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Time for pollution barrier

The Tribune 2019-11-07 07:53:00
DOC TALKAs pollution level is all-time high, it’s important to take care of your skin

With the toxic haze hanging all over, it is an important phase of time to be proactive and be aware of all the protective measures to be incorporated into the daily routine.

Among the other organs in the body, the skin is also one of the first to bear the brunt of air pollutants, which not only attack the surface, but also cause an accumulation of toxins. In fact, the pollutants in the air are potent skin irritants. There are both long and short term effects of pollutants.

Protect the shield 

Although human skin acts as a biological shield against pro-oxidative chemical and physical air pollutants, the prolonged or repetitive exposure to high levels of these pollutants can have profound negative effects on the skin. 

Exposure of the skin to air pollutants has been associated with skin aging and inflammatory or allergic skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis or acne, while skin cancer is among the most serious effects.

Along with UV Rays, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrous oxde and volatile organic compounds in air can induce or aggravate skin disorders like air borne contact dermatitis, photocontact dermatitis. 

Havoc that free radicals unleash

When we inhale highly polluted air, more than a trillion free radicals are produced in our lungs, which then trigger an inflammatory response that circulates throughout the body. These free radicals break down skin cellular characteristics and functions leading to skin damage.

Chemical pollutants cause oxidative damage and this can lead to the manifestation of premature ageing signs like wrinkles, loss of elasticity, dark patches and spots, uneven skin tone and black spots on the face.

Chemical pollutants also disrupt the normal balance of the skin and scalp, leading to problems like dryness, sensitivity, rashes, acne, irritation or allergic reactions, dandruff and related conditions. They also make the skin and hair dull.

Depending on the nature of these pollutants and the integrity of the skin, the modes of the penetration of pollutants differ. Air pollutants may induce severe interference of normal functions of lipids, DNA and/or proteins of the human skin and thus are involved in the development of various skin diseases.

One of the most critical functions of the skin is to provide a barrier from the outside world: to keep water in and keep allergens, irritants, and pollutants out. When the skin barrier is not performing optimally—the vicious cycle of recurrent skin disorders may ensue.

What to do


  • Cleansing of the skin assumes more importance in order to get rid of the impurities and pollutants that are deposited on the skin.
  • Anti-pollution cosmetics help to provide protection and reduce the damage caused by the environment. These are basically “cover creams” that form a barrier between the skin and pollutants.
  • Some of the newest formulations contain ceramides or waxy lipid molecules composed of sphingosine and fatty acids. Ceramides help restore skin water permeability and barrier function.
  • Prescription barrier creams are commonly formulated with delivery mechanisms that utilise biologically inert microscopic polymer particles (microspheres) that absorb, trap, or bind to specific ingredients thus playing an important role in preventing skin disorders due to harmful air pollutants
The anti-pollution skin products are applied directly to the skin surface to help maintain the skin’s physical barrier, providing protection from pollutants and preventing the skin from drying out. Barrier products can persist on the skin for several hours. They should be applied sparingly, and reapplied as necessary.

(Dr Sharma is a Chandigarh-based dermatologist)


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