How Effective Are Anti-Pollution Skin and Haircare Products?
The anti-pollution plug for skincare products is not new, it has been around for years.
However with the recent increase in pollution levels, as well as people’s awareness of pollution, there has also been a sudden rise in a desire to protect hair and skin against it.
The awareness and consciousness is such that the demand for anti-pollution products and visits to dermatologists and skincare experts increased by about 30-40 percent immediately after Diwali, according to this report.
Similarly, if we head to a website of a leading Indian aggregator’s for cosmetic products, a simple search for anti-pollution products leaves the consumer with an overwhelmingly diverse choice.
Pollution and its Fraught Relationship With Skin and Hair
When we simplify the jargon about pollution and skin and haircare, there seem to be two essential steps - cleansing and layering.
Dr Anu Jain, Consultant, Dermatology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi, emphasises this and recommends it at least twice a day.
The onslaught of pollution is so harsh that it’s important to cleanse and tone your skin. Even indoors there is some amount of pollution. The particulate matter sticks to your skin pores as well as your hair, especially the hair which are left unprotected most of the time. As a result, people, often the urban population, complain of brittleness, dryness and hair loss.Dr Anu Jain
In such a scenario, it’s important to ensure that your skin is free of all dust particles and other harmful nano particles. Dr Jain adds that toning doesn’t even have to be a complicated process. Simple gulab jal sprays can work wonders. It’s important to follow it up with a moisturiser which preferably contains active ingredients.
It’s also important to get a dermatologist to help you understand which products would work best for you depending on your skin type (dry, oily or combination).
What is Pollution Really Doing to Your Skin?
Dr Rahul Arora, Consultant, Dermatology, Max Super Speaciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, says that the chemicals and the dust particles in the air around us cause damage to the outermost layer of the skin first. This is the protective layer and once it’s damaged, further exposure to pollution leads to problems like inflammation, dullness and pigmentation often confused with tanning.
When asked about the extent of this damage, Dr Arora marks:
The penetrative damage often affects the collagen (protein in the body, essential for the skin’s structure) often also leading to early ageing. For people with routine jobs which requires them to step out more, this damage is twice-thrice more than those who stay at home. The comparison is also true for people living in metro cities versus those in sub-urban areas.Dr Rahul Arora
Dr Arora agrees with Dr Jain about the importance of cleansing and toning and how helpful this layering is when stepping out. Both doctors also agree on the importance of moisturising and using sunscreen as well as the benefits of Vitamin C and E, and hyaluronic acid and ferulic acid in your skincare regime.
How Much of These Products Really Work?
Dr Arora says that there is no scientific research available to back any of this as of now. Yet in his experience, there is an interesting conclusion to be drawn.
While it’s too early to comment on how effective they are really, in my experience, patients who cleanse and moisturise their face twice a day, use sunscreen and keep themselves hydrated, the percentage of protection against pollution is as high as 70-80 percent. But they are hardly able to sustain it, they stop being regular after two-three months.Dr Rahul Arora
Dr Jain too places this number at a high 50 percent. When it comes to skincare, she puts her faith in medicated products pointing out that medical companies have a protocol, and with a prescribed product from a dermatologist, you’re less likely to go wrong.
She mentions the usage of ceramide for dry skin and aliphatic acid for the oily kind. While a rule of thumb when choosing any skin or haircare product is to avoid parabens and sulfates like the plague, ingredients like glycerine, jojoba and olive oil work for most people.
Another often ignored product is the under eye cream, she emphasises.
Diet, Hydration and More
No matter how rigorous you are with your regime, there is only so much you can do with external protection. It’s also very important to keep your body strong from within. Along with hydration, it’s important to include a diet heavy in Vitamin A and D, points out Dr Jain. She suggests berries and green leafy vegetables.
This will especially be useful when it comes to protecting hair against pollution since they are exposed most of the time, she concludes.
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