How is Air Pollution Damaging Your Skin—And What You Can Do About It?

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

Pollution isn't just affecting our Respiratory System—research shows that it is also damaging your complexion. The good news: It's easy to repair this damage with a few simple additions to your skincare routine.



How Pollution Harms Your Skin


We know the toll it takes on the environment, but are we aware of its adverse effects on our skin. "Pollution can cause uneven skin tone, accelerated ageing and even skin cancer," say Dermatologists. A study found that women exposed to increased pollution had more dark spots and wrinkling.


Microscopic specks of smoke, soot, acid and other pollutants are released into the atmosphere from sources like fires, construction sites, cars and power plants. And when that pollution comes into contact with your skin, it doesn't just sit on the surface. The tiny size of these particles—sometimes 20 times smaller than pores—allows them to infiltrate deeper layers of the epidermis, causing not only inflammation and dehydration but also a cellular-level reaction that leads to lost elasticity and firmness. Pollution also breaks down collagen and the lipid layer in the skin, which impairs skin barrier functions.


Luckily, this is one natural disaster you can help prevent. Simple changes to your beauty routine, such as proper cleansing and using antioxidants every day, can have a big, positive impact on skin. Here is your solution in three simple steps.


1. Clean It Off


We know we should wash our face, but many of us don't do it that well. Washing your face thoroughly every day is a critical piece of reducing the burden that pollution puts on your skin. In the morning, wash with a mild & natural cleanser.


At night, you need to go deeper to remove the film of potentially harmful pollutants, not to mention makeup and everyday dirt and sweat. The goal is to get everything off without too much scrubbing, drying or irritation, which can exacerbate skin conditions like acne. Simple washing may not be enough to remove the pollutants, but exfoliating can get those cells out of there. So it is recommended to add a gentle scrub to your nightly routine - Limit use to every other night if it irritates.


In addition to this use a clay-based face mask once or twice a week to help pull out toxins and pollutants from the pores effectively.


As a final step, soak a cotton pad with toner, then wipe it across your skin. It's especially worth doing when you're in a big city, as it lifts off any debris that may be left behind.


2. Neutralise It


When pollution gets into your skin, it creates free radicals - highly unstable molecules that have unpaired electrons. These molecules act like Ping-Pong balls, bouncing around in your skin on their quest to steal an electron from a healthy cell, thereby injuring it. They literally poke holes in the collagen (what gives skin its firmness). All this destruction also shows up as hyperpigmentation and fine lines. Free radicals can increase inflammation, which makes acne and rosacea worse. And that's not all - The most severe thing they can cause is DNA damage and cell mutation, which can lead to cancer, says experts.


As bad as all that sounds, there is an answer: antioxidants. These nutrients can donate an electron where needed, effectively neutralising the free radical and diminishing its havoc-wreaking effects on your skin. Research shows that antioxidants provide one of the best treatments for preventing or reducing free-radical damage. To help protect skin, layer on a serum with antioxidants after cleansing in the morning, and do th