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Why Living In An Urban City Like Singapore Can Damage Your Health, And How To Prevent It

Urban Living

Urban living can have lasting effects on the health of skin and it is not just ultraviolet (UV) light that can wreak havoc on your body’s first line of defence.

Other pollutants, toxins and chemicals in the urban environment, along with the impact of urban lifestyle, such as increased stress, can all affect the skin, a recent study comparing rural and urban Beijing residents showed.

Chronic exposure to these pollutants led ultimately to tissue damage, according to the study of 206 women aged between 30 and 45 who had lived in the rural (Mi Yun) and urban (Shi Jing Shan) areas for at least 10 years.

It found the urban residents tended to sleep longer, drink more water, wash off make-up nightly and use skincare products more often. Yet, they had poorer skin hydration than those living in the rural areas. Rural residents showed higher photodamage – including fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation – but better skin hydration, as their skin was less dry and dull.

This would mean there’s something else besides UV that may be impacting skin. Urban living is beyond what the environment is – stress could be one factor.

Also, besides the known vehiclular and industrial pollutants, there could be other modern pollutants that you don’t even think about. For instance, some buildings are using more and more fragrances to overcome unpleasant odours. These external pollutants initiate oxidative stress, which can damage the skin barrier.

For those with skin conditions like eczema, the effect of urban living on their skin can be more pronounced – certain pollutants may even trigger the condition. Many clinical studies have linked the exposure to air pollutants to the development and aggravation of eczema, a common, chronic itchy skin condition that usually begins in childhood.

What should you do?

To counteract the effects of these environmental pollutants, use sun screen and topical formulations with antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, niacinamide and reservatrol.

You are what you eat, but the stressors of urban life sap more nutrients from our body than we think. A balanced diet of lean poultry, along with fruits and vegetables, provide an ample spectrum of vitamins. Still, popping daily supplements will help in one way or another. If you have to drink alcohol (we understand!), go for red wine, which at least contains antioxidants with some health benefits. 

 

By Joyce Teo, The Straits Times, 3 May 2016; additional reporting by Pinky Chng

 

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