Home Remedies: Air Pollution Making the Skin Dull & Hair Brittle?

A recent report by the World Health Organisation India is home to 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world. The 2017 State of Global Air Report, a study jointly conducted by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, documented that air pollution-related deaths in India between 1990 and 2015 had risen by approximately 150 per cent! One can only imagine the ravages of pollution on our skin and hair.

In fact this adverse impact of pollution (and the sudden surge in awareness) has led the beauty and cosmetic industry to experience a spike in anti-pollution skincare products. From deep cleansers, to exfoliants, face masks and the like - products are being especially formulated to tackle the issue of pollution.

However, addressing the issue with topical applications is just scratching the skin's surface because, as Dr B L Jangid, Delhi-based dermatologist and Founder, SkinQure, says, "simply overdosing on anti-pollution skincare products is likely to cause more damage than help you." To address the root cause, it is imperative to understand pollution and the ways in which it causes damage to your skin.

Air Pollution Killed My Glow

Skin breaking out during air pollution months? 

Polluted air and environment brings with it many beauty concerns. Acne, rashes, tanning, lacklustre skin, hair fall are just a few of them. Experts have opinions on the immediate impact of pollution exposure on our appearance, its ability to damage our skin and scalp, and the major role it plays in contributing to the visible signs of premature aging.

Dr Madhuri Agarwal, Founder & Medical Director of YAVANA Aesthetics Clinic in Mumbai says,

"“Toxic air containing smoke, soot, acid and other pollutants severely affect the skin by draining away moisture, which leads to allergies and pigmentation spots on the forehead and cheeks on dry and rough skin. Toxic smoke and air also causes uneven skin tone, accelerated ageing, wrinkles and black spots on the face.”"...And Made My Hair Brittle

In the same vein, Dr B L Jangid is of the opinion that, "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 skin surface, but also cause an accumulation of toxins. In fact, they are potent skin irritants.” He adds,

"“ The harmful gaseous mix, present in the air, triggers extreme hair loss and results in baldness. Additionally, the harmful and aggressive elements of air pollution affect the hair strands along their length causing the ends to split. This split goes up through the length and eventually breaks the hair off the scalp. the scalp can suffer the same skin care concerns experienced by the face.”" - Dr B L Jangid

He further elaborates, “When the scalp is exposed to pollution, it experiences sensitivity and discomfort, dryness or oiliness. Excess sebum production on the scalp translates into oily and greasy roots and can clog pores and block the hair follicles – effectively weakening the hair at the root, making it more prone to breakage. The hair fibre can also become dry and brittle over time when exposed to pollution, through factors such as gases, PM or dust particles that contact the hair fibre and penetrate the superficial cuticle layer. This causes damage to the structure of the hair strands as they are continuously exposed to environmental elements and external aggressors."

Also Read: Is the Smog making your Hair and Skin Dry? We’ve Got You Covered!

There are both long and short term effects of pollutants. Here's listing a few:

Effects on Hair AND Remedies

  • Dryness

The harmful gaseous cocktail sucks the moisture from the hair. This leads to dehydration of the hair, eventually causing the hair strands to go frizzy and brittle.

Remedy: "The best way to stop your hair from being dehydrated is adding a moisturizing hair masque to your daily hair care routine to lock in moisture and keep your hair hydrated. Also drink a lot of water and oil your hair at least twice a week," suggests Dr Jangid.

  • Damaged hair texture

Harsh pollutants damage the texture and quality of hair leading to the thinning of hair strands.

Remedy: According to Dr Jangid, "Anti-air pollution hair care products that contain anti oxidants may help replenish your hair. Serums are advisable to build a shield between hair and polluted air. Try and cover your hair as far as possible. Platelet Rich Plasma therapy is a medical intervention to give damaged hair a new lease of life."

  • Scalp infections

According to Dr Apoorva Shah, Trichologist & Founder, Richfeel, "Air pollution can also cause scalp diseases resulting in itchiness of the scalp, which at times may be accompanied by redness and irritation."

Remedy: Medical intervention is the only solution to such scalp diseases as home remedies may aggravate the situation.

  • Dandruff

Dandruff in your hair and scalp is aggravated by air pollution.

Remedy: "Using a good anti-dandruff shampoo is recommended. But it is also important you consult an expert to address the problem effectively," says Dr Shah.

  • Premature baldness

While hair loss is a common phenomenon, extreme hair loss ends in baldness. The toxic gaseous mix, present in the air, triggers extreme hair loss and results in baldness.

Remedy: "While baldness should be treated medically, you could also use a head covering caps and hats to protect the scalp from being exposed to pollution," asserts Dr Jangid.javascript:void(0)

Also Read: Air Pollution May Give Babies a Greater Risk of Death 

Effects on Your Skin

  • Increased Sensitivity

The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin. Pollutants present in the air causes damage to this layer causing dryness and rupture. This is, in turn, causes your skin to become sensitive.

Remedy: 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. For oily skins, cleansing milk or face wash may be used. You can also use a facial scrub after cleansing. Dr Geetha Ramesh, Kairali Ayurvedic Centre says, "Opt for products with ingredients like sandalwood, eucalyptus, mint, neem, tulsi and aloe vera when you buy cleansers. Their anti-toxic and tonic properties help to clear skin congestion and eruptions that result from exposure to chemical pollutants. Similarly, reduce the usage of chemical products on the skin."

  • Wrinkles & Premature ageing

"Excessive exposure of the skin to polluted air may also bring wrinkles to your skin which is one of the most important reasons for premature aging. Fine lines appear along with dark circles," says Dr Madhuri Agarwal.

Remedy: A well balanced and healthy diet can work wonders in keeping your skin from aging. A nutrient-rich diet also keeps up the elasticity of your skin. Additionally, according to Dr Jangid, "Medical facials are better to suck out the toxins from the skin and not just tackle the problem on the outer surface of the skin."

  • Changes skin colour

Over-exposure to polluted air combined with the UV rays can actually rob your skin of all the nourishing elements. This makes the skin look dull and lifeless.

Remedy: "Applying serums and sunscreens is most critical to treat and prevent damage from exposure to UV rays and harmful chemicals present in the air," says Dr Agarwal.

  • Skin diseases

The toxins and pollutants present in the air may make you susceptible to various skin diseases. "Melanoma is one of the most common skin diseases and incidences are on the rise because of increased levels of pollution. It is a cancerous condition where moles starting multiplying and taking unusual shapes and colours, " informs Dr Jangid.

Remedy: Using a good sunscreen will not just protect your skin from the UV rays but would also build a protective covering over the epidermis, thus preventing the harmful dust particles from coming in contact with your skin.

  • Disturbed pH balance

pH is an important factor that keeps your skin healthy. Excessive exposure to the polluted air would disturb the pH balance, making the skin either too dry or too oily.

Remedy: "The right products that suit your skin are important. A dermatologist can help you with that. But it is also important to drink lots of water and eat right so your skin and hair are strengthened from within," asserts Dr Geetha Ramesh.

(Aarti K Singh is an independent writer with close to two decades' experience in various media. Having worked in radio, TV and print media, she is now indulging in her passion to rediscover the world, besides juggling a PhD and raising her son.)

(FIT is launching its #PollutionKaSolution campaign. Join us by becoming an anti-air pollution warrior. Send in your questions, your stories of how to tackle air pollution and your ideas to FIT@thequint.com)

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