How to Keep your Skin Healthy and Glowing despite Air Pollution

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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.

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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 (the fibres that give softness and elasticity to our skin and give sit its youthful appearance ) 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. In the review article, ‘Air Pollution and the Skin’, Dr Akaki et al. warned that “considerable effects mediated by air pollutants on the human skin may contribute  to skin aging, atopic dermatitis, skin cancer, psoriasis and acne“. It is not only outdoors that we are exposed to pollution, the air indoors may be worse at times.


Indoor Pollution – 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.

Screening from pollutants – 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 hypoallergenic  mineral makeup may offer some physical protection.

Some skin benefiting foods 

Nutrition – 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. Drink water to hydrate the skin.Include lots of berries, citrus fruits and leafy vegetables  in your diet that help fight the free radicals .

Skin Care – Having a good skin care routine, for cleaning, toning and moisturising the skin, every morning and evening is very important to keep the skin clear and  replenish the skin and make it ready to fight the pollutants .

(in association with Dr. Anup Dhir, Senior Consultant and Cosmetic Surgeon, Apollo Hospital.Dr. Anup Dhir specialises in cosmetic & aesthetic surgery of the face and body.)

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