria Thomas, dermatologist and head of department of laser and aesthetics at Zia Medical Centre, Dubai.

One of her recommendations involves using a 10 to 15% Vitamin C serum layered under an SPF 50 sunscreen every morning. High-quality Vitamin C formulations containing ingredients like ferulic acid work effectively to prevent and lighten existing dark spots. “This combination enhances sun protection with the antioxidant properties of Vitamin C, which help combat signs of premature ageing,” says Dr Thomas.

In the evening, applying a retinol treatment two or three times a week (depending on your skin type) can further support skin health. “Retinol is a versatile compound known for stimulating collagen production, reducing inflammation, and regulating sebum production. Clinically, these actions contribute to firmer, younger-looking, and smoother skin appearance. But it should be administered with the support of a dermatologist," she adds.

2) What is causing my acne?

Acne is influenced by several factors, including stress, medications, hormones, and clogged pores. “Skin can become more susceptible to acne and breakouts in warmer climates due to increased sebum production as the skin tries to maintain hydration. Additionally, excessive sweating in hot climates can contribute to breakouts,” says Dr Sophie Shotter, an award-winning aesthetic, hormone, and skin specialist.

Dr Sophie Shotter, dermatologist, Biolite Dubai
Dr Sophie Shotter, dermatologist, Biolite Dubai

“While essential for everyday skincare, SPF can occasionally trigger breakouts if the formulation isn't suitable for your skin type. I recommend the Intradermology Synergy 6 sunscreen for my patients, as it is lightweight and absorbs beautifully.”

3) Can hormones cause acne, and how?

Hormones can also be a primary and often unaddressed cause for acne because they influence oil production levels in the skin. “Hormonal changes, particularly during puberty and menopause, can significantly impact acne development,” says Dr Shotter, who holds a residency at Biolite Dubai.

“Factors such as stress, diet, and genetics also play key roles in hormonal fluctuations. Treating hormonal acne can be challenging. I recommend treatments like chemical peels, the Aviclear Laser, and blue LED light therapy, all of which can be very effective. However, addressing the root cause of hormonal imbalance may require systemic hormone balancing treatments and lifestyle changes as well,” she adds.

4) How can I effectively treat acne scars?

This question is often asked because acne scars can be stubborn and affect one's confidence. Several factors can influence the likelihood and severity of acne scarring, says Dr Aiza Jamil, leading consultant dermatologist in Abu Dhabi. “Genetics play a significant role, as individuals with a family history of scarring are at a higher risk. Additionally, skin type is a critical factor, with darker skin tones often being more susceptible to hypertrophic and keloid scars.”

Dr Aiza Jamil, dermatologist
Dr Aiza Jamil, dermatologist

The severity of acne itself is another determinant; more severe or cystic acne tends to increase the risk of scarring. “Delaying or ineffective treatment of acne can exacerbate scarring, as can the habit of picking or squeezing pimples, which worsens inflammation and heightens the likelihood of scarring.”

Though it can pose a significant challenge, there are several treatment options available to enhance skin appearance. According to Dr Jamil, here are some key pointers on acne scarring and potential treatments:

Types of acne scars

Understanding the types of acne scars is crucial for choosing the most effective treatment and dermatologists can provide tailored treatment based on the specific types of scars.

Atrophic scars:

- Ice Pick Scars: Deep, narrow scars that extend into the dermis.

- Boxcar Scars: Broad, box-like depressions with sharp edges.

- Rolling Scars: Wave-like depressions that give the skin a rolling appearance.

Hypertrophic scars: Raised scars that remain within the boundaries of the original wound.

Keloid scars: Raised scars that extend beyond the original wound boundaries, often more common in people with darker skin tones.

Treating acne scars

“Often, a combination of treatments is necessary to achieve the best results. A dermatologist can provide a tailored treatment plan based on the type, severity, and location of the acne scars,” says Dr Jamil.

When treating acne scars, topical treatments can significantly improve skin texture and appearance. Alongside procedures like chemical peels, microneedling, laser therapy, and dermabrasion, she recommends incorporating the following topical treatments:

Retinoids: These enhance cell turnover, reducing the visibility of scars and improving overall skin texture.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): AHAs exfoliate the skin, stimulating the growth of new skin cells and helping to fade scars.

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs): BHAs penetrate deep into the skin, aiding in exfoliation and reducing the appearance of scars.

Silicone Gels: These are effective for hypertrophic and keloid scars, flattening and softening them for smoother skin texture.

These treatments, combined with professional advice from a dermatologist, can help effectively manage and reduce the appearance of acne scars.

5) How can I prevent pigmentation?

Pigmentation is frequently caused by sun exposure and poses a significant concern for many patients based in the Middle East, where hotter climates and year-round sun exacerbate this issue. “Pigmentation presents itself as uneven, darker skin blotches that can appear not only on the face but also on the body,” says Dr Shotter, adding that the main areas of concern are typically the forehead, cheeks, and around the mouth.

“At-home skincare treatments, such as retinols, can help treat dark spots, along with in-clinic chemical peels that remove dead skin cells. I would also recommend other light-based treatments, like IPL, which target dark spots, revealing a more even complexion," she adds.

6) What should I do for flaky and dry skin?

In the Middle East, we are inundated with air conditioning due to the hotter climates. This, combined with excessive sun exposure, can wreak havoc on our skin, causing fine lines, sensitivity, and dryness, says Dr Shotter. “A skincare regimen with moisturising ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and vitamin E is great for hydrating the skin and supporting the skin barrier.”

Bolstering this with regenerative skin boosters is also an effective choice. “Skin boosters, such as polynucleotides and exosomes, are fast becoming the go-to treatment not only within the UAE but across the globe. They work by regenerating your natural collagen levels, revealing plump and hydrated skin,” she adds.

7) What can I do to manage rosacea?

Rosacea is a universal inflammatory skin condition that causes discolouration and heat, typically appearing on the cheeks and nose, affecting all skin types and tones. However, those with Middle Eastern skin can often be misdiagnosed because the ‘redness’ may appear as discolouration. “I often find many of my patients have been misdiagnosed with acne due to this,” says Dr Jamil.

Rosacea can be caused by many factors, including stress, sun exposure, spicy foods, and genetics. “I recommend an appointment with a dermatologist to determine your exact skin condition. Look for products containing niacinamide, azelaic acid, and ceramides to support your skin. For treatments, laser therapy such as Cutera Excel V is also suitable for treating redness and vessels, as it uses specific pulses to target the impacted area.”

8) What is mole mapping and why is it important?

Mole mapping is a non-invasive procedure where high-resolution images of the skin, focusing on moles and other skin lesions, are taken and recorded over time. This technique helps dermatologists track changes in moles, identifying any potential signs of melanoma or other skin cancers early on. “Due to constant sun exposure, Middle Eastern skin is prone to UV damage, making daily SPF use essential as part of your morning skincare routine,” says Dr Jamil.

Moles are often caused by sun exposure and can appear more frequently with prolonged sun exposure. “For any moles that raise concern, we offer mole mapping, a non-invasive procedure where we take high-resolution images of the patient's skin, effectively ‘mapping’ the moles and monitoring any potential changes over time. This step is crucial for early detection of skin cancers such as melanoma.”

9) What can I do to stop a double chin/sagging neck?

Many patients seek a more defined appearance for their neck and chin, as ageing, hormones, and lifestyle factors can often cause a more rounded or sagging appearance. “I regularly see patients in the clinic looking to sculpt and tighten their jawline and neck,” says Dr Shotter.

“Though fillers can often help recreate the structure of the jawline, making it appear more sculpted, this is highly dependent on the patient. I also recommend using collagen-boosting treatments such as Sofwave, an ultrasound treatment that helps with laxity not only in the submental areas but also around the brows, improving laxity in the upper face,” she adds.

Another key treatment is the Emerald Laser, a non-thermal low-level laser that boosts lymphatic drainage and shrinks stubborn fat cells within the body. “It is FDA-approved for those with a BMI of up to 40. This treatment can be used across the body, but the neck is an excellent area for those with this concern.”

10) What is the best anti-ageing treatment?

Natural ageing is influenced by various factors including genetics, lifestyle, and diet. While aesthetic treatments can help, they cannot replace a healthy lifestyle focused on optimal nutrition and exercise, says Dr Thomas. “Advanced treatments like stem cell therapy, skin boosters, and exosome treatments are emerging as effective tools to combat visible signs of ageing. Regular sessions of these treatments can significantly improve skin texture and reduce signs of ageing.”

Dr Maria Thomas, dermatologist, Zia Medical Centre
Dr Maria Thomas, dermatologist, Zia Medical Centre

Dermal fillers are also beneficial for restoring age-related volume loss and providing support to sagging facial skin. “Neuromodulators help relax fine lines and rejuvenate the appearance, reducing the look of tired skin. Energy-based devices such as RF Microneedling and High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) stimulate the production of skin-building proteins, promoting a lifted and firmer appearance. Your dermatologist can recommend a tailored anti-ageing regimen that addresses your specific needs and goals effectively,” she adds.



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