When we get common skin ailments like acne, premature aging, and dryness, we tend to blame a number of factors such as our diet, our skincare regimen (or lack thereof), and our hormones, to name a few. While our hormones may not be so easy to control, our diet and our skincare are both tangible things that we can amend and tailor to our needs. But what about the skin aggressors that aren't so obviously apparent—like the air? With smoggy city air and constant ozone wear and tear, our skin takes an extreme beating. So while the sun beats down more rapidly on the skin through a depleted ozone causing a slew of sun-related skin issues, the teeny tiny pollutants in the atmosphere are also wreaking havoc on our complexions.
Here's the thing: Pollutants rob skin cells of oxygen, which in turn depletes them and causes premature aging. Free radicals in the air also cause a decrease in collagen, so your skin looses plumpness and elasticity. According to Tata Harper, founder of Tata Harper Skincare, air pollution can age you as much as UV rays—yikes! Also, in a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers found that air pollutants like those from factories, power plants, automobiles, construction activities, etc. caused pigment spots and wrinkles. Scary, right? To get a feel for how polluted the air is in your city. check out the map below and use the zoom feature to take a closer look at your area.
The red dots represent the most polluted U.S. cities while the blue represents the cleanest. (For a more comprehensive look at your individual city, you can head on over to this real-time air quality index). So, what can be done about polluted atmospheres? While single-handedly reversing air pollution may not be feasible, you can take some steps to re-boot your skin and reverse the damage that air pollution has caused.
Says Harper, one of the most damaging air pollutant particles is so impossibly small yet incredibly dangerous: "One of the six particles the Clean Air Act identifies as common air pollutants across the country is particle PM2.5, which can be made up of exhaust from cars and factories, soil or dust particles, allergens like pollen or mold spores, and even acids like nitrates and sulfates. It’s 2.5 microns in diameter—to give some perspective, the average hair follicle is about 50–100 microns in diameter. This particle is one of the most damaging because it’s so small that it can really penetrate your skin." To rid your skin of this particle and other pollutants, she suggests thoroughly cleansing your skin each day. Her Purifying Cleanser ($62) is great for ridding the skin of impurities and for counteracting visible aging effects of pollution and environmental factors.
Additionally, to rid your skin of free radicals, you'll want to choose skincare products with antioxidants and ingredients like vitamin D, vitamin C, and green tea. And, most important, don't forget to use SPF every single day. For our favorite pollutant-reversing products, keep scrolling!
Are you taking steps in your skincare to fend off pollution? Share with us below!