The air inside your house is actually more polluted than you thought. It is full of air pollutants such as dust or harmful chemicals, which, while they may not be as visibly “dirty” as outdoor air, can cause major damage to your skin.
It gets worse during the period before big occasions such as Chinese New Year, when you carry out spring cleaning and repaint certain parts of the house to make it look as pristine as possible. The increased air pollution in the house during this period can seriously wreck havoc on your skin without you noticing. That’s why it’s important to understand how your skin can be affected during spring cleaning and what you can do to minimise the damage.
What exactly is in the “dirty air”?
During spring cleaning, there are two main elements of air pollution that can affect your skin: dust particles and harmful chemicals.
Dust enters your house in many ways. it could be the dirt picked up by your shoes or your pets. It could also come from outside through your door or windows. These dust particles come in various sizes, and the smaller they are, the deeper they can penetrate your pores and cause damage.
Meanwhile, harmful chemicals during spring cleaning often come from cleaning products, paints or varnishes. Commonly known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), these particles linger on the surface of your skin and disrupt the skin barrier.
How does this “dirty air” affect your skin?
Both dust particles and VOCs in the air react with your skin molecules and overproduce free radicals. If “free radicals” sound familiar to you, that’s because the phrase is mentioned frequently in skincare products, especially those targeting skin ageing concerns. They are unstable molecules that will try to bond with other molecules in your body, weaken our skin cells, and disrupt the skin barrier, which is the part most exposed to free radicals.
As this barrier is supposed to protect your skin against environmental aggressors, compromising its function can accelerate skin ageing and lead to visible long-term damages such as premature wrinkles, saggy skin and pigmentation.
Exposure to VOCs can also cause irritation, inflammation or allergic reactions (redness, itchiness, etc), especially on sensitive, eczema-prone skin.
What can you do to protect your skin?
Use non-toxic cleaning products
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Avoid harsh cleaning products and paints with heavy chemical scents, and opt for non-toxic, VOC-free ones to reduce your skin’s exposure to these harmful chemicals. Better yet, make use of natural ingredients around the house such as baking soda or vinegar to use as cleaning agents.
Keep your house well-ventilated
Not only will keeping your windows open during spring cleaning help to air out the heavy chemical scent from cleaning products, it will also reduce the amount of toxins and chemicals in the air, preventing them from sticking to your skin.
Cleanse and exfoliate your skin thoroughly
Cleansing your skin thoroughly will help clear away any dirt, grime and dust particles that have settled in your pores during spring cleaning. However, for smaller, more stubborn pollutants and toxins, a good exfoliant will do a better job at getting rid of them.
Slather on moisturisers
Opt for moisturisers with occlusive ingredients such as petrolatum for the face and shea butter for the body. Occlusive ingredients don’t sink into your pores but stay on the surface of the skin to act as a protective layer against environmental aggressors that could damage or irritate the skin.
Nourishing ingredients such as shea butter that is rich in fatty acids will also help the skin heal and repair itself against free radical damage.
Load up on antioxidants
Antioxidants can neutralise the excess free radicals in our body by binding to them and preventing them from attacking our skin cells. This means that it is important to load up on food that is rich in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables to repair and strengthen your skin barrier. Examples of these foods include berries, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, kale, artichokes, etc.
Granted, this is more of a preventative, long-term solution that will not give you immediate results. But it is definitely important if you want to counteract visible signs of skin ageing in the long run.
You can also use skincare products that contain antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid to further minimise any free radical damage done to your skin.