There’s a seemingly endless number of factors we fend off in the name of gorgeous, glowing skin—from ultraviolet (UV) radiation to stress, makeup, skin care products, and much more, we can also add air pollution to our growing list. With 92% of the world’s total population living in urban centers that do not comply with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality standards, it would seem we all need to know a little more about protecting skin health against air pollution. Here’s how air pollution is really affecting your skin, plus what you can do to neutralize its effects and reverse any damage already done.
Skin has a natural protective barrier to defend itself against the daily elements, but it’s certainly not immune to the effects of pollution. While skin may offer a shield against chemicals and particles present in pollution, over time, exposure to such pollutants can lead to a compromised skin barrier if proper skin care and reparation aren’t top of mind daily. This is because the outer layer of skin is composed of lipids, or fat cells, that bind healthy skin cells together for a smoother finish. Ozone, or air pollution, damages lipids, leading to ongoing inflammation and a breakdown of skin’s natural protective barrier, which subsequently damages DNA. The end result is skin that appears much older than it is.
Likewise, carbon emissions and particulate matter, a mixture of extremely small particles and liquid present in air, are linked to aging skin, pigmentation and texture issues, cancer, and acne breakouts. More specifically, particulate matter may consist of pollutants from car exhaust, metal smelting, smoking, industrial gasses, regular old dust, or anything releasing chemicals into the air (i.e., carbon dioxide, PAHs, sulfur, or dioxide). Particulate matter poses an even greater risk of breaking through skin’s protective barrier when considering size: particulate matter ranges from 2.5 to 10 microns while a skin pore is at least five times larger, at 50 to 70 microns. And while it’s technically not particulate matter in itself that you should worry about, particles can carry any number of chemicals, with a potential 224 to defend against altogether.
In summary, the potential effects pollution can have on skin health include:
Your skin’s natural barrier offers the best defense against the effects of air pollution, but it needs a little help to recover from the damage it takes. To boost healthy skin cell renewal and support your skin’s protective barrier, opt for skin care products that feature antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and hexinol, all proven to neutralize free radicals and gradually repair skin. As always, cleansing should be top priority, particularly after a long day on the town. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that staying indoors all day means you don’t have to cleanse at all—pollution can be a concern indoors as well. At the very least, cleanse your face, neck, and chest for one minute with a gentle, antioxidant-rich cleanser to neutralize free radicals and remove particles from skin’s surface. For improved effects, use a sonic cleansing brush, which can help to remove up to 30 times more dirt and particulate matter. Air pollution is here to stay so you might as well invest in a skin care routine fit for the challenge and ensure skin has the best possible chance to heal during your beauty sleep.
Unfortunately, a good skin care routine might not be enough for urban dwellers, whose skin tends to suffer from even worse hydration levels compared to those who live in the suburbs, despite generally making better skin care and lifestyle choices. For an even greater boost to skin health and to reverse the effects of damage already done by the concoction of chemicals in air pollution, consider a customized wrinkle reduction treatment plan. Utilizing advanced technology and radio frequency (RF) energy, these treatments deliver energy deep below the skin’s surface where it is converted to heat, spurring skin’s natural collagen production levels to repair and refine skin texture and health. Because they utilize RF energy, these anti-aging treatments are quick and safe for all skin tones.
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