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SKIN AND POLLUTION

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Skin is the largest organ of the human body and constitutes the major barrier between the outside environment and the internal milieu. A rise in environmental pollution has been a concern and is posing the biggest health hazard these days. Skin being the largest physical barrier is impacted the most due to this health hazard.

What constitutes the term pollution?

Derived from the Latin term ‘pollutes’ which means unclean, dirty or foul, this term includes any unwanted or deleterious changes in the environment. It includes air, water and noise pollution. Air pollutants have been divided into two categories - primary which are toxins released directly into the environment and secondary pollutants which are created or modified after being released.

Impact of air pollution on the skin.

Air pollutants cause an accelerated skin ageing which includes the formation of wrinkles and age spots. They generate reactive oxygen species and induce skin degrading enzymes which degrade skin proteins especially collagen and elastin leading to premature wrinkling and decrease in skin tone. Generation of hydrocarbons in urban smog has also been shown to accelerate skin ageing by multiple times. Ozone depletion due to airborne pollutants is liable to cause accelerated signs of photo ageing due to increase UV exposure.At times, it can be a cause or trigger for urticarial and skin reactions leading to skin sensitivity.

Impact of hard water on skin and hair.

Hard water contains undissolved calcium and magnesium salts which leads to formation of layer on skin when used for bathing and cleaning purposes. Consequentially there has been a rise in patients suffering from excessively dry skin and even atopic dermatitis in young children in areas where hard water is used for daily routine. There is a gradual deterioration of the outer protective covering of the hair leading to frizzy and unruly hair, severe dryness on the scalp and in some cases even excessive dryness and itching on the scalp. There have been some reports of excessive hair shedding due to increased mineral content in water. Chlorinated compounds in water can even trigger severe acne

How to protect skin and hair from environmental pollution?

The most vital steps for protection includes prevention by few steps as specified

Cleansing of face and exposed body parts using a pH balanced cleanser or preferably a syndet which protects the acidic nature of the skin. The cleanser should ideally be free from parabens and fragrance.
Antioxidants- As the pollution largely impacts the skin by generation of reactive oxygen species, Antioxidants form an important instrument in scavenging and rescue from ROS. Both oral and topical antioxidants should be a part of daily regimen. A good antioxidant spray like spring water should be handy whenever outside for longer periods of time.
Sunscreen forms an essential barrier between skin and environment. an ideal sunscreen should be protective against UV A and UV B and hypoallergenic. It should ideally possess physical filters to ward off the pollutants as well.
Moisturizers especially resembling the natural moisturizing factors like ceramides and squalene should be a part of daily regimen after bath. 
Exfoliation to remove dead skin but gentle in nature also prevents premature wrinkling and ageing.
Shampoos with extra conditioning and even hair masks can be used to prevent frizzy and unruly hair.
A careful choice of mild, non-drying shampoo which is pH balanced will prevent excessive scalp itching and dryness.

Daily shampooing with a mild scalp and hair shampoo should prevent excessive deposition of dust and grime on the scalp preventing hair loss and dandruff. A careful choice goes good skin and hair products with special emphasis on healthy, antioxidant rich diet should help in a healthier skin and hair for all of us.

Dr. DIVYA SHARMA, MD
(Gold Medalist)
Consultant Dermatologist & Hair Specialist

Click here to contact Dr. Divya Sharma

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