How Pollution Is Damaging Your Skin (and the Plant That Can Help Save It)

BY Stacey L. Macchia · April 18, 2016

According to NASA, 80% of the world breathes polluted air—an alarming fact considering that the World Health Organization cites air pollution as the biggest environmental threat to our health. Besides cancer, particulate air pollution—a combination of dust, dirt, smog, soot and other toxins in the air—has also been linked to a host of respiratory conditions, heart disease and more. And it’s not only that: Did you ever stop to think about what it’s doing to your skin?


How Pollution Affects Your Skin

Think of that hot exhaust coming from the cars around you as you step out each day to pick up lunch. You already know that it’s bad for your lungs, but it’s also aging your skin. Polluted air—composed of tiny particles that are as much as 20 times smaller than your pores—can easily pass through the surface of your skin and cause a series of cellular reactions that lead to inflammation, dehydration and collagen breakdown. This accumulated damage impacts your skin’s elasticity and firmness over time, giving skin a rougher texture and causing premature fine lines and wrinkles to appear.

Aside from prematurely aging your skin, these nanoparticles also steal oxygen from the skin cells and strip the skin of its protective barrier, the shield that blocks dirt and impurities and holds in vital moisture. When the protective barrier is compromised, it also makes it easy for allergens and free radicals in the air to enter the skin, where they can cause the most damage, leading to increased skin sensitivity and pigmentation issues. It doesn’t help that as we get older it becomes harder and harder for our bodies to fight free radicals. It’s a vicious cycle.

What You Can Do
Since it’s hard to distinguish the damage caused by pollution from other factors, it always helps to have a solid skin care regimen to protect your skin from all types of damage. Here are a few ways to beef up your routine.

  1. Wash Your Face Thoroughly at Night
    The first rule of thumb is to never (ever!) go to bed without washing your face. You never want to let surface dirt and particles—as well as makeup—sit on your skin overnight. Look for a gentle cleanser that won’t strip your skin’s protective lipid barrier, which we know is so vital to keeping out pollution.
  2. Load Up on Antioxidants—Inside and Out
    We know that antioxidants neutralize damage-causing free radicals, so make sure your diet is rich in dark leafy vegetables and brightly colored fruits. Top it off with a high-quality antioxidant serum.
  3. Strengthen Your Protective Barrier
    Aside from using protective skin care products like sunscreen, make sure you use products that repair and replenish your skin’s moisture barrier.

Meet Moringa, the Anti-Pollution Plant You’ve Never Heard Of Yet

Fortunately for us, there’s no shortage of ingredients designed to do this. One that is generating the most buzz recently is moringa oleifera. Also known as the drumstick tree, moringa is an exotic plant known for its multiple health benefits, thanks to its high nutrient and antioxidant content. On top of that, this plant has an amazing ability to purify water—it’s currently being used in countries where potable water isn’t widely available.

Some skin care creams and hair products already have this ingredient. When used topically, not only does it help protect your skin from free radical damage, but it also serves as an anti-adhesive shield that could prevent pollution from being absorbed by your skin.



Find moringa oleifera in: DECLÉOR’s Hydra Floral collection

Stacey L. Macchia

Stacey Macchia is Senior Manager, Marketing and Retail at DECLÉOR, the global leader in Aromatherapy Skincare specializing in professional treatments and products based in essential oil expertise. An education in bio chemistry, product formulation a... Read More >