We’re sure it’s clear as day to you that air pollution is super bad for your health — everyone talks about how it affects our respiratory systems. But have you ever thought about what effects this invisible villain leaves on your skin?
In this blog article, let’s talk about what exactly air pollution is, what negative effects it leaves on your skin, and what are some ways you can protect your face from this damage!
What is air pollution?
To put it simply, air pollution is the release of pollutants, that are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole, in the air. In other words, air pollution is the contamination of either the indoor or outdoor environment, that is caused by any chemical, physical or biological agent that is able to modify the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.
There are many different types of air pollutants — gases, particulates, and even some biological molecules, to mention some of them. But actually, the most common sources of air pollutants are different household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities, and forest fires.
How can air pollution affect the skin?
If you’ve noticed dry, dull-looking skin with premature wrinkles, it’s possible that that’s been majorly caused by air pollution. Pollutants like cigarette smoke, smog, dust, and vehicle exhaust cause all sorts of skin irritations — allergies, rashes, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and premature aging are just some of them.
In fact, german physician Dr. Barbara Sturm states that skin works almost like a shield to protect our bodies from the negative effects of pollution because we absorb them not only by breathing and eating them but also through our skin.
She also says that many studies have shown that air pollutants when absorbed through the skin, can contribute to an increased risk of skin cancer, fast skin aging, and discoloration, as well as eczema, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and acne.
But how does that happen?
Now you might be wondering: “how can my skin absorb pollution?”. Well, according to dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the pollution that negatively affects our skin is a combination of smoke and small, floating particles in the air.
And because the mixture of these compounds can range in size somewhere between 10 to 2.5 microns, they are super dangerous. Why? Elizabeth Jones, the advanced instructor at Dermalogica and International Dermal Institute, says that our skin pore size is around 50 to 70 microns — and it means that the pollution particles can easily get into our bodies through these pores.
Premature wrinkles and abnormal skin pigmentation are the most common visible side-effects of air pollution on the skin. According to Dr. Zeichner, this is mostly due to free-radical damage and chronic inflammation generated by these air contaminants.
He also notes that collagen fibers get fractured and weakened, and these pigment-producing cells go into overdrive, resulting in dark spots. When these air pollutants get into our skin pores, they also deplete important vitamins in our skin.
What can you do to protect your skin?
Although you can’t take full control over the air pollution levels (but you can at least take some steps to try to reduce the amounts of it), fortunately, there are ways you can protect your skin from pollution-caused damages.
The number one tip is to cleanse your skin thoroughly. Why? The goal is to wash away every bit of dirt, make-up, and, of course, pollution particle, that hasn’t yet got into your pores, but the key is to watch out from aggressive scrubbing or over-drying your skin.
Use special cleansers that are made exactly for smoke-affected skin, like the one from Regene Supreme! This cleanser has lactic acid as its active ingredient, which stimulates collagen renewal and firms the skin on the face. Regene Supreme’s cleansing foam for smoke-affected skin also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, making sure your skin is clean from all kinds of bacteria and viruses.
If you live in a big city, you’re especially exposed to high amounts of air pollution, so it’s very important that you use high-quality moisturizers on a regular basis.
The daily inflammations and irritations that are caused by air pollutants can make your outer skin barrier functions weaker, which over time can lead to the loss of ability to retain moisture and hydration.
Using high-quality moisturizers can help restore the protective layer of the skin, helping to maintain hydration and also start to heal itself.
Getting rid of the dead skin cells is a crucial step when it comes to protecting your skin and recovering it from the damage. You should talk to your dermatologist about chemical peels, because sometimes physical exfoliants can be too rough on the skin, causing even more damage.
For example, Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) is an amazing skincare ingredient that is often used in chemical peels. This ingredient helps to thicken skin over time, improving the barrier function.
Always, and we mean it — ALWAYS, even in the dark days of winter, use some kind of SPF to protect your skin from the UV rays. UV light acts as a dangerous bomb, that enters the skin and explodes most of your collagen and elastic fibers.
This “explosion” causes wrinkles, dry, dull, and saggy skin, as well as contributes to cellular DNA changes that increase the risk of skin cancer.
All you have to do is put on cream with at least SPF 30 to create a physical barrier, that protects from both UV rays and yes, even the air pollutants.
The bottom line
These days air pollution is practically everywhere, so there’s almost no way to escape it (yes, even if you run to the countryside). So it is very important to do everything that’s in your power to protect yourself from it.
We hope that these tips we gave you in this blog article will help you create an amazing skincare routine that will not only give you some much-needed “me time”, but will protect you from all this nasty stuff as well. Take care!