How to prevent these 5 harmful air pollutants from causing damage to your skin!
Winter brings with it a cloud of pollution that settles in Indian cities. Air pollution is a huge problem in India and leads to many health problems. The air is filled with pollutants that published studies have shown to have very close associations with skin damage - specifically; ageing, dark spots, inflammation, pigmentation, wrinkles and fine lines and in the worst cases, even cancer. But what is harmful about pollution and what is it doing to your skin? If you’re curious about the types of pollutants you encounter on the daily, look no further. Here’s a list of 5 pollutants that damage your skin:
Particulate Matter (PM)
What is particulate matter? It’s a mix of pollutants of different sizes and compositions which are suspended in the air and released by a variety of sources like constructions, fires, dust, traffic and factories. PM is defined in accordance with the particle size. Particles smaller than 2.5 µm are defined as PM 2.5. Particle matter smaller than PM 2.5 this can be extremely harmful, directly entering your skin and even going as far as entering your cardiovascular system. Studies have shown direct links between factory workers exposed to ultra-fine particulate matter and skin disease. Nano-sized particulate matter are extremely harmful and can lead to oxidation, and eventually signs of ageing, pigmentation, and wrinkles. PM is also known to reduce the functionality of your skin barrier, leaving you more prone to infection.
Ultraviolet Radiation consists of Ultraviolet A (UVA), Ultraviolet B (UVB) and Ultraviolet C (UVC). UVC doesn’t make it past the ozone layer, and so doesn’t get close enough to earth to affect our skin. Some UVB does get through the ozone layer and its estimated that more than 95% of that reaches the earth's surface is UVA. With ultraviolet radiation, the shorter the wavelength, the more damaging they are. That’s why short term exposure to UVA radiation isn’t harmful and even has beneficial effects (Vitamin D), but prolonged exposure to things like welding torches, mercury lamps, and UV sanitising lamps (sources of UVC) are extremely dangerous! UVA and UVB radiations can be harmful to your skin overtime though and are related with skin cancers. It’s also been found that UVA in combination with other air pollutants, increases cosmetic damage to skin like ageing and wrinkles through a process called photoaging. Need another reason to be environment friendly? If the ozone layer depletes, more UVB rays will reach the surface of the earth and harm our skin. Luckily for us, action taken across the globe to reduce production of CFCs has led to a slow, but steady growth in the ozone layer! This is important because its estimated that for every 1% that the ozone layer is depleted, there is a 2% increase in the likelihood of contracting skin cancer.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
PAHs are the most prevalent pollutants in the air. PAHs are found on the surface of particulate matter that’s suspended in the air and also on the surface of particulate matter thats been derived from burning something, i.e., forest fires, crop burning, fuel combustion, industry emissions, etc. The biggest source of PAHs are wood burning but any sort of combustion of organic material can create PAHs. Other sources include automobile exhaust fumes. Vehicular pollution in India's big cities are a significant source of PAHs. The effects of long term exposure to PAHs include signs of ageing, inflammation, skin allergies like eczema, psoriasis or acne, and can even lead to skin cancer.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Volatile Organic Compounds are another pollutant found attached to particulate matter in the air and its primarily a byproduct of industrial emissions, car exhaust emissions and are even found in disinfectants, sanitisers, detergents and toilet cleaners. Again, exposure to VOCs can lead to inflammation and skin related allergies like eczema. Importantly, studies have shown that a relatively little amount of VOCs derived from home-cleaning and cosmetics products have tremendous implications on the formation of smog.
Oxides like NO2 and SO2 cause oxidative damage and result in the creation of free radicals, causing harm to the skin. They’re also created by industrial emissions, forest fires and fuel combustion. Research has closely linked oxides emitted by daily traffic with the prevalence of eczema amongst middle school students in Taiwan.
Repeated exposure to these pollutants will negatively impact your skin barrier and cause damage over time. To reduce the impact of pollution on your skin, here are a few healthy habits that you can adopt:
Using a broad spectrum sunscreen daily!
This is an essential and goes largely ignored in India, but exposure to UVA and UVB radiation is dangerous and you could definitely do with using an SPF 30+ sunscreen. Using a daily sunscreen will do wonders for your skin and prevent the onset of signs of ageing like wrinkles, fine lines and dark spots and also protect you against more dangerous consequences of UV exposure like skin cancer.
Detox with activated charcoal based products
Activated charcoal is known for its tremendous ability to absorb toxins. Activated charcoal products have the ability to reach inside your pores to clean out any excess oils, dirt and pollutants which collect within them. A gentle daily activated charcoal face wash will do wonders for your skin, keeping it clean of toxins. Try using one twice a day for a nice detox.
Supplement with Vitamin C serum
Vitamin C has a host of benefits for your skin and will be one of your main tools in fighting off the harmful effects of pollution. Vitamin C serums are a great source of antioxidants which prevent skin damage through free radicals and oxidation. Vitamin C also synthesises collagen and will therefore counteract the harmful effects of pollution that break collagen down. Vitamin C also helps your skin retain moisture, and this makes your skin healthier. A healthier skin barrier is better equipped to fight off the harmful effects of pollution.
Hydrate with a niacinamide based moisturiser
Niacinamide based moisturisers have the ability to restore and strengthen the skin’s protective barrier, while improving hydration and promoting skin surface exfoliation. A good niacinamide based moisturiser will strengthen the skin barrier as it helps create keratin, another protein found in your skin. Niacinamide strengthens the skin barrier by boosting cell metabolism and energy, helping your skin protect and repair itself.
If you're looking for a pollution proofing skincare solution, look no further than Spruce Shave Club's Imperial Skin Care Kit which includes charcoal based products, a vitamin C serum as well as a daily moisturising cream! You couldn't ask for a more comprehensive, pollution & oil control skincare kit.