Vispi Speaks: Air Pollution Contributing to Skin Aging


November 22, 2019

Post by

Vispi Kanga

In 2018, the WHO reported that 14 out of world’s most polluted 15 cities are from India.

Air pollution contributes to the premature deaths of 2 million Indians every year. Emissions come from vehicles and industry, whereas in rural areas, much of the pollution stems from biomass burning for cooking and keeping warm. In autumn and winter months, large scale crop residue burning in agriculture fields (alternative to mechanical tilling) is a major source of smoke, smog and particulate pollution. India is the world’s largest consumer of fuelwood, agricultural waste and biomass for energy purposes. According to Apte Research group – Particle air pollution especially across the Indo-Gangetic basin in Northern India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh – ranks among the most severe in the world. In India alone, hundreds of millions of people are exposed to PM2.5 concentrations an order of magnitude greater than World Health Organization guidelines. PM2.5 are tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated. What is PM 2.5 in air pollution?

PM2.5 describes fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA sets and reviews national air quality standards for PM. Air quality monitors measure concentrations of PM throughout the country. Since this particulate matter is so small and light, it tends to stay longer in the air than heavier particles. These fine particles are also known to trigger or worsen chronic disease such as

asthma, heart attack, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.


This chart is by Andrea Downey. It was published in “The Sun” (Feb.2017), a UK newspaper.

Environment and Health are inextricably interlinked. Air pollution can wreak havoc on our Skin, and it can be especially hard to avoid if we live in urban areas. Dirt and dust particles, Smog and other forms of air pollution can clog our pores and leave a film of impurities on the skin. Even worse, this debris can interact with the sun’s UV rays, accelerating aging and skin damage. Pollution is a universal issue. It leads to dryness, premature aging, dull skin, clogged pores, skin irritation, inflammation and allergies. Several research papers further emphasizes that effects of inflammation are far more serious than dermatologists had previously expected. It can lead to cancer, heart problems, diabetes and other health issues. In addition to heavy metals and UV radiation, there are other environmental hazards that could affect the integrity of human skin. These include cigarette smoke, fuel exhaust, halogenated hydrocarbons and ozone. They all generate “free radicals” leading to increased oxidative reactions including peroxidation of lipids at the cell membrane (Dr. Fredric Brandt -Pelle et al, 2002, Scherer 2005).

Extrinsic aging of skin is a distinctive declination process caused by external factors.

It is well established that there is an association between airborne particles and extrinsic aging. Dirt and dust particles, smog and other forms of air pollution can clog our pores and leave a film of impurities on the skin. It is difficult to imagine the damage of something you can’t really see, such as air pollution. Walking through a smog-infused city can be just as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes can be.

Skin anti-aging products manufacturers are promoting the anti-pollution benefits of some existing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, retinoids, antioxidants such as vitamin C and many others. As a result, consumers no longer rely on just treating symptoms, but rather can take an active role in preventing and protecting their skin—a process that includes topical and ingestible products and ingredients making airborne particles the latest target for anti-aging product formulators.

About Vispi Kanga

Vispi Kanga was the principal scientist in global technology at Unilever and has more than 35 years experience in product development in dermatology and skin care formulations, working for multi-national companies in health and personal care industry. He has followed the evolution of the Health & Personal Care industry since the 70’s to it’s current stature as a $146 billion business in the United States.

His expertise has resulted in several patents in the development of new innovative products. He received his BS in Pharmacy from Ahmedabad India and did his postgraduation from Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences (formerly known as Brooklyn College of Pharmacy).

Vispi has given numerous presentations in the area of skin care delivery systems and use of natural ingredients to the Personal Care Ingredients & Technology division of Health & Beauty America as well as other scientific organizations including Panacea, natural products expo India. He was the contributing editor of HAPPI magazine and also contributed articles and editorials in SpecialChem-The material selection platform. He was also an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Natural Sciences at Fairleigh Dickinson University.