City Skin: How Pollution Is Ageing You

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We’ve all heard about the effect of pollution on our health but did you know that it can negatively impact your skin and cause premature ageing? 

A relatively new phrase in skincare is ‘pollution protection’. But what exactly are we protecting ourselves against and why?

Pollution is made up of many different harmful particles such as aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), volatile organic compounds (OC), particulate matter, ozone as well as cigarette smoke and these pollution particles, sometimes twenty times smaller than pores, can penetrate into the deeper layer of the skin causing inflammation, dehydration, dark spots, enlarged pores, sensitive and redness-prone skin. If that’s not enough pollution can also expedite ageing by increasing the breakdown of collagen and elastin. 

How does pollution cause all of these skin problems?

Prolonged and repetitive exposure to pollution increases free radical damage in the skin. Free radicals are molecules that are on the hunt for something called an electron. On their hunt for the missing electron they bounce around the skin, like pink pong balls, banging off other healthy cells and damaging them in the process. Ultimately the damage to these formally healthy cells results in the breakdown of collagen which results in premature ageing, wrinkling and pigmentation spots. 

Not only that, pollution also damages the skins barrier. The skins outer barrier is made up of lipids – fats that bind the skin cells together. The skins barrier is our natural shield against pollutants and other external nasties. Pollution can oxidise (breakdown) these lipids causing inflammation. When the barrier is damaged, skin becomes dry, dehydrated , sensitive, redness-prone and less able to protect us. As you can see there is a domino effect whereby damage to the barrier makes the skin less able to protect itself in the future. That’s why keeping the skins surface intact and healthy is vital.

What to do?

While there is plenty of research to show that pollution has a detrimental effect on our skin, science is yet to uncover the best mode of defence against it. Nonetheless, there is some agreement that the following steps will help minimise the damage. 

Boost your antioxidant protection. We can minimize the damage caused by free radicals by including antioxidants in our skincare routine. Antioxidants give the free radical the electron its desperately searching for so that it stops bouncing around the skin looking for it and causing harm. Powerful antioxidants to include in your skincare regime are: Vitamin C and Vitamin E. These are good alone but are an even more powerful team when used in combination. I recommend using a well formulated antioxidant serum in the morning and my favourites are: Alumier MD Everactive C+E or Skinceuticals Ferulic CE. For an added boost look for a product with Glutathione as it helps recycle and reuse other antioxidants. 

Build up your skins barrier using products that contain nourishing ingredients such as Niacinamide. You will find this powerhouse ingredient in AlumierMD Ultimate Boost Serum.

Don’t skip cleansing. It’s sometimes tempting to fall into bed without cleaning your face first. But if you have been pounding the street all day, all those tiny pollution particles will be glued to your skin. Who wants to go to sleep with city grime on their face? At night it’s a good idea to double cleanse. 

Last but definitely not least. Don’t ever leave the house without a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen. 

Dr Edel Woods

BA., B.Dent.Sc. Founder ORA SKIN CLINIC Inspired by Beauty | Powered by Science

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