The haze season is back. Short of relocating to another continent, there is little one can do to avoid the smog caused by burning activities in Indonesia.
While some of the most immediate and obvious adverse effects of the haze are coughs, sore throats and breathing difficulties, the haze can also wreck havoc on your skin.
Airbourne pollutants can result in skin irritations, or even trigger allergic reactions. Drier, sensitive skin types are also particularly at risk as pollutants can exacerbate these skin conditions and cause increased sensitivity, redness, itching and even scratching, which in turn can result in scarring.
However, it is possible to protect one's skin from the damaging effects of the haze. Dr Vanessa Phua from Asia HealthPartners gives us some pointers on what women can do.
1. Cleanse (but don't overdo it)
Make sure that you clease your skin properly to wash off the residue that the haze leaves on the skin, preferably with a cleanser and astringent that contains a mild alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or glycolic acid. These mild fruit acids cleanse and mildly exfoliate the skin.
However, take care not to overscrub or overwash the face, as this can cause tiny breakages in the top layer of the skin (skin epithelium) and render it more susceptible to infections, rawness and skin thinning in the long term.
2. Use sunblock liberally
Make sure your sunblock has an SPF of at least 25 - even if you stay mostly indoors. UV lights, computer screens and reflections from windows can all affect your skin.
However, SPF is not the only factor that you should look out for, says Dr Phua. UVA protection is of crucial importantance as well - look out for physical blockers such as zinc and titanium oxide and chemical filters such as PABA, cinoxate, avobenzone, oxybenzones, etc. Make sure that your sunblock has both chemical and physical blockers.
3. Use a protective day cream and night moisturiser
Make sure they have antioxidant ingredients such as vitamin A (retinoic acid), vitamin C, vitamin B (niacinamide), vitamin E, green tea and soy protein. All these aid and improve skin cell turnover and skin health, as well as combat free radicals.
Other ingredients to look out for include hyaluronic acid - it is an internal building block for collagen in the skin and aids in binding water molecules together, increasing the plumpness of the skin and hydrating it - as well as emollients such as shea butter for drier areas.
4. Get enough nutrition
Make sure you get plenty of antioxidants such as beta carotene and Vitamins B, C and E. Eat plenty of coloured fruits and vegetables and make sure that you are properly hydrated all the time.
Inadequate rest means that your body has little time to repair and recharge. Get enough sleep and your skin will thank you for it.
Dr Vanessa Phua is a physician with an interest in aesthetic medicine. Find out more on her website http://www.drvanessaphua.com/