It’s happening again – Delhi is in the grips of another relentless smog.
Smog is a cocktail of low-level ozone, particulates like dust, soot and smoke (for instance from burnt farm waste or trash), and other pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and lead, that ‘hang’ in the air. Smogs are all in all terrible things that wreak havoc on your health.
Not only can you breath in these particulates, which seriously damage the respiratory system, pollutants in the air can also be absorbed through your skin and have serious impact on your whole body.
It is very important to wear breathing masks to protect your lungs from the toxic air. Your skin, however, might be in need of protection too - which is slightly harder since we cannot cover up our entire face all the time! And as recommended and great as it is to stay indoors, it is not possible or practical for most of us. So here are a few reminders on what you can do to protect your skin from the pollution.
How does smog affect your skin
During a smog, when sunlight hits the ozone particles in the air break down into free radicals. When these free radicals enter the body, they bounce all over the place within the cells and chip away the cells' walls. Several diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, have been linked to free radical damage.
Free radicals also lead to premature ageing. The pollutants during a smog rob your skin of oxygen supply resulting in wrinkles and loss of elasticity (ageing). Pollutants also clog up your pores, dehydrate your skin, increase your risk of, or exacerbate, eczema and lead to acne flare ups.
But, good news it, you can take measures to fight off or at least reduce the damage caused by air pollution.
Follow a good skincare routine.
Wash your skin with a gentle cleaner before going to bed and follow it up with a good moisturizer. While you may have the urge to scrub away the dirt, it is a good idea to not exfoliate too often or too rigorously. Frequent or harsh scrubbing might make your skin worse. Ideally you only need to exfoliate once a week using gentle products that you know suit your skin type. We also advise using skin care products with antioxidants, as these help fight free radicals.
Always wear sunscreen.
A good sunscreen is your strongest weapon against the harsh urban environment. Even when it does not ‘look’ very sun, harmful rays are present in the atmosphere ready to cause long-lasting damage to your skin! Sunscreen form a barrier that protects your skin from not only these harmful UV rays but also from pollutants. Aloe vera gel also provides some barrier protection and is good for the skin health.
Eat well and stay hydrated.
Your skin is your body’s largest and fastest growing organ. It is also a window to your overall health. So eating a healthy and balanced diet is super important for good skin health. Foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins (especially vitamin C), like berries, kidney beans, and oranges (in season now!) as well as omega-3 fatty acids (like fish and nuts) are great for skin. It is also important to drink lots of water and stay hydrated. Your skin is especially susceptible to dehydration from the pollutants in the smog.
Check in with your doctor.
If you have pre-existing skin conditions, it is a good idea to talk to your dermatologist about steps you can take to avoid worsening the condition. Your doctor would advise you on any changes you need to make to your skin care regimen or may even recommend specific medications or OTC products to protect your skin.
Get proactive with a professional treatment.
Professional skincare treatments, done by dermatologist-trained therapists are certainly one of the best proactive interventions you can take for your skin’s health and appearance. Treatments like Aqua Infusion help rejuvenate the skin, and bring back your natural glow. The treatment includes an exfoliating step using microdermabrasion, which helps remove the dead skin cells and impurities. An infusion of Vitamin C gives your skin a boost to stay bright, and keep fighting off the free radicals!
Another treatment offered at Skin ‘n Smiles that our patients find particularly useful to address sallow skin and pre-mature ageing is Oxygeneo – a “super-facial” which is a 3-in-1 skin treatment that combines all the benefits of microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and oxygenating facials.
These treatments can reverse some of the pollution-related damage, and also fortify your skin to manage the ups and down of our urban jungle!