From our school days, we have been taught about the different kinds of pollution in our environment, and their ill-effects on our bodies. Thousands of protests have happened against industries and high-end projects because of their potential threat to the surrounding areas — in the form of air, water or soil pollution.
Among these, air pollution is something we come into contact with almost everyday. It not only affects us internally, but also our skin externally (remember, our skin is our protector against harmful pollutants).
With rising pollution rates, especially in metropolitan cities, it is high time we take measures to protect ourselves from pollutants such as dust, toxic gases, and other particles.
Our skin gets affected first, as it is exposed to the outside environment. As the largest organ of our body, we need our skin not just for beauty, but also for protecting our body.
Read along to know the effects of air pollution on our skin and how to avoid it.
- Introduction to air pollution
- Types of air pollution
- Effects of air pollution on the skin
- How can we protect our skin against these pollutants?
First, let us see what air pollution is and what causes it.
What is Air Pollution?
Air pollution can be defined as the release of pollutants such as gases, particles, biological molecules, etc., into the air. This is harmful to human health and the environment.
We know that air pollution causes a number of respiratory disorders. It also badly affects our skin causing a variety of skin diseases.
Air pollution can be in the form of any physical, chemical or biological change in the air. The contamination of air it brings about drastically impacts plants, animals and humans alike.
The imbalance in the gaseous compositions present in our atmosphere due to pollution has resulted in rising temperatures and global warming.
Now let us see the types of air pollutants.
Types of Air Pollutants
Primary pollutants directly cause air pollution. Sulfur dioxide emitted from factories is an example of primary pollutants.
Secondary pollutants are formed by the intermingling and reaction of primary pollutants. Smog, formed by the intermingling of smoke and fog, is a secondary pollutant.
Next, we will look into what causes air pollution.
Reasons for Air Pollution
- burning of fossil fuels
- factories and industries
- mining activities
- use of pesticides in agriculture
- household cleaning products
Let’s see the ill-effects of air pollution on our skin.
Air Pollution and Skin
The skin is the largest organ in our body, and our first line of protection against harmful environmental pollutants. But our skin can only protect us up to an extent. Repetitive and long-term exposure of toxic pollutants can create lasting side effects. Common irritants include cigarette smoke, oxides, ozone and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s).
Effects of air pollution on the skin
Air pollutants are extremely harmful for our skin. Studies show that air pollution has a significant effect on our skin. Pollutants cause all sorts of skin irritations like allergic reactions, rashes, wrinkles, decreased elasticity, and accelerated aging. They even cause tanning and skin pigmentation.
Disruption of skin microbe
Skin microbes comprise millions of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Some fight against external bacteria by alerting our body. But too many or too few of these bacteria can affect our skin and cause dryness, skin irritation and other skin diseases. Air pollution plays a major role in disrupting these good bacteria and destroying them. It decreases the size and diversity of these bacteria leading to pollutants entering our skin. This is the first step in acne formation.
Damage the skin barrier
Skin barrier is the key factor in keeping our skin protected from the harmful ultraviolet (UV)rays, sun damage and other pollutants. Maintaining a healthy skin microbe content is a prerequisite to a healthy skin barrier. The outermost layer of the skin, called the epidermis, is responsible for its hydration.
High levels of pollution can cause damage or cracks in this layer. This lets pollutants seep into the deeper layers of the skin to cause acne, dryness and dehydrated skin. Itcan also increase chances of skin conditions like eczema.
Skin cells produce free radicals that are a part of the natural biological process. But these radicals can be dangerous as they damage the skin barrier. To curb this, the skin produces antioxidants. Prolonged exposure to air pollutants can disrupt the balance between antioxidants and oxidants, which result in the build-up of free radicals leading to cell damage, inflammation and skin irritation.
One of the main reasons for premature aging is frequent exposure to the external environment without protection. This results in pollutants entering our skin and damaging the skin cells. The result is a reduction in collagen and elasticity levels, which are two important components for keeping the skin youthful. This causes signs of aging including wrinkles, dark circles, fine lines and hyperpigmentation.
And now to the all-important question. How do we overcome these effects?
What Can We Do to Protect Our Skin?
- Use a gentle cleanser everyday to remove dirt particles, dust, bacteria and other pollutants from the skin.
- Apply antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E to fight the free radicals caused by the external environment. They also protect the skin barrier against the UV rays of the sun.
- Don’t forget to moisturize. Apply a non-fragrant moisturizer at least twice a day to keep your skin hydrated and reduce water loss.
- Using sunscreen is a must. Apply it daily to prevent harmful radiation and possibly skin cancer.
While choosing products for your skin regimen, make sure to select the ones that are free from toxic chemicals such as sulfates and parabens. Go for products that are made of natural ingredients which do not have any side effects — such as the ones from UnbottleCo.
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