MUCH TO OUR HORROR, A STUDY HAS REVEALED THE UAE TO HAVE THE WORST, MOST POLLUTED AIR ON THE PLANET. THERE'S NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO START PROTECTING YOUR SKIN
Hands up who'd happily puff away on a cigarette, knowing full well the harm it was doing to your skin? Or build a house facing the billowing extraction pipe of a factory? It seems like an absurd question and yet, shockingly, every time we step out onto the mean streets of the UAE (Sheikh Zayed Road, we're looking at you), airborne toxins are having an identical effect on our skin. The streets are even meaner than we thought.
One report that would agree is the latest study by the World Bank, which has shown the UAE to be the most polluted region in the world. That's right – above China, India and all the usual suspects, it's our own small corner of the desert that's faring the worst. It's time to take a deep breath (not too deep, though. It's smoggy out here), and wise up.
According to Dr Robert Davis, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia, this dubious accolade is down to the UAE's atmospheric conditions,
WORDS: FLEUR FRUZZA combined with pollutants being emitted into the air. “High temperatures enhance chemical reaction rates,” he says. “Add to this a lack of wind so that the air is stagnant for days, and air quality will deteriorate.”
While we've long since realised that this kind of pollution is detrimental to health, we're only now starting to consider its full implications for our skin. “As well as problems like asthma, heart disease and diabetes, we now also understand that exposing the skin to air pollutants can speed up the ageing process,” explains Dr Christopher Crosby, Civil Engineering Research Associate at the UK's Loughborough University. But how precisely is pollution ageing us? And what can we do about it?
In simple terms, pollutants exist in two forms. The first is ground-level ozone gas, which occurs when toxic emissions combine with sunlight. “The toxins destroy the skin's natural oils that make up its protective barrier,” says consultant cosmetic dermatologist Dr Rachael Eckel. “Once this is broken down, tissue is exposed to free radicals.” In turn, these damage the proteins and lipids of the skin, which can lead to collagen degradation, loss of moisture, cell damage, and irritation – none of which make for good news.
The second source of nasties is particulate matter (PM), which is a mixture of solid and liquid dirt particles. These range in size – many 20 times smaller than a pore – and the tinier they are, the more dangerous they become. “Particles less than 10 microns in diameter (finer than that of a human hair) are considered among the most harmful,” Dr Crosby says. “This is because they are highly reactive to human skin, causing inflammation and breaking down proteins that can lead to oxidative stress. This, in turn, can result in pigmentation, as well as wrinkles.”
It's been a worry for Chinese women for years, knowing their country is among the worst affected. It's little wonder, then, that Procter & Gamble chose Beijing to conduct a clinical study of 200 women last year. It found that the ones living in the most highly-polluted district had