How to save your skin from damage
The best advice we have to offer
First, the bad news. You don’t need to inhale polluted air for it to harm you, because up to 60% of topically-applied substances are absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and body tissue. Most of the noxious particles in the air are ‘nano-particles’, which easily penetrate skin barriers, where they go on to merrily produce free radicals which result in inflammation, dehydration and premature ageing.
The good news is that your skin is nature’s badass filter, and it traps some of these environmental aggressors in the epidermis (the outermost layer), which will eventually shed off.
Here’s where your lifestyle comes in. Over-exposure to stressors like the sun, polluted air and water and toxic chemicals in your products, in addition to intrinsic factors like stress, poor diet, dehydration, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption weakens this skin’s barrier. You become more susceptible to environmental damage and exposure to these nano-particles which eventually burn holes in the dermis (the deeper layer of the skin).
Dermatologist Rajat Kandhari has some pressing ideas on how to avoid doomsday.
Prevent skin damage
A combination of air pollution and UV radiation damages melanocytes, and accelerates the ageing process. Early morning walkers need to be particularly careful as the air quality index is the worst at this time. Avoid spending long periods under the sun as this can aggravate sun-mediated damage. Use a good sunscreen like the Antihelios XL SPF 50+ which is 100% hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic (does not cause acne) and has a high concentration of La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water, perfect for sensitive skin. Another favourite is Effaclar H Gel from La Roche Posay. The soothing moisturizer is fragrance-free, non-oily and perfect for most skin types. If you have excessively sensitive skin, opt for La Toleraine Ultra light moisturizer.
Make-up prevents the skin from breathing, so removing it the minute you get home with a gentle cleanser is imperative. If you prefer to go the natural route, coconut oil or baby oil is an effective remover.
Air pollution in urban areas and in areas with high concentrations of ozone depletes the levels of vitamin E in the stratum corneum (outermost layer of the epidermis). Vitamin E is an antioxidant and lipid that helps maintain the skin’s barrier function by fighting free radicals and inhibiting oxidation. It's crucial in keeping toxins out of the body for which the antioxidants help a great deal. Degradation of vitamin E weakens the barrier, which increases the risk of formation of harmful chemicals and inflammatory responses in the underlying skin layers. Add foods rich in antioxidants to your diet like green tea, red wine and strawberries among other fruits and vegetables like bananas, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds and green leafy vegetables.
Of course your grandmother has cried herself hoarse telling you to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Supplement all the water you're drinking by making sure your skin is moisturised from the outside. Stock up on facial mists and water-based moisturisers. And don't forget to cover up when you're outdoors, this helps add another protective layer to your skin.