The Invisible Enemy of Beauty

The topic of polluted air and its devastating effects on our health and appearance are now being frequently raised in various publications. If in the last 20-30 years it was believed that the main external factors that cause premature skin aging are ultraviolet rays, now, though, a growing body of scientific research finds more serious and ruthless enemy. It’s polluted air, the very air we breathe.

Bad ecology and skin barrier function

It is known that the main air pollutants that affect the skin are solar ultraviolet radiation, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and cigarette smoke. The actions of various air pollutants may be amplified in the presence of other air pollutants and with the interaction of ultraviolet radiation. As a result of such reactions, the major active components of the pro-oxidant smog occur, which in turn forms oxidative stress.

Depending on the nature of these pollutants and the integrity of the skin, the modes of the penetration of pollutants differ. But in the end, invariably there is a violation of the skin barrier function, which provokes various skin pathologies (inflammation, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, cancer).

Nitrogen dioxide – the cause of wrinkles and pigmentation


The study, which was published last year in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, was the first to link poor ecology and appearance-related changes. Before that, it was known about the connection of exhaust fumes (nitrogen dioxide in particular) and respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, and even lung cancer. Now it was also associated with negative effects on human skin. Within five years, more than 800 women in Germany, aged 67 to 80, and 743 women in China, aged 28 to 70, were monitored. It was found that the effect of nitrogen dioxide on the skin is an essential cause of skin pigmentation and wrinkles.

These symptoms were recorded among women living in urban areas, where concentrations of particulate soot and car exhausts in the air are relatively high.

Scientists believe that the problems of poor ecology exist not only in overpopulated countries such as China or India. This also applies to Paris or London, or to any other city with more than 1 million inhabitants. Europe is densely populated, and harmful particles are easily carried by the wind, so it’s really difficult to hide from this problem.

Picture: Unsplash/Krys Amon

How is the air quality in your city? There are plenty of air quality monitoring websites to choose from (e.g. Also you can buy a device that allows you to monitor air quality in different parts of your house, as well as outdoors, and alert you to take action when necessary.

Effects on the skin

If we talk about the connection of bad ecology and your appearance, now such studies are at the earliest stage. However, scientists believe that the causes for concern are the most serious, as signs of premature environmental aging are observed even in middle-aged people. Many pollutants have a microscopic size and are able to penetrate the skin, causing a variety of effects, including changes at the cellular level and DNA damage.

Scientists at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology noted several mechanisms of the effect of man-made air pollution on your skin health:

  • generation of free radical;
  • induction of inflammatory cascade and subsequent impairment of skin barrier;
  • activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor;
  • alterations to skin microflora.

Toxic particles of photochemical smog are capable of causing inflammation in a variety of ways. For example, through the stimulation of melanocytes, which begin to produce too much pigment, resulting in the appearance of freckles and pigment spots. Other pathways ignite messengers that make blood vessels grow, that’s what results in increased redness and potentially rosacea. If the inflammatory process becomes chronic, it damages the collagen, as a result, the skin becomes less elastic and less flexible, which causes fine lines and wrinkles to form. By the way, excessively oily skin can also be associated with poor ecology: the skin perceives toxins in the air as irritants and produces more sebum to protect itself against them.

Where to run, where to hide?

The question is rather rhetorical, hardly anyone has the desire and the opportunity to change the place of residence because of the risk of age spots formation. But it is obvious that the problem of bad ecology goes far beyond just physical appearance. As air pollution has devastating effects on our environment, it is not surprising that it has negative effects on our health and skin.

Speaking about the skin, the most important thing in protection is the preserving and maintaining its barrier functions. To protect yourself from the harmful effects of air pollution, it is essential to keep your skin healthy and make cleaning your face as much a part of morning and evening routines as brushing your teeth.

One of the preventive ways to combat the harmful effects of air pollution is to use on daily basis products with ingredients that have proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, restorative and protective properties.

And never is it superfluous to stress the importance of the cleansing your skin correctly. To do it right, catch Tyra Banks tutorial video below



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