In clean green New Zealand, pollution isn’t exactly a big concern for us. However, according to the World Health Organisation in 2012, approximately 7 million people died as a result of air pollution exposure which makes an eighth of the world’s total deaths. In fact, air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.
We asked Emma Hobson, Education Manager of the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica about the effects of pollution on our body and our largest living organ, the skin. She informs that pollution is categorised into 4 different departments: indoor air pollution (IAP), ambient pollution from outdoor environments, particulate matter (PM) and gases.
As the world changes, we must adapt to survive. Despite how “clean” we may think this country is, in reality, we are exposed to over 6 million chemicals in our atmosphere everyday with 2,800 of them having allergenic or contact sensitising properties. Exhaust fumes, industrial smoke, tobacco, air conditioning and ground level ozone are some examples that cause a tremendous amount of oxidative stress on our precious bodies. Nitrogen oxides from road traffic, industrial heating units and volatile organic compounds from hydrocarbons in waste combined with sunlight forms a toxic ozone. Hobson says that studies have proven 2 hours of exposure to this toxic ozone reduces our Vitamin E content in the skin by 25%.
While we have been thoroughly educated to apply UV sunscreen to help protect us from sun-induced ageing, this doesn’t block atmospheric stressors penetrating our skin as this affects us around the clock.
Hobson refers to a research study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology to show the direct correlation between airborne particle exposure and extrinsic skin ageing. Fine airborne particles from soot/exhaust fumes becomes lodged within the skin’s deeper structure that in turn generates free radicals to break down the skin’s natural lipid barrier. This increases trans-epidermal water loss which triggers inflammation and results in sensitised skin.
The Effects of Pollution Damage:
- Premature skin ageing
- Increase of age spots
- Dullness and dehydration
- Rough, uneven skin texture
- Skin congestion leading to breakouts
- Breakdown of the skin’s lipid bilayer (one of the main defence mechanisms of the skin)
- Accelerated skin ageing through the loss of elasticity and the breakdown of collagen creating fine lines and wrinkles
- Increased pigmentation by 20%
- Increased skin sensitivity
- Increased inflammation leading to ‘Inflammaging’
The first step in addressing the effects of pollution damage is to cleanse properly. Use a powerful oil-based cleanser like the Dermalogica Precleanse Balm to remove surface pollutants and follow with a prescribed cleanser. My personal favourite is the AHA-inclusive Daily Superfoliant which ensures a deep cleanse and leaves your skin feeling super soft.
As you may have noticed, an array of anti-pollution products has appeared on the shelves following its heavy demand. Further down the line with more awareness and education, we’re hoping a pollution-conscience skincare regime will withhold equal importance to that of UV protection.