You probably protect your skin against the sun (and if you don’t, you should!), but what about pollution? Second only to UV rays when it comes to prematurely ageing skin, pollutants and toxins in the air can wreak havoc on your complexion. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the impact of pollution on your skin – and what you can do to guard against these skin toxins.
Types of Pollutants
Responsible for anywhere between 50 to 90% of air pollution in urban areas, vehicle fumes can have a profound effect on your skin health. Standing on any high street in the country will give you an insight into just how polluted the air really is. With traffic jams backed up for miles, many of us are aware of how vehicle fumes can affect their lungs but remain unaware that the emissions have actually been linked to skin damage and pigmentation too.
The effects of smoking on your skin are well documented. Aside from age, smoking is the strongest predictor of facial wrinkling. It can lead to premature ageing not just on your face, but on other parts of your body too.
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, of which many are carcinogenic. So, while smoking drastically increases your exposure to harmful toxins, even exposure to second-hand smoke in the air can affect the collagen and elastin in your skin. The result of this can be sagging skin and, ultimately, facial wrinkles.
Industrial pollution levels have been dropping in the UK in recent years thanks to the closure of coal-fired power stations. However, air pollution is still at illegal levels in many areas, making industrial toxins a concern for many.
As well as chemicals and fumes, manufacturing plants emit particulate matter. These particles, varying in size and type, are suspended in the air and travel by wind. When they come into contact with skin, some types can cause oxidative stress. This can lead to ageing, pigment spots and wrinkles.
How toxins affect your skin
Regular exposure to the pollutants listed above can have a significant, and negative, impact on your skin. The ageing effects can include brown spots, wrinkles and sagging. And pollutants can also exacerbate sensitivity, leading to dryness, redness, and itchy, uncomfortable skin.
As if all that wasn’t enough, airborne pollutants have also been linked to pollution acne. When microparticles collect on the skin, they can cause irritation, and potentially block pores which will result in spots forming.
How to protect skin from air pollution
Committing to cleansing twice a day is an important first step to in a skin detox. It will help to remove any traces of pollution left on the surface of your skin, preventing them from blocking your pores while leaving skin fresh and clean.