Is pollution damaging your skin?

Is pollution damaging your skin?

18 October 2023

We generally think of skin ageing as a genetic inevitability, but did you know that while your family tree partly accounts for your skin’s current state, 80% of the damage is the result of environmental pollution and aggressors?

The dangers of being exposed to pollution is obvious – difficulty breathing, headaches, stinging eyes and respiratory problems; but what could smog be doing to your skin? Turns out, a whole lot.

There’s no getting away from it, pollution may be imperceptible in the air, but studies are showing the effect it’s having on our skin is far from invisible.

According to Colette Haydon, skincare formulator and founder of Lixirskin, the culprits causing havoc on our complexions are cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, and heavy-metal emissions. Pollution generates free radicals on the surface of the skin which can lead to sensitivity. When the level of free radicals exceeds our skin’s defense mechanisms, the skin cells are placed in a state of oxidative stress which can lead to a whole host of issues – we’re talking premature ageing, clogged pores, acne, pigmentation, and a dull sallow complexion.

Fortunately there’s a lot we can do to protect our youthful, dewy glows besides becoming a real-life version of bubble-boy.  

We have a few tips from the experts on how to protect your skin from these bad boys:

  • Cleanse with kindness. Use a water-based, gentle cleanser that won’t damage the skin’s barrier by stripping away the natural protective lipid barrier of the skin. Be sure to cleanse twice a day to remove pollutants, dirt, dust, and impurities.
  • Exfoliate twice a week to remove dead skin cells and surface pollutants.
  • Up the ante on antioxidants. Topically, antioxidants protect the skin by reducing oxidative damage, which strengthens the skin’s barrier and prevents inflammation. Use skincare products that contain vitamin C and E to neutralize free radicals caused by pollution damage.
  • Use a barrier-enhancing moisturizer to reduce the penetration of pollutants.
  • Apply sunscreen, ALWAYS. Use a non-comedogenic sunblock with an SPF of at least 30 to protect your skin barrier. Apply a serum rich in vitamin C and E under your sunscreen to build your skin’s defense system.
  • Avoid touching your face to prevent transferring pollutants and bacteria.
  • Keep a facial mist handy and spray it frequently to keep skin fresh and hydrated.
  • Drink enough water to support your skin’s natural detoxification process.
  • Eat your greens. Load up on foods rich in antioxidants. Spinach, kale, blueberries, strawberries and pecans are among the delicious treats to have more of.
  • Use an air purifier with a humidifier at home to lessen the effects of pollution. 90% of our time is spent indoors so we need to pay attention to what’s happening at home or in the office.
  • Wear protective clothing. Use hats, sunglasses and scarves to protect your skin from pollutants.
  • If you’re smoking, it’s time to break the habit! Doctor’s orders.

As appealing as urban life can be, our skin needs special attention in the city. Happy skin, happy face, right?


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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