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Air pollution effect on skin

For people living in large cities, it has become inevitable to suffer the manifold harmful effects of air pollution which affects almost every organ of the body. Cities like Delhi, are the extreme, but even London and Paris have its’ share of bad air.

The skin being the largest organ and the barrier for our inner organs has to face the brunt of the damage.  The problems include skin dryness, rashes, allergy, wrinkles, pigment spots, eczema and accelerated aging. Air pollution increases the amount of free radicals in the air and this along the ultraviolet radiation, decreases the amount of collagen in the skin. The skin thus loses its elasticity, developing fine lines and wrinkles. With this toxic air, the oxygen delivered to the cells of the skin is decreased, making it look dull and tired. The tiny particulate matter in the vehicular traffic cause pigment spots on the skin. New research shows that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrogen dioxide and other chemicals in the air accelerate skin aging significantly.

It may not be possible to move out of cities and live in the villages, but there is a lot we can do to reduce the harmful effects air pollution on our skin. Keeping our houses dust free is very important. Keeping the house uncluttered helps with cleaning. Using vacuum cleaners and wet mopping and dusting is recommended. There are many air purifiers available that claim to reduce the pollution; these claims are not evidence based and may not work as well as advertised. But even if they reduce the particulate matter slightly, it may be better than nothing.

On days that pollution levels are particularly high, wearing full sleeve clothes may offer the skin some protection. Always use a good quality sunscreen, even in winter to protect again sun damage. Wearing good quality mineral makeup may offer some physical protection.

A healthy skin is the best barrier, and a healthy body will offer good nutrition to the skin. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, not smoking, less alcohol and regular exercise keeps the body healthy.  Having a good skin care routine, for cleaning, toning and moisturising the skin, every morning and evening is very important to replenish the skin.  Drink water to hydrate the skin.

Skin rejuvenation is a hot topic and cosmetic surgeons now offer many simple techniques like chemical peels, PRP therapy etc. for improving the skin. There is a lot of research going on to make better quality cosmetics to protect and nourish the skin.

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