Depending on where you live, you may have thought about the effects of pollution and smog on your skin. It definitely can’t be good, but how bad is it really? Well unfortunately, pollution can play a pretty big role in skin health – or the lack thereof. In reality, air pollution has long been a threat. But a lot of people, especially here in the US, don’t give it much thought, although it can cause a lot of the same problems that sun exposure does. Just as scientists learned about the effects of UV rays on skin, they’re learning the ways in which pollution can harm skin. Scary, right?
Air pollution is a mixture of substances such as gases and particles introduced into the atmosphere by us humans that have damaging effects on the environment and the life that thrives there. When you think about it, pollution is a worrisome reality, because it affects the air – which we breathe in order to live. Of course, along with the internal effects of pollution comes an exterior concern: the skin.
Studies have shown pollution (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs) to wreak havoc on skin, mostly in the form of premature aging. Many people who live in highly polluted areas such as big cities have less of the crucial antioxidant vitamin E due to PAHs’ ability to deplete it – and decreased vitamin E means decreased protection. Each time we expose ourselves to pollution, we risk a depletion of the nutrients skin needs.
So what do you do to save your skin from a threat that feels beyond your control? Here are some ideas: 1) Limit exposure. While not always possible, this IS the only way to guarantee your skin is safe against pollution. If you live in a heavily polluted region, covering up the way you do when limiting sun exposure can soften the blow. 2) Cleanse often. You don’t need to go crazy, but literally cleaning the pollution off of your skin is a way to keep remove and keep impurities (even if they are invisible) from penetrating it. If you’re one to skimp on the cleanse, it’s time to make this part of your basic skin care routine a habit. Gentle cleansers like SkinCeuticals Purifying Skin Cleanser which contains vitamins A and E can be used more often than those with harsh chemicals, and will counteract the air’s effects. Exfoliation is another important step because these toxins don’t just go away automatically – you need to scrub them off. 3.) Treat topically. Replenish vitamin E by regularly applying a facial cream to make up for lost antioxidants.
Taking steps (literally – ditch the car every now and then!) to reduce your carbon footprint is another important factor in protecting against air pollution. Choosing to recycle, limit the use of cars and make eco-friendly purchases are all ways to help the planet and ultimately your health. Pollution is likely always going to be a part of life, but the more we can minimize it, the better.
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