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Let your skin breathe…

…especially in this polluted environment, says Dr Rashmi Sharma, consultant dermatologist at Fortis, Vasant Kunj

Over 6.5 million deaths globally every year are attributed to air pollution. That comes to an astonishing figure of 18,000 deaths a day! This figure is comparable to the deaths occurring on account of major illnesses.

There are several air pollutant components such as the UV rays, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dust, soot, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, viruses, VOCs, sulphur, carbon and cigarette smoke etc. that results in a wide array of such ailments.

In this regard, we witness huge debates and discussions all the time on various media platforms including the social media; albeit with little concrete results or outcomes. The efforts of the government towards reining in the menace have at best resulted in minor and incremental improvement in the air quality.

The air pollution largely affects our respiratory system and also has huge impact on the largest organ of our body; the skin, which is close to 10% of the body mass.  The skin is a membrane which is a permeable (yes, it too breathes) and complex multi-layered membrane that maintains the cellular integrity. While it remains highly impermeable to any chemical or physical insult, however, certain chemicals and particulate matter less than a particular size does penetrate through the skin leading with adversarial impact of various kinds. These include several kind of micro air pollutants that can penetrate through the skin and impair its structure; both directly as well in an indirect manner.

Direct damage leads to series of insidious change in the skin like redness, rash, dryness and dull skin while indirect damage is caused by oxidative stress induced injury at cellular level. Frequent exposure of the skin to prolonged pollutant levels can lead to lot of serious and permanent damages to the skin.

Such permanent or persistent damage does not occur overnight but over time it leads to conspicuous deterioration in the quality of skin visible as dull and prematurely aged skin. Instances of blemishes, pigmented dots, wrinkles and sagginess on particularly on the face even in young age are a few examples of manifestation of such ailments.

To enumerate, the major effects of pollution on our skin include:

  1. Complexion mediated change
  2. Dryness
  3. Premature ageing
  4. Flare up of particular disease conditions like allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, acne, psoriasis and eczema.

With increasing level of air pollution and its detrimental effects, it’s advisable to take requisite and regular care of the skin shield. It’s imperative to take special precautions especially during this season. We must power up our day and night care regime to mitigate any adverse impact of such air pollutants.

It all starts with choosing the right face wash, the selection of which depends on the skin type. For oily skin, foam-based face wash works well while a few prefer to use a toner after degreasing their faces. Use of alcohol free toners to prevent further dryness of face is strongly recommended.

Also, increase the frequency of face wash to several times a day. After being exposed to the harsh outdoors, washing the face is a must. The dust, oil and soot particles block the pores and could cause skin ailments as also an increase in the incidence of acne breakout.

Choosing a right moisturiser is a key component of the practice. Nowadays, there are moisturiser equipped sunscreens which are a great way to deal with the pollution and dryness. One must wear sunscreen irrespective of the day being rainy or cloudy and whether one is indoor or outdoor.

It’s also important to frequently reapply the sunscreen at every 2- 3 hourly interval; but at least three times daily.

Night care regime is also of utmost importance to maintain a healthy and supple skin.

Apart from cleansers and toner, one must definitely invest in a good night cream. The type of night cream depends upon the particular skin type and age group. Consulting a dermatologist regarding the appropriate cosmetic product selection for a particular skin type is strongly recommended. It’s critical to choose a right skin product to maintain and keep skin healthy and young.

Nothing replaces the habit of inculcating healthy living and healthy eating. One must exercise on a regular basis and eat healthy. To combat air pollution, following A, B and C are strongly recommended:

A : Antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables

B : Berries

C : Citrus fruits

A healthy balanced wholesome meals and a hydrated body throughout the day are a must to keep looking your best.