Air pollution can lead to wrinkles. Here’s how to protect your skin in three steps

·2 min read

Air pollution is a growing concern, with more than 137 million Americans living in areas with poor air quality that does not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards, according to a recent report published by the American Lung Association.

While we have long known that exposure to environmental stressors can have many unwanted effects on skin health, we tend to focus our efforts on UV protection and may underestimate the importance of also protecting the skin from air pollution.

See what the latest research shows about how we can best protect our skin from the damaging effects of pollution, in three important steps.

How does air pollution affect your skin?

We know that repeated exposure to air pollution over time can lead to signs of accelerated skin aging like fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots, though the exact mechanisms that cause these unwanted effects are still largely unknown. However, researchers believe that pollution negatively affects the skin primarily through the creation of free radicals and the activation of inflammatory response pathways.

How to protect your skin from pollution’s effects

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take each day to reduce and remediate your skin’s exposure to air pollution.

In a recent review published in Dermatologic Therapy, researchers highlight these three steps in your skincare regimen that are crucial in protecting against damage from pollution:

  1. Cleanse. Consistently cleansing your skin, especially in the evening before bed, will help to “reduce the particle load” that has built up on your skin over the course of the day, thus reducing their damaging effects.

  2. Apply a barrier repair moisturizer. In terms of skin protection against pollution, using a barrier repair moisturizer serves two purposes: 1) to create a physical shield between your skin and environmental pollution, and 2) to help your skin to renew its natural barrier function to better protect your skin from external irritants like pollution and to also seal in moisture. Look for a barrier repair cream that displays the Maltese cross pattern under a microscope. (Google “Maltese cross moisturizer” to learn more)

  3. Use antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients. As noted above, free radical production and inflammation are two of the main ways in which air pollution damages your skin. Thus, adding topical antioxidants like vitamin C and anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide to your regimen can help reverse and prevent cellular damage caused by pollution.

Bottom line

While UV protection is imperative to skin health, many of us often overlook the damaging effects that everyday pollution can have on our skin. Consider adding antioxidants, anti-inflammatory ingredients, and a barrier repair moisturizer to your skincare routine to help reduce skin damage from pollution, especially if you live in the city.

Dr. Leslie Baumann
Dr. Leslie Baumann

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