By Dr. Chandni Jain Gupta
With the rise in the Air Pollution level across the national capital region, there has been a substantial rise in the number of people getting affected by these Air Pollutants. Skin being the outermost barrier protecting a person’s body is the first line of defence while facing any external environmental factors like pollution. Prolonged exposure to various kinds of air pollutants and factors contributing to air pollution like ultraviolet radiation, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, oxides, particulate matter, ozone and cigarette smoke can lead to severe effects on the human skin.
Air Pollutants cause changes in the functioning of lipids, deoxyribonucleic acid and proteins present inside the human skin through oxidative damage which ultimately leads to extrinsic skin aging, inflammatory or allergic conditions such as contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne and skin cancer. Whenever there is a repetitive exposure to Air Pollutants exceeding the skin’s normal defensive potential, there is a disturbance in the skin functioning as a barrier and the development of various skin diseases.
While a lot of people have the misconception that cigarettes only affect people smoking them or people in close proximity to them, cigarette smoke is one of the leading causes of skin diseases caused due to pollution in India. Several studies have suggested that the chemical substances present in cigarette smoke increases transepidermal water loss along with degeneration of connective tissue in the skin resulting in premature aging.
The Skin Microbiome is made up of millions of bacteria, fungi and viruses that reside on the human skin. These are important to fight the external bacteria and alert the immune system for any external cause of illness. Pollution can decrease the size or diversity of bacterial communities present in the natural microbiome population and make room for harmful bacteria on the skin leading to various skin diseases. Pollution particles can physically settle on the skin and block pores to trap bacteria inside creating an airless, oily environment leading to growth of Cutibacterium acnes, one of the main bacterial strains responsible for inflammatory acne.
The rise in such cases has called for a need for awareness of techniques and preventative methods to protect oneself from these harmful air pollutants. Some preventative methods include making a habit of double cleansing your hands and face for keeping the skin healthy. Using an oil-based cleanser or face wash will help provide a more purifying cleanse to the skin and get rid of surface pollutants as well as pollutants penetrated inside the skin pores.
Another prevention method is Exfoliating twice a week. Exfoliating a couple of times a week helps remove dead skin cells as well as remove the pollution and dirt present in the pores inside the skin. It is advised to use soft and circular motions while exfoliating to not irritate the skin.
Adding antioxidants to the daily skincare routine is said to be the best line of defence against any free radical damage caused to the skin. Regular use of strong antioxidant ingredients, like vitamin C, will help keep signs of oxidative stress like dark spots, fine lines and saggy skin at bay.
Although using a sunscreen daily doesn’t directly contribute to protection against pollution, Air pollutants can react with UV rays and turn into toxins that can be very harmful for the skin. Hence, daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen is a must to avoid UV damage as much as possible.
Hydrated Skin is known to be a healthy skin, optimizing moisture levels of the skin can help prevent damage to it. Apply nourishing moisturisers while stepping out on a busy day to avoid making your skin look too greasy and for protection against harmful air pollutants.
(The author is a Dermatologist, Venereologist and Cosmetologist at Elantis Healthcare. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)