Is Environmental Pollution Doing A Number On Your Skin?
You all know how damaging the sun is to your skin, but what about all the other stuff going on around you? Here’s a look at how air pollution affects the health of your skin.
Environmental pollution: the struggle for our poor world is most certainly real. But closer to home, and to really drive that nail in the coffin, pollution also has negative effects on your skin. In fact, experts believe air pollution plays a major part in the way in which your skin looks and feels and it’s known to be a huge factor in exacerbating (perhaps even causing) concerns like dark spots, wrinkles, inflammation and many other signs of skin aging.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States has come a long way since the Clean Air Act was enforced in 1970 to help protect the ozone, reduce toxic pollutants and improve air quality. But despite these improvements, air pollution continues to cause harm to your health and the world in which you live.
So, what is environmental pollution and exactly what is it doing to your skin? More importantly, is there anything you can do to prevent this onslaught of damage?
What Is Environmental Pollution?
Environmental pollution encompasses any gas or particle that’s been created and released into the atmosphere by us pesky human beings. Think exhaust fumes from your car; cigarette smoke; soot and acid from power plants, even smoke from your charcoal grill or fire pit. These human activities all create microscopic specks of pollutants that are released into the air.
If you live in a city or a particularly industrial area, you’ll be hard pushed to escape environmental pollution on a daily basis, but don’t think you’re safe even if you live by the beach or in the countryside – the truth is, air pollution is everywhere.
What Does Environmental Pollution Do To Your Skin?
Two words: free radicals. Pollution is one of the biggest causes of free radical damage. Furthermore, pollutant particles can be 20 times smaller than your skin’s pores, which means they can really get under your skin – like, literally.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that react with all the good stuff in your skin, stealing electrons from unsuspecting proteins and causing no end of damage to things like collagen and elastin. As you know, collagen and elastin are super important for the support, strength and structure of your skin so any damage they suffer has disastrous effects on your skin, accelerating premature aging and causing your skin to become loose, thin, saggy and wrinkled way before its time.
Gaseous pollutants are less likely to penetrate your skin, but they’re equally as evil. These work away at the surface, causing problems with your skin’s protective barrier and eventually breaking it down, allowing toxic particles to penetrate your skin and essential moisture to escape.
All in all, air pollution paints a pretty ugly picture for the health of your skin, aggravating your barrier function and compounding problems like dark spots, poor texture, enlarged pores, irritation, wrinkles and well, need we go on? Thought not.
3 Ways To Protect Your Skin From Environmental Pollution
OK, so there’s bad news and good news when it comes to battling environmental pollution. First, the bad news: you’ll never win the war against environmental pollution and protect your skin 100 percent of the time. It’s just too big of a beast. However, the good news is there are tons of way to prevent those nasty pollutants from doing their worst.
Here are three of our favorite anti-pollution skincare weapons…
Weapon #1: Detoxifying Charcoal
The best way to reduce surface pollutants is with detoxifying cleansing ingredients like activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal is a little bit like a sponge and works by binding itself to pollutants then whisking them clean away. It’s often used in medicine to remove dangerous toxins that have been ingested, but it’s also a great skincare ingredient for clearing away anything nasty from the skin’s surface. Our Skin Clearing Charcoal Face Wash is formulated with activated coconut charcoal which is produced by burning coconut, then treating it to remove unwanted substances and increase its surface area. Activated coconut charcoal is one of the best ingredients for removing pollutants, as well as bacteria, excess oil, makeup and other unwanted debris for the surface of your skin. Use it to cleanse your skin morning and night and your complexion will be much less polluted as a result.
Weapon #2: Antioxidants
Nothing fights free radicals like antioxidants, so up your intake in both your skincare and your diet to hit those FRs from all angles.
When it comes to your topical skincare choices, an antioxidant treatment serum is an absolute must. Active ingredients like retinol, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and vitamins C and E all have awesome antioxidant properties. Even better, choose a carefully curated formulation that combines one or more antioxidant ingredients. All of our serums contain at least one topical antioxidant and are perfect for applying to clean skin before your moisturizer to counteract the effects of free radical damage.
Not sure which serum will suit you best? We get it, they’re all pretty darn fabulous. However, we can help you with that tricky decision, right here.
Combine an awesome topical antioxidant serum with a diet that’s rich in nuts, beans and fresh fruit and veggies such as cherries, berries, leafy greens and carrots and you’ll be well on your way to reducing the effects of free radical damage (aka oxidative stress). Oh, you might also want to treat yourself to some antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, too. Arm. Officially. Twisted.
Weapon #3: Strengthening Night Cream
Keep your barrier function strong, supple and hydrated to help shield your skin from as many airborne pollutants as you can. This will also prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL) – the amount of water that evaporates through your skin – to reduce your chances of developing unwanted dryness, dehydration and inflammation. So, there’s that.
To maintain a healthy barrier, avoid over-exfoliating your skin and try to keep harsh chemicals, bad alcohols and fragrance to a minimum as these will strip away all of the natural oils and nutrients from the surface of your skin.
Before bed, you should also apply a night cream as the last step in your evening skincare routine to strengthen and moisturize your barrier function.
Be afraid air pollution, be very afraid.
About Georgia Gould
Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.