Updated: Sep 20, 2021
The Environment and Our Skin
Every single day, our skin is exposed to countless stressors - both visible and invisible. Whether it be air pollution, digital screens, or changing weather, these stressors can all link to premature aging or increased sensitivity. As our skin works extra hard to put up defense mechanisms to combat these environmental aggressors, our skin cells are focused into a state of oxidative stress. This state causes skin sensitivity, which can be the beginning of multiple challenges, including pigmentation, premature aging, or a dull complexion.
While it is impossible to shield the skin completely, understanding what the environment can do to the skin and how to combat the side effects is a step in the right direction. Polluted air generates free radicals on the skin, which are highly unstable molecules that react with other compounds. These free radicals are destructive to both the skin’s support barrier and structure.
In addition to pollution, particles such as dirt, dust, or certain gases can also impact our skin cells and lead to premature aging. Our skin is the first line of defense against these all external aggressors and while it does a fantastic job of blocking the majority of stressors, our pores are not completely impenetrable. Pollution can break down collagen and lipid - studies have shown that those who live in urban areas suffer from skin that is 10% older than those who live elsewhere. In addition to premature aging, pollution can also cause unwanted irritation, rashes or breakouts.
Since many of us are not ready to give up on city living and all that comes with it, it is important to understand how to assist your skin in fighting the stressors and to make it easier for your skin to resist the potential consequences.
What is Anti-Pollution Skincare?
Skincare can act as a weapon or tool in fighting environmental stressors. There are many types of ingredients that can help your skin proactively fight against the negative side-effects. Anti-pollution skincare, which has become a strong category within the industry, can be incorporated into every step of your routine.
Anti-pollution skincare, which are usually packed with antioxidants, can help protect the skin against environmental damage. Antioxidants, which are molecules that can neutralize free radicals, are a must in mitigating the effects of our skin’s exposure. Popular antioxidants that are found in anti-pollution skincare include Vitamin C, green tea, Vitamin E, niacinamide, ceramides, and more. These can easily be added to any routine through products such as primers, sunscreens, serums, masks, or cleansers. Many of your products may already include anti-pollution ingredients but it can never hurt to be purposeful in curating a routine that actively fights against environmental exposures.
While we focused a lot on the negative effects of pollution above, there is another threat that has increased over the last year. With many of us working from home, the time we spend in front of the screen has risen rapidly to over 50% of our day. Our phones, tablets, laptops, and TVs all emit blue light, a high-energy and short-wavelength light, which can lead to changes in our skin cells. These changes include cell damage, aging, swelling, or pigmentation. As many people spend more time in front of digital screens compared to exposure to the sun, our skin is in need of defense almost all day long.
A contributor to hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and skin laxity, the effects of blue light take longer to manifest but can be irreversible once they do. Too much exposure can mess up our skin’s regenerative cycle and increase the production of free radicals in the skin. Scars or pigmentation caused by acne can also be emphasized when the skin is left unprotected.
While many skincare brands have been releasing blue-light specific products, these are mainly just products that include a mix of antioxidants. As long as the products included in your routine include antioxidants, the skin will benefit.
Elevating Your Routine
At the end of the day, our skin is a part of our body that protects and shields us from the world around us. With the many changes to the environment and our daily exposures, we can actively assist our skin through an effective skincare routine. Whether it be increasing self-care during this stressful time in the world, or adding in more antioxidants to your routine, our skin will benefit by the added care and attention.
Remembering to select products that include antioxidants is the first step in developing a routine that not only looks out for your skin, but can also serve as an additional way to wind-down and prioritize healthy choices. With the added time we have at home and the stress that many of us may be experiencing, proactively creating a routine that benefits and protects can not only help us feel more relaxed but can also be a positive change in the right direction.