‘Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own.’
— Charles Dickens
At amaiaa, one of our core philosophies is ‘natural glamour, inside out’. But we also know what is on the outside can affect your skin and your well-being from the inside.
After all, the skin is your body’s first line of defense against environmental aggressors, whether it’s the weather, sun, and pollution, or chemicals and microorganisms. Your skin’s job is to protect your body from these and, in the process, your skin often takes a beating. A 2006 US Bureau of Labor Statistics survey found skin diseases to be the most common among occupational illnesses and injuries, caused as well as aggravated by physical conditions that included extreme cold and heat, and exposure to chemical or biological agents such cleaners, solvents, metals and plants. These external factors lead to what is called extrinsic aging.
amaiaa believes knowledge is power. If you know what your skin’s up against, you can protect it better, so your skin, in turn, can do a better job of protecting you—and looking good, while at it!
Here’s a round-up of the major environmental factors, how they affect your skin and what you need to watch out for.
1. The sun.
Wear sunscreen. Seriously. We’re with Baz Luhrmann on this one. The sun is literally your best friend and your worst enemy. Sun exposure is important for the synthesis of vital hormones like melatonin and serotonin that help regulate various body systems, including sleep, besides being critical for mental health. Your skin also produces vitamin D, which is the mainstay of your bone health, when you step out in the sun.
However, as a 2009 study revealed, as much as 90 percent of skin damage is caused by the sun, causing what is known as photoaging—aging due to exposure to light. When the sun’s ultraviolet rays fall upon your unprotected skin, they can cause your skin to burn, yes, but more importantly, they cause the collagen and elastin to break down, making your skin sag sooner than it may be genetically predisposed to.
Your skin produces melanin, as its own form of defense, however, the amount of melanin your skin produces depends on a bunch of factors that include diet, lifestyle, and even gender and race. Without SPF, sun exposure can lead to hyperpigmentation, age spots, wrinkles, crows’ feet, freckles, and worse, skin cancer.
Sunburns and damage aren’t just a summer or tropical thing—you need broad-spectrum sun protection all year round, in every part of the world, through rain and fog. Because the sunlight may not reach you, but the UV rays will—you can blame it on global warming!
One of the most important roles of the skin barrier, your epidermis, is to regulate the water content in your internal organs, by not allowing them to dry out or to get flooded. As a result, your skin is often in battle with the moisture in the air. Too little moisture in the air and your skin dries out because its focus is on ensuring your organs stay hydrated. Too much moisture and your skin develop an extra layer of oil, to block out the extra moisture. Drier skin means reduced collagen and weaker elastin. Oilier skin means clogged pores and acne. There’s no winning unless you help your skin right.
Experts recommend helping your skin barrier seal in the optimum moisture, so your skin is better able to maintain equilibrium, with a product that contains lipids and fats similar to those found in your skin cells. Which is why facial oils are a great choice. They prevent loss of moisture by sealing it in as well as the flooding of moisture by creating a layer over your skin, so your skin isn’t forces to produce more oil. Apply your products while your skin is still damp to maintain equilibrium.
Pollution comes in many shapes and forms, from smoke and chemicals to bacteria, fungi, pollen and dander, in the air you live in or in the water you wash yourself with. Household cleaners, with their cocktails of chemicals, can be a source of pollution and irritants, as well. The way your skin reacts to these pollutants is as varied. But the basic principle remains the same: They irritate your skin and mess with your skin tissue.
Reactions include clogged pores, leading to conditions such as acne, folliculitis, and hives. Exposure to certain chemicals, especially, can cause your tissue to break down or for fluid to build up in your tissues, leading to dryness, infections, pigmentation, and burns. But that’s not all. Pollution particles can also cause oxidative stress to your skin and create free radicals, which, in turn, cause the collagen and elastin to break down, quickening the aging process. And then, there’s the blue light from your screens, which, too, has a similar effect on your skin. Free radicals have been associated with skin cancer, making them a major cause for concern. According to a 2018 study, pollutants lower your skin’s immunity, inhibiting its ability to repair itself, and can also impact neuroendocrine (related to your nervous and hormonal systems) functions.
While simple irritants can easily be identified and avoided, it is important to up your skincare game. Make sure you cleanse your skin well at bedtime and use products with antioxidants — our saya oil is enriched with a spectrum of antioxidants, including those found in olive, grapefruit, bergamot and lemon peel oils—to counter the free radicals. In case of allergic or infectious reactions to pollutants, please see a registered medical practitioner.
4. Changing seasons.
Seasonal as well as geographical changes, such as when you travel, bring with them changes in temperature, humidity, wind speed and cloud cover, each of which affects your skin in different ways. Cloud cover, which relates to sun exposure, and humidity have been discussed individually, in this post, due to their peculiar and persistent impact.
Wind, by itself, doesn’t really harm your skin, but when it brings with it sand, saltwater or snow, it can create friction, causing windburn. Ideally, avoid stepping out if the wind is too strong. If you must, cover up well, including your face. The good news is, a good physical sunblock—one that leaves a film over your skin—can help protect your skin against windburn, too.
Your skin has an innate ability to adapt quickly to temperature changes, but artificial heating and cooling can leave it confused—and drier. Typically, winter air is cold and dry, which is exactly how it tends to leave your skin (dry and flaky), while summer air is hot and muggy, leaving your skin oilier. On the other hand, air conditioning has a drying effect on your skin—either way. Basically, between the different seasons and our own living environments, our skin is no longer sure what to adapt to.
The good news is, adapting your skincare to the changing climate isn’t really rocket science, and can go a long way in helping your skin get used to the changes and retain its glow. The other piece of good news is that apart from possible flare-ups of skin conditions, especially pre-existing ones, such as acne, eczema and dermatitis, seasonal changes don’t leave you with any lasting skin damage.
If you’re spending a lot of time indoors, in an air-conditioned environment, it’s a good idea to use a humidifier, especially in winter and if you live in an arid area, where summer’s dry, too. Dry, flaky skin can be fended off with an intense moisturising routine that you finish off with a good oil—try our atma oil in the mornings and our saya oil at bedtime. Oily skin can be taken care of by switching up your cleanser for something that’s a little tougher on oil and by dropping heavy creams. Regular gentle exfoliation is a great way to help your skin cell turnover. The key lies in tuning in to your skin’s needs, and treating it with love.
Be your own favorite!