Research is revealing how air pollution can negatively impact the skin. New studies connect air pollution exposure with dull, rough, blotchy, discolored, and older-looking skin. In this article, we explain the different types of pollution and why it's so important to begin taking protective measures to ensure your skin is healthy and vibrant for years to come.
The effect of pollutants is increased by heat, the sun, as well as both UVA and UVB rays which are also responsible for the occurrence of discolorations and overall skin aging. We'll discuss 4 pollution factors to see how each can impact skin over time by disrupting the skin's barrier and ultimately speeding up the signs of aging including discolorations and wrinkles.
In the Earth's lower atmosphere, near ground level, ozone is formed when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial exhaust, and other sources react chemically in the presence of sunlight.
Ozone at ground level is a harmful air pollutant. When continually exposed, the barrier of skin can be compromised - overall affecting the skin's integrity and its ability to protect itself.
The two main oxides emitted which turn to ozone are:
- NOx - oxides of nitrogen, especially as atmospheric pollutants
- VOC - Volatile organic compounds, emitted as gases from a wide variety of solids or liquids
When the above pollutants react with heat and sunlight, they turn into ozone which many of us encounter daily.
Cigarette smoke causes unfavorable changes to the skin. Some of the toxins in cigarette smoke can negatively impact parts of the skin that keep it firm and supple.
This damage speeds up skin aging, making smokers more prone to wrinkles on their face and body. Cigarette smoke also deprives skin of oxygen, accelerates the aging process, and depletes bodies of the vitamins it needs to heal itself.
An important thing to note is that you don't need to be a smoker to be impacted by these things. A person sitting or standing next to a smoker is affected by 2nd hand smoke which will have a negative impact on their skin.
Particulate matter is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets that are found in the air. Some particles such as dirt, dust, and smoke can be seen by the naked eye while others like aerosols, fumes, and mists are so small, they can only be seen by an electron microscope. These are known as ultrafine particulates.
The 3 main contributors to particulate matter are:
- The combustion of fuels like coal and petroleum. These are generally used in power plants, factories and waste incinerators which means larger, more populated areas with an abundance of the these tend to have more particulate matter in the air.
- Forest fires generate particulate matter from wood smoke (haze). These fires can have a significant impact on local air quality, visibility, and health. Pollution from forest fires can travel large distances and produce harmful effects far away from the fire location.
- Indoor pollution includes particulate matter caused by environment and lifestyle. Amongst other things, factors can include such things as the use of indoor fires, the presence of dust and smoking.
When taking care of the skin, it is important to consider both outdoor and indoor pollution. Particulate matter can sit on the surface of skin overall compromising the skin's barrier but can also fall into and clog pores making them appear larger than normal.
Also known as HEV (High Energy Visible) light, is a high-frequency light that is visible to the human eye. It falls within the blue/violet spectrum. HEV light occurs naturally in sunlight, but we are also exposed to it indoors, as it is created by laptops, mobile phones, and other digital screens.
HEV light can affect how efficiently the skin is working both in relation to its ability to heal and how effectively it functions as a barrier. Just like other forms of pollution, research has shown that overexposure to blue light can accelerate signs of aging including fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and discolorations.
No matter where you live, chances are you are at risk for the negative effects of air pollution to some extent. In fact, everyday activities such as cooking and cleaning can release particulate matter and free radicals that can over time impact your skin as well.
The great news is that protecting yourself from environmental damage is not hard when it comes to your skincare routine. 3 main tips are all that you need to remember:
- Cleanse well when you get home or before you go to bed. Your cleanser's job is to remove excess dirt and particulate matter, but not to strip excess oil off your skin
- Use products formulated with antioxidants to counteract the effects of ozone and blue light. Typically serums are made with many plant extracts and other antioxidants.
- Wear sunscreen in the day! UV rays and sun damage is a major cause of premature signs of aging. If you work in an indoor office environment, UV rays can penetrate windows. Plus, a sunscreen will help reduce the damage done by blue light emitted by screens.