Pollution today is the main offender when it comes to ageing skin. It has been proven that it, just as much as the sun, if not more so, is a major player when it comes to problematic inflamed, acne and or ageing skin.
Scientific studies have shown that besides pollution accelerating ageing, there is a strong link between pollution and a number of other skin concerns such as acne, congestion, cellulite, pigmentation and rosacea.
Unlike sunburn, damage resulting from exposure to pollution does not present an immediate response, increasing the danger because we are unaware of the damage it is causing.
The amount of physical pollution present in our environment is alarming. It is worse than it has ever been. Places such as London’s Oxford Street has the worst pollution in the world with levels of nitrogen dioxide up to 10 times the legal limit.
In 2018 it was announced that more than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that don’t meet the World Health Organization’s standards.
Air pollution causes more deaths worldwide than AIDS, diabetes and road injuries combined and is responsible for one in eight deaths globally. The estimated number is approximately 9 million!
Besides these figures being really terrifying as to our health – it does make you question why anyone is questioning global warming?
Anyone living in the inner city will know what I am talking about when I say that not only is the pollution affecting your health – but it also affects your skin.
In all of my years as a beauty therapist and makeup artist, I have never come across so many hard to treat skins.
But not only that – I have never come across so many unwell young women either. Many of them with ‘old women’ diseases.
But getting back to the skin – how does pollution affect it?
Dirt particles such as soot, cigarette smoke, acid smoke and carbon monoxide which are 20 times smaller than the diameter of a pore and therefore not visible to the human eye, cause most of the harm to the skin.
Due to their size, pollution particles are able to infiltrate the deeper layers of the epidermis (the skin’s surface layer – the one that you can see) which causes inflammation and dehydration.
So, what is inflammation of the skin you ask?
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. It is like the body screaming “Ouch! I am really mad and hurt!”
It is the body’s way of telling the immune system that it needs to heal and repair damaged tissues as well as defend itself from foreign invaders such as pollution.
The problem is when it goes to work, you will see symptoms such as rashes, acne, congestion, unknown redness, eczema, dermatitis and or psoriasis. It also causes darkening of our skin seen as pigmentation.
So how can we protect our skins from pollution?
Cleanse your skin – that film of dirt on your car is also building up on your skin.
But when I say cleanse – I am not talking about using a foaming cleanser for acne or worse – block of soap – did you say you use soap? Did I hear right? You must be kidding – really? Throw it in the bin right now!
Getting back to my article – by using a stripping foaming cleanser on your skin or soap which clogs your pores even more!!!!!! as well as stripping your skin, you are leaving the skin without its acid mantle.
The acid mantle is like the skin’s ozone layer – remove that, and you leave it without any form of protection – so more pollution gets in.
Plus – it makes the skin start pumping out oil to protect itself. Problem with that is…………. the oil collects more dirt, and yes – we have a vicious cycle happening here.
Unless you have dripping oily septic acne skin, I don’t recommend anything stronger than a hydrating cleanser. If this freaks you out – try using coconut oil to remove the first layer of makeup and dirt and then cleanse.
Coconut oil not only lifts dirt off the skin, but it is also soothing, antibacterial and does not congest the skin. Follow this with a foaming cleanser if your skin is really greasy and oily – think sweaty hot summers day oily – such as David Deans Refreshing Cleanser ensure you cleanse twice. If your skin has some oil on the T-zone – or not much oil or none at all use their Moisturising Cleanser I am a bit biased where their cleansers are concerned as the Refreshing cleanser does not strip the skin and the moisturising cleanser does not congest the skin. When ordering any product from their range use the code MUA54 and you will receive a gift with purchase.
Ensure that you cleanse morning and night – once in the morning and twice at night to ensure you remove all of the pollution you have collected in your pores. Ensure that you cleanse your face, neck and decolletage – even your breasts as this skin is the same fine texture as your face.
And facial wipes are NOT a cleanser – read here to find out why you should not use them! They will only worsen the problem.
We are often told to not exfoliate too often as it can irritate the skin – but the opposite is true. It just depends on what you are using to exfoliate!
The reason we need to exfoliate is because dirt gets trapped under the dead skin cells which you guessed it – causes irritation and inflammation including acne!
There are two methods which you can use – one is manual – which is using a scrub like substance – ideally use something which is not too irritating such as coffee, sugar or salt ( I know – its’ very ‘fashionable’ to use these things – ideally in a coconut oil base – but it just damages your skin) I ideally love anything with a bamboo – the grains are circular, so do not damage the pores – such as David Deans Bamboo Polish – use the code MUA054 to receive a gift with purchase when ordering.
If you are in your twenties you should exfoliate 2 x weekly, in your 30s and onwards 3 x weekly. Ideally, if you are 40 + you should be using a mixture of chemical as well as manual exfoliation to keep your skin cells ticking over efficiently.
The other is chemical – we are talking Alpha Hydroxy Acids. There are quite a few to choose from, and where one may suit one person’s skin, does not mean it will suit someone else’s skin. If in doubt, stick to Lactic acid which is my favourite as it is active, yet gentle.
There are a few AHAs to choose from;
- Lactic Acid – exfoliates, hydrates and calms the skin, this acid is great for all skin types but perfect for dryer and more mature skin.
- Salicylic Acid –is antibacterial and the best for blemish-prone skins as it decongests the skin and adds lustre.
- Glycolic Acid – the most popular and highly promoted acid – personally my least favourite as it penetrates deep into the skin and can cause dryness and irritation. But it works well with Lactic acid on thickened sun-damaged or badly scarred skins.
- Mandelic Acid – is the gentlest of AHA’s as it does not penetrate as deeply – a good starting point if you are new to chemical exfoliation and a little wary of it.
No matter how oily your skin is – you really need to moisturise. Either using a moisturiser or an oil.
When speaking about oils – I am talking about natural oil blends such as Edible Beauty’s Exotic seed of youth , or Eco Tan’s Glory Oil . These oils do not only hydrate the skin, but they also give the skin the nutrients to combat inflammation as well as being amazingly anti-ageing.
When moisturising, try and use natural products whenever you can because pollution is already a concoction of chemicals and if you apply chemical products on-top of those chemicals – you are layering chemical upon chemical. Use products such as Jurlique’s Redness Rescue Soothing Moisturising Cream as it protects and calms inflamed skin.
A MUST avoid product ingredient is Petrolatum. Petrolatum is a derivative of petroleum (petrol), it gives the illusion of a moisturised and hydrated skin, whilst suffocating the pores. So, if it suffocates the pores – then the pollution stays in your skin causing inflammation, and acne.
Skin moisturisers should ideally contain antioxidants to combat the inflammation such as vitamin C. Vitamin C improves the skin’s ability to repair itself and to combat bacteria, as well as calm inflammation. My favourite anti-pollution day cream which is organic and 100% natural is Dr Hauschka’s Regenerating Day Cream
Niacinamide otherwise known as B3 works brilliantly to combat blemishes and scarring. It also works to increase the skin’s barrier – so great as an anti-pollution ingredient! An easy way to apply Niacinamide as well as get a great dose of zinc at the same time is by using The Ordinary Niacinamide10% + Zinc
Masking has become very popular thanks to the Korean love for beauty products and treatments having reached the rest of the world market, but try to not overuse ones containing ingredients such as charcoal or those saying detoxifying more than once per week, as they will yet again strip the skin opening it up to pollution.
Use masks containing ingredients such as oatmeal, or oat kernel extract or chamomile as they will calm and soothe the skin whilst taking out the itchiness.
Look for products which contain ingredients such as Sea Buckthorn which heals inflammation.
Use masks which say repair, rejuvenate and hydrate – because the stronger the skin, the better it will be able to protect itself.
Besides using natural skincare, look at the chemicals you use inside your home. Your cleaning sprays, your laundry detergent, your air fresheners – all contain the same nano-particles which will irritate your skin. Swap them over for natural alternatives – not only will they be better for you, but better for our planet.
And of course – do not forget to only use natural body washes, soaps and shampoo to protect yourself from other incidental chemicals. The supermarket shelves are now bulging with natural body washes – and even delicious natural soaps.
My favourite go-to vegan 100% natural range of shampoo’s and other hair products are by Davroe. They will clean your hair as thoroughly as a chemical-based shampoo, but will not strip it as a chemically based shampoo does, but will also not leave you with the heavy buildup many of the natural shampoos tend to do.
Hi! My name is Yvette van Schie, I am a qualified Beauty Therapist with 32 years of industry experience. I have worked with some of the best in the business and now besides writing my educational blog posts, I write holistic beauty articles for a multitude of professional industry suppliers as a ghostwriter.
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I also offer Beautiful Skin Consultations – face to face or by Facetime and Skype