Sun, Skin Science

Pollution and Skincare: How Your Environment Impacts Your Skin

by Liz Thompson
December 9, 2020

You know that daily sun protection is essential for warding off sun damage, but UV rays aren't the only environmental aggressors that wreak havoc on your skin. Air pollution, cigarette smoke and other irritants you come into contact with every day can affect the way your skin looks and feels.

Here's what you need to know about the effects of pollution and skincare products that can help your skin fight it off.

The Link Between Air Pollution and Skin Problems

Skin is your body's first defense against stressors from the outside world that won't play well on the inside. But those environmental aggressors add up, and they can eventually impact your skin's health.

According to a study in Frontiers in Pharmacology, factors in your environment — like air pollution, tobacco smoke and UV rays — contribute to some of the most common skin concerns, including acne, irritation and premature skin aging. Chances are you come across air pollutants in your average day, such as:

  • Coal, crude oil and gasoline, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
  • Burning fuel, which releases carbon monoxide.
  • Paints, aerosol sprays, cleansers, disinfectants and pesticides, which contain volatile organic compounds.
  • Dust, dirt, soot and smoke, which are classified by the EPA as particulate matter.
  • Smog, which is mainly made up of ozone gas.

Pollution and Skin Aging

When pollutants come in contact with your skin, they generate free radicals. According to the International Dermal Institute, these unstable atoms can damage surrounding cells.

The good news? According to a study published in Dermatology Research and Practice, your skin's natural antioxidants already fight external environmental aggressors, but they can only do so much. A product with a rich antioxidant complex can help fight external factors like cold, ozone, and pollution.

Pollution and Irritation

Oxidative stress caused by sun exposure and air pollution also damages the skin barrier, leading to irritation. Beyond defending against outside intruders such as air pollution, UV rays and pathogens, your natural skin barrier keeps skin soft and hydrated. However, prolonged exposure to pollution can cause disruptions, leading to dryness, redness, itching, and increased sensitivity.

Pollution and Acne

A study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology reported a link between areas with high air pollution and increased acne. Researchers theorized that the increased inflammation and oxidized sebum caused by pollution can actually trigger breakouts, making protecting the skin barrier even more important if you have acne-prone skin.

Pollution and Skincare: How to Protect Skin From Pollution

You don't need to move out to the country to avoid pollution damage. Skincare can provide extra layers of protection and keep your skin looking and feeling healthy, along with the right regimen. The most innovative products and regimens will help you fight both pollution, and the sun’s damaging rays.

  1. Cleanse every single day. If you live in a city, make it a priority to cleanse your face twice a day — especially at night — with a gentle cleanser that removes any lingering pollution particles from the surface of your skin without causing irritation.
  2. Hydrate and moisturize. A healthy skin barrier relies on hydration and moisturization. Use a moisturizer in your morning and evening routines, and look for hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, in your other products for an added boost of moisture.
  3. Wear broad-spectrum SPF. Add a broad-spectrum SPF to your daily morning routine to protect skin from UVA and UVB radiation.
  4. Use products with antioxidants. Provide backup for your skin by applying products that contain antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, before your sunscreen every morning to fight external aggressors.
  5. Use versatile products in your regimen. Some sunscreen products, like the Neutrogena® Invisible Daily Defense SPF60+ Serum, provide not only sun protection, but fight external aggressors as well. With a rich antioxidant complex that helps fight environment factors like cold, ozone, and pollution, and Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB protection with Helioplex®, this face serum is a powerhouse to level up any skincare regimen.
  6. Opt for sensitive skincare. If your skin is feeling the effects of pollution, extreme temperatures or UV rays, be gentle with it. Stick with products made for sensitive skin that calm skin and help reduce the appearance of redness.

Go beyond SPF to protect your complexion — your skin will reward you by looking naturally radiant for years to come.

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Sun, Skin Science

I’m a freelance copywriter for beauty and wellness brands and creative entrepreneur with an expertise in green beauty.

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