Do you live in an urban environment? City life has its perks but one downside can be the effects of pollution on your skin. Here are seven tips to deal with what I call ‘skin pollution.’
I grew up in a small town in upstate New York, which most people would consider the ‘country.’ When it came to my skin, pollution wasn’t something I had to be very concerned with. There was minor traffic, an occasional pile of burning leaves in the fall and there was always an abundance of fresh, clean air. Once I left the country, I saw just how different environmental factors are in other parts of the world, especially in urban cities.
I’ve traveled to some wonderful cities around the world to areas where pollution is a huge problem. It’s astounding what you can find on a white washcloth after walking through a busy city at the end of the day. Trust me, it’s not a pretty sight. The effects of air pollution are many and can include skin feeling, irritation and even premature aging, to name a few. Pollution can also zap your skin of its healthy glow and leave it looking dull in appearance.
This got me thinking: Should we take extra steps to care for skin if we’re exposed to high pollution areas? Let’s take a good look at pollution, understand how it affects our skin and learn what we can do to counter those effects.
Pollution comes in different forms. There’s visible pollution that you can literally wipe off of your skin and see on your washcloth. And there’s pollution that comes in gas form, such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur, carbon monoxide and so on, which aren’t so visible. Bottom line, all forms of pollution can collect on your skin and create an unhealthy barrier.
So, what does pollution actually do to your skin? Pollution can be responsible for skin dryness, dullness, clogged pores, some allergic reactions, skin irritations, inflammation and my least favorite—premature aging. And the worst part is, this is the short list. Pollutants can really affect our face, neck and hands, as these are the areas that are most exposed on a regular basis. Also, pollution can make skin extra sensitive. When that happens, it becomes much more susceptible to certain skin irritations.
We can break drown pollution simply into two categories: indoor and outdoor pollution. A few examples of the indoor type include:
• Secondhand smoke
• Dust mites
• Carbon monoxide
• Soot from wood stoves and fireplaces
• Air fresheners
• Pet Dander
• Chemical sprays, including hair sprays, furniture polish, glass cleaners, perfumes
Indoor pollutants can cause dry skin and irritation. So, what can you do? The first thing is to improve the overall air quality by allowing fresh air into your home as often as possible. Open windows or doors on both sides of your home to create a real cross breeze. By constantly freshening the air, you can help dilute the levels of pollutants, which can be of great benefit to your skin. Of course, if you live in an area that’s heavily polluted outdoors, try to keep the air in your home as clean as possible. Commit to freshening up your home on a regular basis to get rid of things like pet dander and dust.
Some examples of outdoor pollutants include:
• Dirt, Dust and Debris
• Vehicle exhaust
• Carbon Monoxide from fires and fuel combustion
• Nitrous Oxides
• Toxic metals, such as mercury and lead
And the list goes on and on…
Outdoor pollutants are detrimental because they increase the number of free radicals in our environment—which, studies have shown are damaging to the skin. Free radicals can damage cells over time by encouraging oxidation.
Is there anything we can do minimize the effects of pollution on our skin? Absolutely. Here are a few quick tips to help counter pollution’s negative affects on the skin.
Your first step is to remove pollutants and dirt from your skin through proper cleansing. For those living in high-pollution areas, you may want to do a ‘double cleanse.’ Choose a cleanser for your skin type that has no added sulfates.
Give your skin a thorough cleansing, specifically to remove the surface residue such as your makeup, dirt, excess oils and any chemicals you may have come into contact with. Once you’ve done that, it’s a good idea to give it another quick cleansing. This way, you can be sure that you removed all the surface impurities and have thoroughly cleaned your skin. If your pores are clogged, you may experience a few breakouts. That’s a good indication that you need to cleanse your skin a bit better.
Believe it or not, there are visible signs that you aren’t cleansing your skin properly. If your skin feels uneven, it may be an indication that there is something lodged in there. This is most common on your cheeks, chin and nose area. Trust me, it’s not attractive. The good news is that just a bit of extra cleansing on a daily basis may help.
Exfoliating your skin on a regular basis can help guard against pollution’s negative affects from building up, giving it that dull, drab appearance. A good scrubbing helps to deep clean your pores and remove the dirt, oil and debris.
Antioxidants help to fend off free radical damage and can support healthy-looking skin when taken internally. You can do this in the form of a healthy diet. Antioxidants to benefit the upper layers of the skin are also available in skin care products. Look for cleansers, moisturizers, and serums that contain antioxidant vitamins C and E. They can help to counteract the pollution we encounter from urban environments.
Moisturizers will provide your skin with antioxidant support and help hydrate your skin. Most importantly, a moisturizer will help to create a barrier between your skin and pollutants.
For the sake of your skin, it’s always best to avoid being in pollution-heavy areas during rush hour. The more automobiles on the road, the more pollution you’ll be exposed to. It’s as easy as that.
There is never a reason not to wear sunscreen when going outside. I’m sure you knew that. As a friendly reminder, it’s imperative to always protect your skin from the damaging UV rays.
Water is good for your body and great for your skin. By drinking more water, you can help keep your skin hydrated. You should also load up on fresh fruits with a high water content. Look for antioxidant enriched citrus fruits, watermelon and apples for a delicious, hydrating snack.
It’s almost impossible to avoid pollution. By following these simple tips, hopefully you can reduce some of the damage that it can cause to your skin.
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