The side effects of pollution are not just felt on the respiratory system, but on every cell of the human body. Skin being the largest organ is affected the most with quite significant results. In fact, with the rising levels of pollution in Delhi, sun is not the lone culprit anymore, pollution is equally bad for the skin.
Pollution sources such as factories, automobiles, forest fires, crop burning, construction sites, power plants, to name a few, cause dryness, premature ageing, comedones (skin coloured bumps), pigmentation, along with aggravating acne. It also damages the ozone layer thereby reducing protection against sun damage.
If there is inflammation of the skin, it can later lead to loss of elasticity and firmness of the skin. Pollution also triggers release of free radicals which are one of the worst culprits for the skin. Additionally, very high levels of pollution over long periods of time can lead to skin cancer.
Consume Oral Antioxidants
Antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables and other food items rich in vitamins A,C,D and E can reduce radical damage in the body. They help the skin repair itself and are good at neutralising free radical damage. Dietary intake of yellow, orange and red foods such as oranges, squash and carrots can also be increased. A variety of other fruits and vegetables such as blueberries and beetroot can also be added to the diet.
Cleansing is the Key
Make skin cleansing a ritual and follow it religiously. This is a vital part of counteracting the effects of pollution on the skin. Wash your face three-four times a day with a combination of non-drying vitamin C face wash or oatmeal face wash or micellar water, and have exfoliate regularly with medical facials. This will keep the skin healthy by preventing the build up of dead skin.
Sunscreen, Moisturisers and Other Skin Barriers Against Pollution
Make sure you use a good sunscreen (SPF 30+), moisturiser and maybe even a mineral make up foundation before you step out of the house to create a barrier or shield which traps the particles of pollution and prevents free radicals from reaching the skin directly.
Topical Antioxidants to the Rescue
Layer on a Vitamin C serum/cream topically twice a day. This will benefit the skin significantly by promoting collagen formation.
Breathe In, Breathe Out (But Clean Air)
Use natural air purifiers like money and spider plants in plenty at home or opt for air purifier. Use masks when outdoors.
Skip These From Your Daily Routine
Do not scrub the face, scrubbing leads to destruction of the barrier function of the skin. Controlled exfoliation of the skin needs to be done in a clinic under medical supervision.
Niacinamide, which is vitamin B3, has been found to be useful in counteracting the effects of air pollution. Though cosmetic companies are constantly trying to come up with techniques to protect the skin against pollution, the real struggle is to counter pollution itself.
(Dr Simal Soin is an internationally renowned cosmetic dermatologist, anti-ageing expert and founder of the Aayna Clinic in New Delhi.)
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