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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Ways in which pollution affects the skin (plus, effective ways to protect it)

Other than air pollution, polluted water can also affect the skin in a negative way as chlorine is usually found in tap water which can cause premature ageing and damage the skin

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
August 6, 2022 9:10:24 am
Air pollution harshly reflects on lungs and skin. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

“India has one of the world’s highest air pollution levels, and above 90 per cent of the population of the country resides in places where air quality level is below the World Health Organization standards,” said Dr Shweta Rajput, MBBS DDV, Associate Consultant At Disha Skin and Laser Clinic, Thane.

But, did you know that pollution not only has an adverse effect on your overall health but also on your skin?

“Repetitive exposure of the skin to harmful air pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), oxides, ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM) and cigarette smoke can have serious negative impacts on your skin. It can lead to allergic skin conditions like eczema, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis or acne, skin cancer, skin ageing and premature wrinkling,” Dr Rajput added.

Other than air pollution, polluted water can also affect the skin in a negative way as chlorine is usually found in tap water which can cause premature ageing and damage the skin, she added.

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Air Pollution Air pollution adversely affects skin and can cause severe problems.(Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Impact of pollution on the skin

The skin happens to be the largest organ of your body and plays a crucial role in protecting it from external agents. However, in most cases, environmental pollutants enter the skin in a stealthy way leading to a host of issues. “Most air pollutants are so small that they can enter the pores easily and infiltrate the fat-filled spaces available between the skin cells. Over time, it causes fine lines, pigmentation, increased sensitivity, and weakened skin structure,” she explained.

Talking about ozone, an omnipresent pollutant in an urban environment, she said that it can lead to the development of “aldehydes, peroxides and lipid ozonation products due to the oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids and can damage the barrier function of the epidermis.”


Free radicals in the air and water can also cause different skin concerns, including premature ageing and acne. The free radical can damage the collagen in the skin and also aggravate inflammation. “The most harmful effect of free radicals is cell mutation and DNA damage which can eventually turn into skin cancer,” she said.

Ways to protect your skin from pollution

Prevention is always better than cure which is the reason why you should take proper care of your skin on a daily basis to protect it from the harmful effects of pollution. Here are some tips you can follow, as suggested by Dr Rajput.



It is always recommended to follow a two-step cleansing process. First, you need to cleanse your face with a makeup removal pad or cleansing wipe and then, apply a gentle cleanser to remove the remaining dirt, grime or pollutants from the skin. A cleansing brush can also be used since it is better than using bare hands.

Use Antioxidants

Antioxidants are available in both oral and topical forms. The damage to the skin caused by free radicals can be neutralised by using antioxidants. To increase the antioxidant levels in your body, you can also consume pomegranate, citrus fruits, green tea, carrots and berries.

Daily Scrub

To heal from the adverse effects of pollution, your skin needs a daily scrubbing of at least 10 seconds. You can use a gentle scrub or even prepare your own scrub at home. To prepare your scrub at home, you need to grind some walnuts, add some sugar and olive oil drops to it and scrub your skin with the mixture.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration is the key to good skin health. Apart from drinking plenty of water throughout the day, you can also use a daily moisturiser or serum consisting of antioxidants. This can help add layers of protection not allowing the small pollutant particles to enter the skin.

Apply Sunscreen


Don’t forget to apply sunscreen. Not only does it protect your skin from UV damage but also prevents the penetration of harmful and smog particles into the skin.

“Other than the precautionary measures which have been discussed, you also need to make sure that you maintain a healthy diet and follow your skincare regime religiously. If you face some serious conditions, always consult your dermatologist to get the best advice,” she suggested.


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First published on: 06-08-2022 at 09:10:24 am

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