How to Defend Your Skin from Air Pollution and Inflammaging

BY Dermstore Editors · January 3, 2017

Effects of Air Pollutants - Dermstore Blog

We know the dangers of breathing in hazardous levels of air pollution and how it affects our overall health, but more and more research has surfaced that links these tiny particles of air pollution to skin damage as a result of entering through our pores. What is air pollution and how exactly does it damage our skin? To learn more about this alarming phenomenon, and how to defend our skin against it, we talked to Heather Hickman, Senior Director of Education for Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute.

Dermstore: How does the quality of air affect our skin? What’s in the air that could be damaging our skin?

Heather Hickman: Air pollution consists of gas and particulate contaminants that are present in the atmosphere. These pollutants come from a variety of sources such as car exhaust, factories, even the agricultural industry. For every visible particle, there are one million invisible particles! For example, think about a ray of sunshine coming through your window and how it shows all of the tiny dust particles in the air. Air pollution may not be visible to the naked eye, but it still surrounds us no matter where we are. Some of these pollutants include nitrogen oxides, ground-level ozone (also known as smog) and tiny particles called particulate matter. This particulate matter is a microscopic suspension of solid and liquid particles that may carry other pollutants on their surface, making a carrier vehicle for these pollutants to enter our skin.   

Air pollution can cause premature aging and does so by stimulating inflammation in the skin that can lead to a phenomenon referred to as inflammaging. Inflammaging can result in hyperpigmentation or uneven skin tone, degradation of collagen that makes up the structural components of the skin, dehydration and increased sensitivity to the skin.

D: Who is most at risk? Does where we live matter?

HH: The World Health Organization has deemed that 92% of the global population live in an environment that exceeds the safe limits of exposure to air pollution. And it’s not just city dwellers that are at risk, while metropolitan areas are ranked number one for ozone pollution, farming and agricultural areas are ranked higher for year-round and short-term particle pollution. For example, in the United States, Los Angeles—a major metropolitan area—is ranked number one for ozone pollution. But Bakersfield, California—known more for producing oil and crops than skyscrapers—takes the top spot when measuring year-round and short-term particle pollution.

D:  How do we protect our skin from pollution and the associated inflammaging?

HH: At Dermalogica, we’ve found that the following actions and safeguards can protect the skin from pollution and accelerated aging:

  1. Wear sunscreen at all times–even when the sun’s not shining. A sunscreen of SPF 30 or above should be worn daily to help combat the effects of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) generated by the sun’s UV rays that will further accelerate the aging process.
  2. Quit smoking! Smokers are creating their very own little bubble of air pollution, and that pollution is going directly into the skin and causing accelerated aging.
  3. Check your skin pollution index and minimize your exposure during high-risk times. Skinpollution.com can be used to gauge air pollution levels in your local environment, with risk levels ranging from low to hazardous. You can look up the Skin Pollution Index Value of the day on a device like your smartphone, where you will get information on precautions when it comes to anti-pollution skin care efforts. The higher the value, the greater the risk of accelerated aging.
  4. Go beyond double cleansing by using skin care products that detoxify skin and nourishes your skin with free radical-fighting antioxidants.

D:  Speaking of skin care products, Dermalogica has just launched the Daily Superfoliant, which is specifically formulated to fight skin pollution. How does it do that?

HH: The new Daily Superfoliant is part of Dermalogica’s AGE Smart system and is a highly-active, anti-pollution powder resurfacer.  This advanced powder formula activates upon contact with water, releasing a trio of powerful enzymes, skin-resurfacing alpha hydroxy acids and anti-pollution technology. Here are just some of its key ingredients:

  • Activated Binchotan Charcoal, which has a negatively-charged surface, adheres to positively-charged impurities allowing them to be easily removed from the skin. To give you an idea of activated binchotan charcoal’s adsorption capacity, if you could unfold and lay flat all the microporous surfaces in one teaspoon, it would cover 10,000 square feet—more than a full tennis court.
  • Caesalpinia Spinosa (Tara) Fruit Extract and Kappaphycus Alvarezii (Red Algae) Extract – This anti-adherence complex is comprised of extracts from Tara fruit and a tropical species of red algae. Sugar polymers from these plant extracts form a non-occlusive molecular mesh that inhibits the penetration and adherence of environmental pollutants, such as particulate matter. What makes this complex interesting is that it doesn’t hinder the absorption of other actives.
  • Niacinamide is a water-soluble, active form of Vitamin B3, assists in regulating sebaceous gland secretions its considered anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and its ability to reduce facial sebum production helps it prevent adhesion of pollution particles and prevent pollution-induced signs of skin aging.

 By resurfacing and removing pollutants daily, as well as inhibiting adhesion of pollution particles, Daily Superfoliant helps preserve the skin’s youthful structure while preventing the appearance of premature skin aging. 

Dermstore Editors

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