This Is What the Different Forms of Pollution Do to Your Skin
Most of us can tell just by looking outside that our planet has a major pollution problem. This environmental crisis impacts over 100 million people, the World Health Organization tells us, affecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the bodies we live in (skin very much included).
Bottom line: We should all be doing our part to tackle pollution and create a safer, healthier environment now and for generations to come. And since pollutants are easily absorbed into our pores, it has a direct impact on the way our skin looks and feels, too. While there are several forms of pollution, the air, light, and water varieties have the most significant impact on the skin. Read on for ways you can defend against each—and reduce your contribution to pollution overall.
Air PollutionEven if you can’t always see it, pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and cigarette smoke infiltrate our air and have an impact on our lungs, immune system, and more. In fact, the EPA tells us that in some parts of the U.S. “pollution has reduced the distance and clarity of what we see by 70 percent”.
The effect of air pollution can be significant when it comes to the health of our skin, NYC board-certified dermatologist Elyse M. Love MD, tells us. “Air pollution plays a part in acne, skin pigmentation, and skin aging. Air pollution also interferes with the skin's barrier function, making the skin more prone to rashes such as eczema”.
What to Do:
For the Earth:
Conserve gas by walking, riding your bike, or using public transportation and other forms of carpool when you can. Opt for environmentally safe paint and cleaning products and limit gas usage in your home.
For Your Skin:
“Much of the damage done by air pollution is through oxidative stress and the development of free radicals in the skin”, says Love. “Adding antioxidant-rich products into the skincare routine can help reduce these effects”. Her recommendations include vitamin C, which is found in our On the Rise Firming Serum and comes with its own anti-aging benefits.
Light PollutionBesides the fact that light pollution—the excess use of artificial light, such as those from buildings and billboards—disables us from enjoying a starry sky at night, it also disrupts the planet’s (including the animals and plants that live on it) routines, particularly our circadian rhythms.
While the research is still fairly limited, there is evidence that the blue light emitted from our phones, tablets, and computers may lead to skin damage, particularly premature aging and hyperpigmentation. On top of that, light exposure certainly messes with our sleep—as most of us know from staying up way too late swiping and scrolling (guilty!)—and we all know by now that a good night’s sleep is the secret ingredient to having good skin.
What to Do:
- For the Earth: Watch your electricity usage. Turn off lights when you aren’t using them and consider replacing your bulbs with energy-efficient ones.
- For Your Skin: Set your body up for sleep success by powering down your electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime and wearing SPF that blocks against blue light damage daily—like our Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen does.
Water PollutionWhile water is an everyday essential we rely on to live (and staying hydrated touts its own skincare benefits), contamination threatens the quality of our water supply which can have major consequences on our health, not to mention our skin’s. Pesticides, heavy metals, oil spills, plastic waste, and more flow into our water sources and contaminate the supply. Plus, there’s the fact that the ocean absorbs our carbon emissions.
Water obviously plays a vital role in our skincare routines, as we use it to cleanse our face and body from dirt, bacteria, and oil. But water that is polluted clogs pores, dries out skin, and weakens the skin’s barrier.
What to Do:
- For the Earth: Be mindful of what you discard in your sink and toilet—avoid pouring oils and cleaning products down the drain. Never litter and recycle what you can.
For Your Skin: Apart from washing your face in Evian—which, for the record, we do NOT recommend—or installing a water filter on your bathroom sink and shower (the chlorine used to treat tap water is known to dry out skin), there’s one very simple way to remove the harmful remnants of tap water: Toner. Toners recalibrate the skin after cleansing and remove hard water residue. (We love All-in-One Cleansing Milk.)