Recent studies suggest that 8 in 10 people living in urban areas are exposed daily to highly polluted air. To those of us who reside in a city, it’s not news to you: this pollution can put a lot of stress on our bodies. But what can you do about it?
First, the facts: Pollution is a leading cause of damage to our skin, second only to the harmful effects of the sun. It can cause a broad range of problems. Smoke, car exhaust, industrial emissions and heavy metals in the air attack the skin’s barrier and create a wide variety of skin conditions. It can feel like a chemical junkyard out there. By clogging pores, causing inflammation and allergic reactions, and increasing sebum production, air pollutants can cause dryness, dullness, acne, and irritation.
Pollution also enhances the number of free radicals in the air, which damages skin cells and collagen fibers, leading to loss of elasticity in the skin. It can also cause premature aging by increasing the prevalence of fine lines and wrinkles, making us look tired beyond our years. “No thanks” to aging that way.
But don’t despair! There are ways to counteract the harmful effects of city pollutants and preserve your health and beauty – without packing up and moving to the countryside.
If you live in an area with a high level of air pollution, regular and thorough cleansing is vital for removing pollutants from the surface of the skin. Cleansing lifts the complexion, reduces dullness, and helps to prevent damage to the cells. The cleaning process can contribute to purifying the skin and clearing the pores, promoting a clear and even skin tone and leave you fresh-faced and glowing.
Air pollution loves to hit you from all angles. It sensitizes the skin, causes irritation and increases the incidence of rashes, redness, and acne. Therefore, it is best to choose a cleansing balm made with naturally-derived ingredients. Such balms are far gentler on the skin than their chemical equivalent, and thus less likely to exacerbate the problems. Nature-based cleansers have a dual benefit: not only cleansing and replenishing the skin, but also working to soothe and heal.
“Air pollution loves to hit you from all angles.”
By removing the layer of harmful particles that build up on the skin throughout the day, you can lift and rejuvenate the complexion to leave you clear-skinned and glowing.
Moisturize and Hydrate
Skin needs a break from the persistent drought. Air pollution can severely dry out the skin and make it look dull and rough. It also causes soreness and itchiness. Investing in a good moisturizer can help to restore hydration to the skin, naturally strengthening its natural barriers and contribute to healing small lesions caused by the flaky skin. This gives your complexion a much-needed boost and enhances your natural beauty while helping to protect the skin from further damage. You’ll be radiant once again.
And don’t skip out on the lip balm to keep your lips from getting chapped.
Protect Your Hair
Pollution likes to leave its mark everywhere. It can have a detrimental effect on your hair and can leave it looking lifeless, limp, and dull. Fortunately, it’s easy to restore luster and shine with simple maintenance. If you live in an area with a lot of pollution, it’s imperative to wash your hair thoroughly and regularly to remove those harmful particles from your locks.
Pay extra attention to your scalp, where grime can build up and irritate the skin, leading to ever-dreaded dandruff. It’s best to use a gentle shampoo for this, as regular washing carries a risk of stripping away the hair’s protective natural oils.
One excellent way to gently clean the hair is a homemade hair mask, which you can make using all natural ingredients for an effective treatment that’s kind to your hair and skin.
Get Plenty of Antioxidants
Free radicals sound innocent enough, but they are perhaps the most damaging aspect of air pollution. These are known to cause damage to cells and are a leading cause of premature aging. By attacking and breaking down collagen fibers, free radicals can reduce firmness and elasticity, causing the skin to become droopy and allowing fine lines and wrinkles to set in.
Fortunately, it is possible to counteract this effect with the use of antioxidants, which inhibit the activity of free radicals and can help to protect you from their damaging effects.
One way to do this is by using skin care products containing ingredients with a high antioxidant concentration. Products that incorporate honey into their recipes — like this one — have naturally elevated levels of antioxidants and can go a long way towards protecting your complexion from the harmful aging effects of air pollution.
Protect your skin from the inside out by adjusting your diet. Opting for food rich in certain vitamins and minerals can confer powerful antioxidant properties that protect your skin and guard against premature aging.
Choose foods such as citrus, berries, almonds, seeds, avocado, fish, eggs, broccoli, and leafy greens to get the best results and to help prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. And it’s not just food that can help – sip on green tea and coffee to up your antioxidant intake throughout the day.
What would we name as the final layer of fighting the effects of pollution? Sunscreen. Of course, pollution damages not only the skin, but also the environment, and contributes to the erosion of the ozone layer. It allows more of the sun’s harmful UV rays to slip through, meaning you’re getting way more sun exposure than you may be aware of. We all know how damaging UV rays can be for the skin, causing irritation in the form of sunburn and accelerating the aging process, resulting in the early development of wrinkles.
Sun exposure can also promote the production of melanin, which can cause hyperpigmentation and lead to dark spots and freckles.
To keep your skin tone even and your complexion youthful, it is best to apply a high factor sunscreen (SPF30 or above) every morning before you leave the house, particularly if you are fair skinned and therefore more susceptible to sun damage. Many moisturizers and foundations contain SPF, so look for these when shopping for cosmetics.
Fight those demons in the air with everything you’ve got. Pollution may be a growing problem in today’s world, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it affect your appearance, or let it age you before your time. Careful skin care and preventative measures can help to protect your skin from the harmful effects of airborne pollutants so you can continue to enjoy city life without any detriment to your complexion.
Author’s Bio: Stacey Gavin is a member of Farmacy, a manufacturer of natural and locally-sourced skin care products in New York, NY. She can be reached via email as GavinS (at) farmacybeauty.com or through Farmacy’s website.