The daily commute to school or work can expose us to many pollutants. This is doubly true if you live in an urban setting, with all the car exhaust, hot sewer grate steam, and endless streams of second-hand smoke. We all know that pollution is detrimental to our health, but did you know that it is also not doing your skin any favor?
How Pollution Harms Your Health
Air pollution is the presence of harmful particles and gases in the air, which originate from industrial emissions, car belching, and ozone damage. It’s bad for everyone: you, me, and even the environment. When you inhale polluted air, the pollutants enter the body and travel through the blood. It can cause damage to the heart, inflammation of the lungs, and scarring to the rest of your organs.
Continued and long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to certain chronic and serious medical conditions, such as asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and emphysema. Both short and long-term effects of air pollution lead to an estimated 6000 deaths per year.
Harmful Effects of Pollution to the Skin
Now that we’ve established that pollution does nothing but bad stuff to our body, let’s delve deeper into its effects on your skin. Have you ever stopped to think about how it affects your complexion?
Dermatologists confirm that smog, cigarette smoke, chemical emissions, and other forms of air pollution play a role in promoting skin damage. Pollutants contain microparticles that can seep through the skin’s pores. Once they get in, they release free radicals, activating oxidative stress.
As these free radicals proliferate and bounce around inside the layers of the skin, they create repeated and heightened damage. They can disrupt the skin’s barrier and damage the existing collagen and elastin. As a result, you notice premature signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, and dull skin. Other signs of premature aging include saggy skin, brown or dark spots, and broken blood vessels. You may notice enlarged skin pores, and your complexion may seem sallow.
Pollution can also affect the sensitivity of your skin. Because of the damage in its protective barrier, your skin is left at risk for irritation, inflammation, or even allergic reactions. You may recognize these as acne, eczema, or just redness.
An Anti-Pollution Skincare Regimen
Now, the question is: How do you protect your skin from all that bad stuff without having to live as a hermit in the woods where there’s zero air pollution? Honestly, that sounds great, but it isn’t the most practical of all solutions.
First things first: Air pollution exists in both urban and rural areas. Since the particles of pollutants are so tiny, we don’t always see them as black smog. It’s hard to avoid, especially in the fragile state that our planet is in. The good thing is that there are things that you CAN do to protect yourself and your skin.
Facial and Skin Cleansing
The first step is to cleanse your face properly to remove any physical traces of pollution on your skin. We all lead different ways of life, but the common thread is that we experience pollution during the day and go home at night, having accumulated all that grime and soot from outdoors. The important thing to do is to wash your face every night.
We recommend gentle cleansers and using a soft cloth that won’t cause further irritation to the skin.
Keeping the Skin Moisturized
You have heard it a million times: Moisturizing is important, but we’ll say it again. Moisturizing protects your skin from pollution by trapping the particulates in the product. We recommend using anti-aging moisturizers since these are designed to deal with getting rid of free radicals caused by pollutants.
Combat the Effects of Oxidative Stress
Top off your skincare regimen with a night-time antioxidant serum or cream. This type of skincare product is geared to combat the daily effects of stressors. Antioxidants will neutralize the free radicals. It is also good to look out for Vitamin C-containing creams as these will fortify your skin’s ability to defend itself from free radicals and other harmful substances.
Air pollution is 100% a bad thing. It can be stressful to think that aside from environmental decay, we now have to protect ourselves on a daily basis, too. It not only strains our cardiovascular and pulmonary health but our skin’s health as well. Hopefully, with the tips we laid out above - and paired with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and enough rest - you can maintain the wellness and integrity of your skin.