Air Clean Up

Can Air Pollution Damage Your Skin?

Apr 13 2017 Comments 0

The grave health implications of prolonged exposure to air pollution are well-documented. Linked with around 3.5 million premature deaths each year, poor air quality can cause and exacerbate a wide variety of respiratory and cardiovascular ailments, putting a huge strain on our lungs, heart and other bodily organs.

However, concerns about the ill-effects of air pollution often neglect the largest human organ of all – our skin. Research has shown that poor air quality can have a direct, detrimental impact on our skin, irritating previously existing skin conditions such as acne and eczema and causing signs of premature aging.

PAHs to blame

When most of us think of air pollution, we immediately visualise power plants and factories spitting out great quantities of pollutants into the air. While it’s true that oil and gas power plants do affect the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in neighbouring residential areas, the concentration of contaminants inside our own homes can actually be as much as five times higher than outdoors.

In particular, another acronymic pollutant – polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – is to blame for the deterioration of our skin’s resistance and appearance.

“Recent research shows that air pollution, especially PAHs, is able to penetrate skin and generate a cascade of oxidative and inflammatory reactions that can damage the skin,” explains Patricia Manissier, the research and development director at cosmetics company Caudalie.

Over time, exposure to PAHs and other contaminants can bring down the amount of collagen and oxygen inside our epidermis, reducing skin cell regeneration and leaving it looking tired and aged.

Fortifying our skin, inside and out

The best way to alleviate the symptoms of over-exposure to air pollution is, first and foremost, to avoid it. However, in today’s modern world that can be something of an impossibility, especially if you happen to live in a major town or city.

Fortunately, there are other ways to fortify the body against air pollution. Antioxidants are a natural defence against the damaging properties of PAHs and are found in plentiful supply in many red fruits and vegetables, including apples, berries and beans. The inclusion of such foodstuffs can do wonders to strengthen the body’s defences and reduce the effects of air pollution on the skin.

What’s more, cleaning and moisturising on a regular basis will help to keep your skin looking young, healthy and free from blemishes. Wiping away any impurities that have collected during the day and applying moisturiser before bedtime is key to a youthful demeanour, according to skincare specialist Fiona Brackenberry.

“Night-time is the best time to repair the damage, because not only is the skin most receptive, but its cell renewal is at its peak whilst you sleep,” she says. “Overnight skin repairing is crucial, as free-radical damage affects so many parts of the skin. Essential fatty acids are needed to repair the hydrolipidic film, as pollution and free radicals damage skin, and it can take up to eight hours to repair itself.”

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