We all know that pollution is a a sign that we are damaging the environment, and when the Air Quality Index (AQI) starts hitting the high numbers you can feel that it is adversely affecting your health, but a lesser known effect is the trouble it causes for your skin.
“Pollution can cause uneven skin tone, accelerated aging and even skin cancer,” says Doris Day, M.D., clinical associate professor of dermatology at the New York University Langone Medical Center.
Scientific research now suggests that urban pollution could age women’s skin “10 per cent faster than those who live in the countryside”. The findings printed in London’s Evening Standard (a city that also has pretty bad air quality), found that based on a study of 200 women aged 30 to 45 in Beijing and rural China, poor air quality triggers more dermatological skin conditions. The study also found a correlation between spikes in air pollution and a surge in the number of patients suffering from urticaria, or hives.
The study, funded by Procter & Gamble – the American multinational consumer goods company who own beauty giant Olay, revealed:
“The detailed analysis showed for the first time that subjects living in the highly polluted district had significantly worse skin hydration than subjects living in the cleaner suburbs, despite making better lifestyle choices (such as cleansing routines, water consumption and greater skin care product usage).
While not wholly unexpected to see impaired skin condition linked to high air pollution, this study is the first to provide sound scientific evidence that skin barrier function and skin hydration are among the most immediate and significant threats air pollution imposes on our skin.”
The pollutants in city air were previously thought to be too large to break through the skin’s barrier but now scientists think tiny particles known as “PM 2.5” can penetrate the skin. These tiny particles cause the haze in city air, and now, according to the London Evening Standard, “It’s thought they also destroy keratin proteins that protect the skin from losing moisture and cause premature ageing.”
Here are some top tips for saving your skin from pollution:
1. Hydrate and eat well:
When you are rushing around the city, dehydration can be hard to avoid. When you’re dehydrated the water content in your skin drops, and skin can look sallow, and dry. So drink lots of bottled mineral water.
Being careful about what you eat is also important, according to Simple Skin Care: “When sugar attaches itself to collagen it makes it more brittle and easier to break. We need collagen to help keep skin looking young and plump. High levels of sugar, which you find in some processed foods, make it difficult for skin to repair itself and can cause premature aging.”
You can also restore some hydration back to the skin with moisturizers and other natural based skin products, and according to Women’s Health: “Choose skin care products that contain protective ingredients such as vitamins A, C and E,” to boost your natural glow.
2. Clean your skin:
Washing your face is the most obvious, but important tip when it comes to skin care.
“Washing your face thoroughly every day is a critical piece of reducing the burden that pollution puts on your skin,” says Erin Gilbert, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn told the fitness website Self.
Cleanse your skin thoroughly each day to remove the layer of dirt and grime to prevent build-up. In the morning use a mild cleanser, you want to cleanse not strip the skin. Then at night, you need to go deeper to remove the layer of pollutants, not to mention makeup and everyday dirt and sweat, that have built up over the day. The goal is to get everything off without too much scrubbing, drying or irritation. Just using a quick make-up wipe before you go to bed is not enough to look after your skin.
The website The Health Site came up with a neat trick:
Once you reach your workplace/destination, wash your face with water or a face wash if you have one with you. Doing this will not let the pollution settle on your skin for long and prevent it from damaging it. So keeping a face wash in your handbag is a good idea.
3. SPF sun protection works wonders:
It might look cloudy outside, but the sun and its UV rays can most certainly find their way through.
The easiest way to combat the problem? Apply at-least an SPF 30 daily to protect yourself, which also creates an external protective layer and reflects UV rays which can cause premature aging.
Also a good sun-cream can be a more cost effective solution than splashing out on an expensive moisturizer – see two birds, one stone.