pollution damage skin

How Pollution is Ruining Your Skin

Most of us know about the effects of sun damage on our skin. And so, we're vigilant about slathering on the SPF all year round.  Phew, our skin is safe!

Think again.

Unfortunately, there is also pollution damage. Yep, pollution and skin is another thing to worry about.

Air pollution is not only a major health concern that can lead to respiratory ailments but, on a more vain note, smog, smoke and exhaust cause damage to our skin, creating extra beauty challenges in modern living.

This, of course, is not really a surprise; when our bodies are exposed to toxic chemicals and by-products, it's also not good for our tissues.

Aging by Smog

Air pollution has been found to lead to extrinsic skin aging, demonstrating how the world around us impacts our skin and bodies.

Over a decade ago, we attended a conference in which one of the speakers was a researcher for a major cosmetic company. In his research, he found that pollution exposure led to inflammation and therefore free radical creation.

Since then, there has been much more research to support this finding and further confirmation on pollution's detrimental effect on our skin.

One study of 400 Caucasian women ages 70-80 found a positive correlation between air pollution exposure and the severity of skin aging characteristics, wrinkles and pigmentation. Other studies have revealed traffic pollution exposure to be associated with extrinsic aging.

From an esthetician's perspective, this means that those of us living in big cities must take this into account when looking at anti-aging strategies.

Pollution and Pigmentation

We are obsessed with pigmentation. How to treat it and how to prevent it.

While sun is the most commonly cited culprit, research has found pollution caused by exhaust increases the appearance of pigmented spots.

In fact, one study revealed that an increase in soot and particles from traffic was associated with 20% more pigment spots on the forehead and cheeks than its control group. This is not surprising because pigmentation is usually a response to inflammation.

So, while sun is often blamed for causing dark spots and uneven skin tone, pollution should also be considered when trying to prevent hyperpigmentation.

An Increase in Sun Damage

UV damage is known to wreak havoc on our skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.

But this is not a stand alone risk. Some atmospheric pollution is known to be ozone depleting, thus, enhancing sun exposure.

It has been predicted that for every 1% decrease in ozone there is a 2% increase in UVB radiation and a 2% increase in skin cancer.

Therefore, air pollution not only has a direct impact on skin damage but also secondary effects that heighten the risk of other environmental assaults on the skin.

What Can We Do About This?

Decrease air pollution! Right.

While respect for the environment is embedded into the Holistic Vanity belief system (we must be holistic to achieve true beauty), I know it's unrealistic to rely solely on environmental strategies. Politics..sigh.

So, what can we do that is immediate and within our control? Well, first we must be religious about cleansing our skin. This is why it is so important to wash our faces at night.

Many women think it's just to remove makeup but it's actually much more important for removing environmental pollutants from the day.

If you are very concerned about this, you can also cleanse right when arriving home.

Second, protection is the name of the game.

Heavy moisturizers and face oils not only lubricate your skin but also provide a barrier that helps protect it against the elements.

Remember, I am referring only to natural moisturizers, as chemical-based products have their own damaging effects. Along with this, if you wear mineral makeup or a mineral SPF, this too will act as a protective shield.

Mineral sunblock, unlike chemical sunblock, is physical. This means that it sits on the skin and blocks UV rays (unlike chemical sun screen agents that allow UV radiation to permeate the skin before neutralizing them).

This barrier against the sun is also a barrier against air pollution residues (and avoids hormone-disrupting sun screen chemicals!). Multi-purpose natural products that are safe, protective and healthy?

After learning all about aging pollution, all I can say is Yes please!


Image by Kristen Morith via Unsplash

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