It has taken many years, but finally, there is becoming widespread awareness of the great health hazards of Northern Thailand’s annual air pollution crisis. With thousands hospitalised for various pollution-caused and -related illnesses each year, we are slowly becoming aware, as a society, of the potential for long term damage to our health.
Increased respiratory symptoms, from airways irritation, coughing, difficulty breathing to heart and lung diseases, including cancer, the full effects of this disaster will be felt for decades to come.
Thankfully, through massive campaigns by activists, academics, the media and NGOs, the past two years have seen people take precautions to prevent exposure to the harmful air particles by wearing masks or using air purifiers. These preventive measures will save lives and keep us healthy while we all work towards finding a solution.
One side effect of air pollution, however, has yet to be discussed, and while not necessarily life threatening, still a concern nonetheless. And that is how air pollution affects the skin.
Air pollution has an instant effect on the skin in that there is an immediate reduction in hydration. This causes the skin to become dry and can lead to numerous medical problems.
Environmental pollutants can also brown the skin and produce dark spots. This can cause skin irritation, premature ageing, even in extreme cases, lead to cancer.
I would, therefore, like to warn your readers that when the skin is exposed toxic air, of then with the added harm of exposure to UB rays, it can lead to oxidative stress within the body, rapidly accelerating the ageing process. This stress occurs because the skin loses its ability to repair itself properly which leads to cell damage as well as a reduction in protein to the skin. The skin’s natural biological shield against pro-oxidative chemicals and environmental air pollutants, when repeatedly exposed to high levels of contaminants simply fails to be effective.
I have been working in the field of medical aesthetics for nearly two decades and have seen the great harm sun exposure can have on skin. What I am beginning to see now is the increase in skin damage to exposure to annual pollution.
As the skin is our outmost barrier various air pollutants from oxides, particulate matter, even cigarette smoke, can also lead to atopic dermatitis and eczema.
I, therefore, recommend firstly the use of any and all measures to reduce exposure to air pollution. As this is something we are all growing increasingly aware of, and solutions are becoming increasingly available, from staying indoors in air-purified spaces to using masks and sunblock, there are other smaller, but no less critical measures to take. By using a gentle cleanser to remove all particles from the skin and pores twice daily, you will immediately lessen the akin’s stress. It is also advisable to follow this treatment by using an alcohol-free toner to deeply cleanse your skin each day. Products steeped in Vitamin A, C or E should be used regularly in your routine to help the skin fight oxidation.
And moisturise, moisturise, moisturise!
It is essential for us to understand the full effects of the air pollution crisis on our bodies, of which we are beginning to see there are myriad because that is the only way we can start to take precautions so that we can continue to live healthy lives.
Dr Danai is the owner and lead physician at DIAA Clinic and a leading expert in aesthetic medicine. The clinic specialises in non-invasive cosmetic treatments, skincare and beauty treatment. Visit the DIAA website or their Facebook page for more information or call 099 269 3336 to make an appointment for a free consultation with Dr Danai.