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How to Protect Your Skin From Pollution: A Complete Guide ----- Back

10.07.20 - How To, Knowledge

How to Protect Your Skin From Pollution: A Complete Guide

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Words by Antoinette Barnardo

Every day, your skin is exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution — whether that's smog, dust, UV rays, or free radicals. The effects of pollution on your complexion can range from dryness and redness to significant signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.

In this article, we'll explain how to protect your skin from pollution by cultivating a proper skincare routine and adopting some best practices to your overall lifestyle.

What Is Pollution?

Pollution is the umbrella term for environmental exposure to:

  • Air pollution, like heavy metal particles and dust.
  • Ultraviolet rays, such as radiation from the sun and indoor lighting.
  • Extreme changes in weather temperature.

You're exposed to pollution whether you're outside or indoors. Pollution can damage your skin either by direct contact or through systemic circulation once you inhale it. Common outdoor pollutants include:

  • Particulate matter, which is a mixture of droplets and small particles like pollen
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are the result of automobile exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke
  • Solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR)

Meanwhile, the following are the typical pollutants found inside your home:

  • Dust mites
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which come from select household cleaners, paint, and varnish
  • Cigarette smoke

What About Free Radicals?

Free radicals are a byproduct of air pollution. They create oxidative stress that damages skin cells, leading to a number of problems including premature aging, dullness, and uneven texture

How Air Pollution Affects Your Skin

The air quality of your environment can have a number of negative effects on your complexion. Below are just some of the ways pollution particles can wreak havoc on your skin.

1. Fine Lines, Wrinkles, and Sagging

Ultraviolet rays, or UV, can create irreversible skin damage. It triggers a condition known as solar elastosis, which is the accumulation of abnormal elastic material in the dermis. This breaks down your skin's elasticity, which then causes sagging. UV rays also stimulate elastase activity, which accelerates the degradation of elastin and leads to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

Ozone also plays a role in premature aging. It depletes essential antioxidants in the skin, such as vitamin C and vitamin E. The reduced antioxidant content leads to the presence of more free radicals, which leaves your skin dimpled.

2. Inflammation

A number of studies have attempted to uncover the link between pollution and the inflammatory skin disease atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema. A 2015 study out of South Korea noticed an increase in the prevalence of atopic dermatitis over the last 30 years in urban and industrialised areas, which typically have poor air quality. 

This 2020 article from the European Respiratory Journal, meanwhile, indicates that children who are exposed to air pollution develop a number of lifelong health problems, including eczema. 

3. Hyperpigmentation

Particulate matter and other pollutants can enter the skin and create dark spots called melasma. In addition to that, UV rays can permanently damage skin cells, leading to permanent skin damage in the form of pigmentation. Contrary to popular belief, a suntan is as detrimental to your skin as sunburn since both contribute to DNA damage.

4. Acne

Pollution can cause acne. According to a study published in the January 2018 edition of Cosmetics, particulate matter can settle in the pores, creating blemishes. On top of that, pollutants can accelerate sebum production to compensate for a loss of moisture, which can lead to further breakouts. 

5. Dry Skin

Excessive sun exposure can result in dryness. Too much sun can make your skin flaky and even itchy. That's because sunlight can deplete your skin of its natural oils. Meanwhile, particulate matter such as smog can also strip your skin of essential moisture.

Cultivating an Anti-Pollution Skincare Routine

For city dwellers, especially, one of the best defences against pollution is a collection of well-formulated skincare products that will protect your complexion. An effective anti-pollution skincare regimen should include the following items:

1. Cleanser

Besides makeup and sunscreen, you need to thoroughly wash away the pollutants you come into contact with every day. The YORA Clarify Face Cleanser contains glycolic and salicylic acids to gently exfoliate your skin while removing dirt, oil, and other impurities. 

2. Face Mask

Recalibrate your complexion at least once a week with a deep pore-cleansing mask. YORA's Clarify Face Mask is specially formulated for pollution protection. It's made with activated charcoal, Australian white kaolin clay, bamboo beads, and salicylic acid for a smooth, fresh feeling. 

3. Serum

For more concentrated care, incorporate a serum into your routine. In this case, look for a serum that will provide a barrier to environmental triggers, such as YORA's Defence Serum with FILMEXEL® and EPIDERMIST. Meanwhile, a brightening serum with vitamin C will not only invigorate dull skin and fade dark spots, but it will also boost your skin with free radical-fighting antioxidants.

4. Exfoliant

Unclog pores and slough away dead skin by exfoliating at least once a week. The YORA Revitalise Face Polish is a hybrid physical-chemical exfoliant that's formulated with AHA and particles to leave your skin vibrant.  

5. Moisturizer

A hydrating moisturiser will prevent your skin from becoming crepey and cracked due to poor air quality. The YORA Revitalise Face Moisturizer is a lightweight gel that contains red snow algae, which fends off cell-damaging free radicals and hydrates your skin. 

6. Eye Cream

Your first signs of aging are typically found around your eyes. Regular squinting, whether it's because of bright sunlight or heavy pollution, will gradually create creases in your skin. Using a nightly eye cream fortified with hyaluronic acid, like YORA's Dynamic Eye Concentrate, will aid in limiting the signs of aging by keeping the skin around your eyes plump. 

7. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is your best defense against UV rays. Look for a broad-spectrum formula of at least SPF 50 to sufficiently protect you from aging (UVA) and burning (UVB). Not to mention, regular sunscreen use will reduce your chances of developing skin cancer. Note that skincare and beauty products that contain SPF can supplement sunscreen, but should never replace it as your primary form of sun protection.

Other Ways to Protect Your Skin From the Effects of Pollution

In addition to an effective skincare routine, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to limit your exposure to common pollutants inside and outside of your home.

1. Avoid Smoking

Smoking cigarettes can prematurely age your skin. Not only can you develop "smoker's lips" — fine lines around your mouth that develop from constant pursing — but nicotine in cigarette smoke can obstruct blood flow to your skin. Needless to say, even exposure to secondhand smoke can be detrimental to your skin. 

2. Ventilate Your Home

If you smoke cigarettes indoors, light candles occasionally, or cook in your kitchen often, you're creating a number of external pollutants that can damage your skin (or worse, pose a serious risk to your health). Make sure your home is properly ventilated, whether that means installing a system or opening your windows regularly to allow for fresh air to enter.

3. Eat an Antioxidant-Rich Diet

Antioxidants are highly effective at fighting free radicals, keeping your body healthy inside and out. Many of your favourite foods are loaded with antioxidants, which include:

  • Vitamin C (oranges, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes)
  • Vitamin E (avocado, papaya, sunflower seeds)
  • Beta-carotene (carrots, asparagus, watermelon)
  • Zinc (oysters, red meat, fortified cereal)
  • Selenium (Brazil nuts, tuna, poultry)

You may also consider taking a multivitamin, but this is generally not recommended unless your body has a natural deficiency. Consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before starting a supplement.

Taking the Right Steps to Protect Your Skin From Pollution

If you live in a densely populated area, it's difficult to actively avoid environmental stressors. Fortunately, a solid anti-pollution skincare routine will strengthen your skin barrier against nanoparticles that can clog your pores and prematurely age your skin. The right combination of anti-pollution products will allow you to maintain a smooth, hydrated, and radiant complexion no matter where you are.

Of course, the things you do at home can also contribute to air pollution. Fortunately, that's something you have more control over. Incorporating mindful habits will help you cut back on your exposure to indoor pollutants, which will result in better health for your skin and overall well-being.

Words by Antoinette Barnardo

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