Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Sritama Dutta (Medical Science) on 08th Dec 2020

Pollution Taking A Toll On Your Skin? Combat The Impact of Pollution on Your Skin!

The Impact of Pollution on Your Skin

If today's world is concerned about something other than the pandemic and politics, it is pollution. With the exposure to suspended pollutants in the air and the various harmful gases that take a toll on our health, stepping out of our home has become challenging.

And one of the biggest concerns that comments our mind is how badly pollution can affect our skin! The pollutants in the air, water, & soil can damage our skin to a severe extent.

If you are one of us too concerned about pollution and its harmful effects on the skin but don't know what to do about it, you have come to the right place.

As you scroll down, you would unravel details about how pollution can affect our skin in our daily life. Also, we would discuss what we can do to protect our skin from the adversities of pollution. 

What is Pollution? 

Pollution is defined as the presence of or introduction of toxic or harmful substances in our environment. Factory and automobile exhausts, chemicals released from industries, waste material from refineries, and even the sewage from our households all play a part in contaminating our surroundings.

These toxic gases and liquid chemicals can cause serious harmful effects on the health of all living beings.  

How can Pollution Affect Your Skin?

The pollutants in the air, water, and around us can assault our skin daily and aggravate the generation of free radicals in the skin. Dermatologists say that these free radicals are a highly volatile molecule that reacts rapidly with other compounds. Such reactions can have destructive effects on our body tissues, and the skin is no different.

The increase in free radicals in the skin can impair the skin's natural barrier, wreck the skin's structure, and accelerate its aging process. Free radicals can even cause skin cancer. 

Let's see what impact does pollution has on your skin.   

1. Clog the enlarged pores and induce acne: 

Every other day we step out of our homes, we get exposed to various kinds of dirt and pollutants. These suspended particulate matters in the air make your skin feel dirty and penetrate the skin layer to cause more menace.

The pollutants can penetrate the superficial skin layers through the enlarged pores and congest them by accumulating within. This, in turn, blocks the pathway and causes deposition of sebum, which aggravates the skin and causes breakouts and acne. The dirt and debris collected in the skin also result in irritation and redness of the skin.  

2. Hampers the Integrity of the Natural Barrier of the Skin 

Our skin has a light shield that lies on the superficial layer and protects us from assault against various pollutants, microorganisms, and other toxic material. Daily encounters with pollutants can eventually deplete the skin barrier's strength and integrity, making our skin more susceptible to infections.

This results in the breakdown of the skin's ceramide or lipid layer that protects the inner dermal layers. Loss of collagen makes the skin look dull and lifeless. The skin barrier's loss of integrity also makes the skin prone to many skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.  

3. Increases the risk of Photodamage on the Skin 

An increase in pollution in our environment has resulted in the depletion of the ozone layer. This causes the harmful UV rays to reach us, which can have several dangerous consequences. Exposure of the skin to the harsh UV rays increases the risk of photodamage on the skin.

What else? Exposure to UV rays can even have carcinogenic effects on the skin and can cause skin cancer. Stepping out in the sun and exposing the skin to the unfiltered sun rays can cause your skin to develop an uneven skin tone.  

4. Causes Oxidative Stress and Untimely Aging of the Skin

One of the most significant effects of exposure of the skin to pollutants in Oxidative Stress. The skin gets provoked to generate free radicals that are dangerous for the heath of the skin cells. They can break down the skin's morphological and physiological structure.

Pollution-induced oxidative stress can also result in premature aging. When the dermis' integrity gets impaired, there is a loss of collagen and keratin in the skin, which results in the look/appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.  

5. Results in Loss of Moisture 

Exposure to pollution and the sun can also strip your skin of its natural moisture. This also plays an active role in the untimely aging of the skin. Loss of hydration leads to weakened cell structure, which gets more prone to be affected by toxins and chemicals.  

Ingredients to Look For To Include In Your Skincare Regime: 

We probably cannot ward off pollution in today's date, but something needs to be done to prevent its impact. Protecting your skin against the adversities of pollutants requires a little care. Apart from the regular cleansing of your skin with a mild cleanser, there are some ingredients that you can adopt in your skincare regime that will help you in reducing the impact of pollution on the skin.  

Bring in some antioxidants 

Antioxidants are your first and foremost answer when looking for the solution for protecting your skin from pollutants. Antioxidants help the skin to repair its damage. It helps in busting the free radicals in the skin, thus minimizing their harmful effects. Antioxidants also help in boosting collagen production and reverse the signs of premature aging.  

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant that will neutralize the free radicals and reduce photodamage on the skin. It is found in abundance in citrus fruits. Vitamin C will also help in lightening skin pigmentations and bring a glow to your skin. It also boosts collagen production, which makes the skin firmer and resilient. 

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Carotenoids:

Carotenoids are found in many fruits and vegetables. They are also potent antioxidants that help in reducing the effects of sun damage and pollution-induced oxidative stress.  

Vitamin E:

Vitamin E is an essential nutrient for your skin. It helps in boosting the immune system of the skin. Its antioxidant properties are effective in neutralizing free radicals. Vitamin E can also reduce the effects of toxins in your skin and help in reversing photodamage.  

Hydration is always a necessity 

Hyaluronic Acid 

Hyaluronic acid is a potent moisturizer that can help in restoring the lost hydration from the skin layers. It helps alleviate dry, flaky skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Hyaluronic acid can also boost the healing of damaged skin.

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Plant Butters and Essential oil 

Plant butters are rich sources of natural fatty acids that are highly nutritious for your skin. They help in nourishing and revitalizing the skin cells. You can bring some shea butter or cocoa butter to replenish the lost moisture in the dermal layers.

Essential oils can also help relieve the effects of pollution on the skin. Jojoba oil, eucalyptus oil, wintergreen oil, lemon oil, tea tree oil, and various options you can choose from according to your needs. While some help relieves skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis, some fats are beneficial for acne-prone skin and skin rashes.  

Activated charcoal to the rescue 

Another crucial ingredient that is effective in relieving the impact of pollution from your skin is activated charcoal. Charcoal masks have shot to popularity recently. When applied to the skin, activated charcoal can draw out microbes, toxins, and other impurities and trapped dirt from the skin. It can also help in improving acne and skin irritation.  

A little acid can do you good too 

1. Glycolic Acid 

Glycolic acid is a potent exfoliator. It breaks the desmosomal links and sloughs off the outer, dead, dried up skin, and promotes newer cell growth. It will help you to peel off the pollution-affected skin cells and give you smoother and even-toned skin.  

2. Salicylic Acid 

Salicylic acid is an AHA or Alpha Hydroxy Acids. It will also help you shed the dead skin cells and reduce inflammation signs like redness and burning sensation. Salicylic acid dissolves the outer layer of skin and helps unclog congested pores by removing the accumulated sebum, cellular debris, and trapped impurities and microbes. 

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3. Ferulic Acid 

Ferulic acid is an antioxidant too. It boosts the action of other antioxidants, which in turn helps in repairing any skin damage. Ferulic acid can also reduce the effects of oxidative stress on the skin and strengthen its integrity. It acts as an anti-aging ingredient and reduces fine lines and wrinkles.  

Niacinamide: A One-in-All Solution 

Niacinamide is a must-have in your skincare regime. It has multiple benefits for the skin. It boosts collagen synthesis, which firms the skin. It reverses the aging process and is also suitable for relieving photodamages. Niacinamide can also act as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Niacinamide is also a potent antimicrobial agent. It can help you reduce the proliferation of bacteria that might get trapped in the enlarged pores of your skin. Niacinamide can also have a mild moisturizing effect on the skin.  

Get Some Kaolin Clay

Nature can surprise you with its incredible components. Kaolin clay is one such ingredient that has a potent detoxifying agent. Masking the skin with pure kaolin clay can cleanse your skin off excess oil, trapped dirt and impurities, and toxins. It helps unclog the congested pores by drawing out the cellular debris and accumulated sebum, thus reducing acne and breakouts.  

Aloe Vera: Can it be of help? 

Aloe vera is a magic potion when it comes to skincare. It is highly rich in antioxidants, enzymes, vitamin A and C. Not only can aloe vera have a beneficial effect on sun-damaged skin, but it can also help in relieving skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.

Aloe vera also has an anti-inflammatory effect on your skin. It can help in treating inflammatory acne. Aloe vera can also have a moisturizing effect on the skin.  

You cannot miss out on SPF 

SPF is one of the essential ingredients that you cannot compromise on when it comes to your skin's health. Exposing the skin to UV rays can never be right. Thus, layering your skin with ample amounts of broad-spectrum SPF lotion is very important. It will protect your skin from photodamage and also minimize the risk of potential UV-rays induced skin cancer.  

The Bottom Line: 

Combating the effects of harsh pollution on your skin is not relatively difficult. Just the right lifestyle and diligently chosen skincare ingredients can do wonders to your skin's health. We genuinely hope this article will help you select the best products for your skin.