Whether we’re city slickers or live in wide open spaces, all of us encounter pollution in our daily lives and it’s not great news for our skin. Recent research suggests that environmental pollution plays an equal rolei n extrinsic skin aging as UV rays. That’s why experts are now focused on how to protect skin against the unseen threat of pollutants like smog, toxic particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds. Here are the top five reasons you need to protect your skin against pollution.
It Compromises Barrier Function
One specific particulate, PM2.5, which is prevalent in smog, sits on the surface of the skin and wreak shavoc on the skin’s lipid barrier. When the lipid barrier is compromised, invisible particles can irritate the skin, causing redness, sensitivity, and an increase in breakouts. To combat the barrier-compromising effects of pollution, look for skincare products that reinforce the lipid barrier with non-comedogenic fatty ingredients like ceramides and vitamin E. Both ceramides and vitamin E are fats that naturally occur in your skin, but can become depleted when your barrier is compromised. When applied topically, these clean skincare ingredients prevent dehydration and irritation.
It Sensitizes Your Skin
Because pollution can disrupt your lipid barrier, one of its first side effects is skin sensitivity. For a lot of people, this shows up as redness, but it can also show up as itchy skin or breakouts. Even if you have a strong lipid barrier, pollution can still be sensitizing. That’s because some particulates are small enough to get into your pores, where they can cause inflammation inside the skin. In addition to using creams that support a strong lipid barrier, make sure to wash your face twice daily with a gentle cleanser like our HYDRATING GEL FACIAL CLEANSER. This will help rinse away any lingering nasties clinging to the surface of your skin.
It Contains Free Radicals That Cause Aging
Pollution is a major source of free radicals, the molecules that cause premature skin aging. These molecules steal electrons from healthy skin cells, which creates a domino effect that compromises the overall health of your skin. Free radicals trigger oxidative stress in the skin, which can cause loss of firmness, wrinkles, and dullness. To neutralize free radicals, look for skincare packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent free radical damage before it starts, leaving your skin healthier and younger-looking. You can learn about our favorite topical antioxidants here.
It Can Make Hyperpigmentation Worse
Free radicals from pollution trigger enzymes in the skin that can make hyperpigmentation worse. If you have melasma or even just dark spots caused by sun exposure, pollution can make them look darker, faster. Topical antioxidants like the plant stem cells can help prevent free radical damage from making things worse. And always wear SPF! UV rays can darken pigmented spots even if the sun isn’t shining.
It Triggers Breakouts
One of the main oils in our skin is called squalene. When squalene comes into contact with ozone (a type of pollution) and cigarette smoke, it oxidizes. While squalene on its own is not comedogenic, its oxidation process creates substances that are pore-clogging. It also triggers inflammation in the skin, creating the perfect storm for pimples and breakouts. Look for moisturizers with anti-inflammatory antioxidants like niacinamide (a type of vitamin B), which can help prevent inflammation and neutralize free radicals in one step. It creates a moisturizing shield that protects skin from environmental stress such as irritating smog and pollen particulates.
Quick Take: How to Protect Your Skin Against Pollution
●Wash away irritating particles with a gentle cleanser 2x per day
●Reinforce your lipid barrier with clean ingredients like ceramides & vitamin E
●Look for products high in antioxidants like plant stem cells
●Battle inflammation with anti-inflammatory antioxidants like niacinamide (vitamin B3)
●Wear SPF daily