Our skin is in need of protection almost all of the time. It is the protective barrier that covers the entire body and therefore requires a higher degree of attention than one might think. It is well known that the skin needs protection from the sun and other outdoor elements such as cold or dry air, but it is less known that the skin needs protection from pollution as well. An environmental attack can be quite detrimental to the overall feel, look and health of your skin.
Air pollution and the skin
Scientists are just beginning to uncover exactly how toxic air pollution can be for the skin. The main and largest effect air pollution has on skin is speeding up the aging process. A study done directly linked increased air pollution to brown spots appearing on the skin. These brown spots were similar to that of an age or liver spot, which is something that we are all familiar with.
Not surprisingly, skin care brands are jumping at the opportunity to create new products that are claiming to be able to protect the skin against air pollution. But what exactly are we needing to protect ourselves and our skin from?
Why air pollution is bad for the skin
Pollution is one of the main sources of damage to the skin and both air and water pollution can strip skin of moisture, causing discoloration, fine lines and wrinkles. When engine emissions, smog, dirt and dust interact with the sun’s ultraviolet rays, new compounds are created. Many are free radicals and one of the most harmful is the gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2). These are highly charged molecules that are harmful to the skin and the body. Free radicals attack cells and damage DNA. Nitrogen dioxide is the culprit identified in the study cited above.
Ozone is a gas that forms from oxygen under the action of light. It is present in two separate layers of the atmosphere. Higher in the atmosphere, it shields the earth from a portion of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Depletion at this level harms skin because more solar radiation reaches the earth’s surface where it damages exposed skin.
Closer to the ground, ozone is considered a major air pollutant because it is highly irritating to the respiratory system. If you live in the city your ozone exposure is much greater than in a more suburban area. At ground level, ozone is a pollutant and can affect your skin.
Free radicals and the skin
Free radicals are everywhere. They are in the air we breathe and the foods we eat. In fact, recent research indicates that the average person inhales about three hundred cigarettes’ worth of persistent free radicals (PFRs) each day. Free radicals similar to those found in cigarettes appear to be pervasive in the environment.
Pollution is one of the main sources of damage to the skin. Free radicals interfere with the skin’s ability to produce collagen, which keeps the skin firm and healthy. When contaminants come into contact with your skin, they can interfere with the skin’s ability to regulate moisture, leaving the skin dry, splotchy, wrinkled, and clogged.
Some have compared the way pollution affects the skin to a car. Think about when your car is dirty and those layers of grime and dirt are building up between washes. That same film is building up on your skin because of air pollution during the day. You are probably able to feel it, just not see it.
How to protect your skin from pollution
Pollution is inevitable at this point. It is something that we and our skin have to deal with on a day to day basis. There is no escaping this. You can however take steps to shield your skin from pollution’s effects.
Antioxidants are without question the most powerful ingredients you can apply to your skin to diminish the visible damage of pollution. That’s because antioxidants help to intercept the damage before it can have a significant impact on skin. The fastest way to add this kind of protection to your skin is with a concentrated serum and eating foods rich in antioxidants. No matter which one you select (and it’s fine to use more than one), you will be fighting against pollution’s effects on skin every day and every night.
You might wonder if there are special or specific antioxidants for fighting the effects of pollution. There is no single best antioxidant; instead, there are a lot of amazing and potent antioxidants that help defend skin from environmental attack. The more of these you apply and/or ingest, the better.
Staying hydrated is another way to help the skin fight pollution. Hydration flushes the toxins from your system and keeps your skin healthy and resilient. Make sure you are washing your facial skin thoroughly every single day. Doing this will remove that layer of dirt that has accumulated. Washing two times a day (morning and night) will help to prevent build-up of layers of grime on your face. Remember never to over wash your face though, as this could impair the function of the skin’s natural barrier.