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Give your skin the right protection against pollution

The rising air pollution has become a buzzword nowadays and is affecting the normal functioning of life. Airborne pollutants can contribute to skin ageing, atopic dermatitis, skin discoloration, eczema, psoriasis, and acne and can be absorbed through the skin into the body, causing a wide range of diseases. While pollution takes a toll on the environment and health, it also affects natural beauty adversely. Pollution breaks down collagen and oxidises the lipid layer in the skin, which impairs skin barrier function. Smog particles result in dehydration, sensitivity, uneven skin tone, dullness, acne, and premature ageing.

Highly toxic air containing smoke, soot, acid, and other pollutants severely affects the skin by draining away skin moisture which leads to allergies and pigmentation spots on the forehead and cheeks on dry and rough skin.

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The toxic haze hanging in the sky causes uneven skin tone, accelerated ageing, wrinkles, and black spot on the face.

Among the other organs of the body, the skin is also one of the first to bear the brunt of air pollutants. There are both long and short-term effects of pollutants. Hence, those who live and work in urban areas need protective beauty care, whether we are housewives or working women.

Of course, for working women, the job may involve travelling long distances to work. The skin is thus more exposed to the pollutants in the air.

Cleansing of the skin assumes more importance in order to get rid of the impurities and pollutants that are deposited on the skin. If you have dry skin, use a cleansing cream or gel. Deep clean the skin at night, neutralise it with antioxidants and create a barrier with sunscreen. Include antioxidants in your diet and skincare regime. Citrus fruits contain Vitamins C and E, and limonene which lower the risk of cancer and protect your skin from damage. Avoid cleansers containing sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphates or denatured alcohols as they dry out the skin and can damage our skin barrier over time.

Use skincare rich in antioxidants. Pamper your skin with sheet masks or hydrating overnight masks to repair the damage.

For oily skin, cleansing milk or face wash may be used. For oily skin, also use a facial scrub after cleansing. Look out for products with ingredients like sandalwood, eucalyptus, mint, neem, tulsi, aloe vera, etc., when you buy cleansers.

The anti-toxic and tonic properties of such ingredients have helped in clearing the skin congestion and eruptions that result from exposure to chemical pollutants. Aloe vera, for example, is also a powerful moisturiser and an anti-oxidant. So are ingredients like apricot kernel oil, carrot seed, wheatgerm oil, etc. the skin needs to be protected. If the skin is prone to eruptive conditions like acne, pimples, or rash, it should be protected with specialised creams that not only protect but also reduce oiliness and deal with the problem.

After cleansing, wipe the skin with a rose-based skin tonic or rose water, to complete the cleansing process and refresh the skin. Soak cotton wool in chilled rose water and tone the skin with it, patting briskly. It also improves blood circulation to the skin’s surface and adds a glow. Green tea also makes a good skin toner. If there is a rash or eruption, add a little rose water to the sandalwood paste and apply it to the face. Wash off with plain water after 15 minutes.

Anti-pollution cosmetics help to provide protection and reduce the damage caused by environmental effects. These are basically ‘cover creams’ which form a barrier between the skin and pollutants. Sandalwood protective cream is very useful to protect the skin from environmental effects. It forms a transparent protective cover. Sandalwood soothes the skin and protects it from irritative reactions and eruptive conditions. It suits all skin types and increases the skin’s moisture retention ability too.

The hair also needs frequent washing if one regularly travels long distances. Pollutants also collect on the scalp. Shampoo, hair rinses, serums, and conditioners help to restore normal balance if they contain ingredients like amla, brahmi, triphala, bhringaraj, and henna. They also coat the hair and form a protective cover. Mix one teaspoon each of vinegar and honey with one egg. Massage the mixture lightly into the scalp. Leave on for half an hour and then wash the hair. Rinse well with water.

Or, give the hair hot oil therapy. Heat pure coconut oil and apply it to the hair. Then dip a towel in hot water, squeeze out the water and wrap the hot towel around the head, like a turban. Keep it on for 5 minutes. Repeat the hot towel wrap 3 or 4 times. This helps the hair and scalp absorb the oil better. Leave the oil on overnight and wash your hair the next day.

The impurities and pollutants can also affect the eyes, causing burning or redness. Eyes should be washed with plain water several times. Soak cotton wool pads in chilled rose water and use them over the eyes as eye pads. Lie down and relax for 15 minutes. This really helps to remove fatigue and brightens the eyes.

If one is also exposed to cold weather, poor diet, a lack of sleep, or simply stress, as many of us are. In the presence of any of these factors along with pollution, the quality of the skin can become further diminished.

To brighten the skin and even skin tone, I recommend products containing Vitamin C to be used in conjunction with richer creams. Deeply moisturising creams can truly help repair and hydrate the skin.

Use an air purifier with a humidifier at home and the workplace to lessen the effects of pollution. Humidifiers make the air breathable and maintain the room’s humidity.

Eat your greens, Vitamin C-rich foods, jaggery and drink loads of fluids rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants can neutralise the effects of pollutants. Lemon, orange, amla, green vegetables, grapefruit, tomatoes and potatoes are some examples of Vitamin C rich foods.

My advice is rely on healthy eating, drinking water, and regular exercise to keep your skin healthy. Making the right choices about our skincare regimen is an equally or even more important part of a successful beauty routine.

It’s a rough deal for your skin, but there are plenty of ways to care for it in the face of pollution.

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