What is pollution doing to your skin

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Shahnaz Husain

Pollution has become buzzword in metropolitian cities during these days .Pollution is a contamination of the natural environment — both indoors as well as outdoors. It occurs in different forms, including air, water, soil, heat and light, and noise. Environmental pollution is one of the skin’s worst enemies that leads to premature signs of ageing, including lines and loss of elasticity.
The air pollution is presently affecting normal functioning of life due to toxic air and heavy blanket of smog leading to decrease in the supply of oxygen to the tissues, which produces a dull face.
While pollution takes toll on environment and health but it also affects natural beauty very adversely .‘As skin is your outermost barrier, it is one of the first and largest targets for air pollution.
Air pollution is not only affecting outer parts of skin on cosmetic level but also poses real threat to skin health . There is a clear correlation between spikes in air pollution and increases in the number of people suffering from skin problems such as irritation, rashes, eczema and breakouts . While Sun damage is biggest daily skincare concerns, however Pollution is the second biggest aggressor when it comes to ageing the skin.
Highly toxic air containing smoke, soot, acid and other pollutants severely affect skin by draining away skin moisture which leads to allergies and pigmentation spots on the forehead and cheeks on dry and rough skin.
The toxic haze hanging over Metropolitian /Urban cities cause uneven skin tone, accelerated ageing , wrinkles and black spot on face.People living in highly polluted cities like Delhi/NCR and other metropolitian /urban cities despite of better life style practises such as cleansing routines, water consumption and greater skin care product usage and balanced diet .
Among the other organs of the body, the skin is also one of the first to bear the brunt of air pollutants, which not only attack the skin surface, but also lead to an accumulation of toxins. In fact, they are potent skin irritants. There are both long and short term effects of pollutants. Firecrackers during weddings and festivals also add to the chemicals in the air, which are potent skin irritants. Chemical pollutants cause oxidation damage and this can lead to the manifestation of premature ageing signs on the skin, like wrinkles, loss of elasticity, dark patches and spots, etc. Chemical pollutants also disrupt the normal balances of the skin and scalp, leading to problems like dryness, sensitivity, rashes, acne, irritation or allergic reactions, dandruff and related conditions. They also make the skin and hair dull, lacking vitality. All of us who live and work in urban areas need protective beauty care, whether they are housewives or working women. Of course, for working women, the job may involve traveling long distances to work. The skin is thus more exposed to the pollutants in the air.
Cleansing of the skin assumes more importance in order to get rid of the impurities and pollutants that are deposited on the skin.It is recommendable to cleanse, purify and hydrate the skin with the most suitable products for each skin type.
Carry out daily a neutral cleansing. It is important to maintain clean skin to prevent the pores from blocking and allowing the skin to breathe.
If you have a dry skin, use a cleansing cream or gel. For oily skins, cleansing milk or face wash may be used. For oily skin, also use a facial scrub after cleansing. Look out for products with ingredients like sandalwood, eucalyptus, mint, neem, tulsi, aloe vera, etc., when you buy cleansers. The anti-toxic and tonic properties of such ingredients have helped in clearing the skin congestion and eruptions that result from exposure to chemical pollutants. Aloe vera, for example, is also a powerful moisturizer and an anti-oxidant. So are ingredients like apricot kernel oil, carrot seed, wheatgerm oil, etc. the skin needs to be protected. If the skin is prone to eruptive conditions like acne, pimples, rash, it should protected with specialized creams that not only protect, but also reduce oiliness and deal with the problem. Antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, play a big part in protecting our skin from the effects of pollution in the air. It is suggested to incorporate vitamin C and other antioxidants into your daily skin care routine to help block the formation of free radicals to keep skin hyderated , supple and flexible .Also add essential vitamins such as E, C, and B and antioxidants in your daily diet.These help heal the skin damaged by free radicals and keep the immune barrier healthy.
After cleansing, wipe the skin with a rose based skin tonic or rose water, to complete the cleansing process and refresh the skin. Soak cotton wool in chilled rose water and tone the skin with it, patting briskly. It also improves blood circulation to the skin surface and adds a glow. Green tea also makes a good skin toner. If there is a rash or eruptions, add a little rose water to sandalwood paste and apply on the face. Wash off with plain water after 15 minutes.
Hydration: By both drinking water and using excellent skin products is key in making sure the skin functions at its best in protecting and strengthening the natural skin barrier.
Anti-pollution cosmetics help to provide protection and reduce the damage caused by environmental effects. These are basically “cover creams” that form a barrier between the skin and pollutants. sandalwood protective cream is very useful to protect the skin from environmental effects. It forms a transparent protective cover. Sandalwood soothes the skin and protects it from irritative reactions and eruptive conditions. It suits all skin types and increases the skin’s moisture retention ability too.
The hair also needs frequent washing if one regularly travels long distances for their work. Pollutants also collect on the scalp. Shampoo, hair rinses, serums and conditioners help to restore the normal balances if they contain ingredients like amla, brahmi, trifala, bhringaraj and henna. They also coat the hair and form a protective cover. Mix one teaspoon each of vinegar and honey with one egg. Massage the mixture lightly into the scalp. Leave on for half and hour and then wash the hair. Rinse well with water.
Or, give the hair hot oil therapy. Heat pure coconut oil and apply on the hair. Then dip a towel in hot water, squeeze out the water and wrap the hot towel around the head, like a turban. Keep it on for 5 minutes. Repeat the hot towel wrap 3 or 4 times. This helps the hair and scalp absorb the oil better. Leave oil on overnight and wash hair the next day.
The impurities and pollutants can also affect the eyes, causing burning or redness. The eyes should be washed with plain water several times. Soak cotton wool pads in chilled rose water and use them over the eyes as eye pads. Lie down and relax for fifteen minutes. This really helps to remove fatigue and brightens the eyes.
Follow a strict night routine, as your skin tends to renew itself overnight – moisturizing is key during the nighttime
‘Exfoliate once weekly to give your skin a deeper clean. This will also improve the penetration of any products that are later applied to the skin.
Follow a healthy, balanced diet by including fresh vegetables, nuts, fruit which all contain natural antioxidants so your skin receives all the necessary nutrients and also carry out a routine of exercises.
Avoid smoking and limit alcohol and processed foods.’
However , it should be noted that no product or ingredient is magic.
The author Shahnaz Husain is international fame beauty expert and is called Herbal Queen of India