How to protect your skin from toxins in the environment
When we think about pollution, we typically think about damage to our environment. Lately, we’re also looking at the effects of pollution on our largest organ – our skin. Everything from cars to sun can cause spots, splotches, wrinkles, sags, and even skin cancer. Fortunately, there are some ways to help protect and heal your skin.
The damage of pollution
We’re all aware of the damage that the sun can do to our skin. Over time, or with a fierce sunburn, sun exposure can cause loss of elasticity, wrinkles, sun-spots and skin cancer.
Unfortunately, environmental pollution all around us has the same effect on our skin. Construction sites with their large, moving machinery and exposed pipes can release constant pollution. Cars obviously pollute, and the closer you live to a congested traffic area, the more pollution you are exposed to.
Power plants and fires provide another large-scale source of pollution, but toxins are also contained in and on many products we use or touch daily such as chemicals on clothes or furniture, paint, plastic and fumes such as radon.
Because the particles of pollution are so small – up to twenty times smaller than your pores – they enter deeply into your skin. The pollution particles embedded in your skin cause inflammation and a response in the collagen and lipids (fat) that breaks down firmness and elasticity of the skin.
Unfortunately, the worst problem comes with the most common pollutants: soot and diesel exhaust. They contain a coat of polyaromatic hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons penetrate deeply into skin cell receptors and cause oxidative stress. A research review shows these types of pollutants cause skin pigmentation, extrinsic aging and even skin cancer.
Your beauty routine – how you cleanse, your makeup and product choices – can go a long way toward protecting and healing your skin. Your dietary choices are key too.
Anti-pollution skin-care products
Using a sunblock daily is step one: not only does this help protect your skin from UV ray damage, it traps pollutants. Over sunblock, your makeup – particularly if you wear a foundation – is also a barrier between your skin and pollution. Pollution literally gets trapped by your moisturizer and makeup, so fewer particles get on and inside your skin.
Deep-cleansing your face every night is crucial for removing the particles on your skin. While creamy cleansers are moisturizing and comforting, they don’t remove nanoparticles of pollution. To remove the particles with a cream cleanser, you’ll need to add a scrub brush or cloth to wash off the cleanser.
Micellar cleansers are popular right now, but if you’re being exposed to a good deal of pollution, they won’t do the job. You’d be better off with soap and water: the foam and rubbing removes oil and pollution. Oil cleansers also work well for this purpose.
Face masks are another good way to remove pollution from your skin. Any mask that’s absorbent enough to pull your pores clear will work for pollution removal too. Clay and charcoal masks are both good choices.
Using an antioxidant cream or serum on your face in the morning will help prevent pollution damage during the day. But you can use an antioxidant cream or serum at night to help your skin to repair itself from the damage of the day. Vitamin C is a powerful option for healing skin that’s now available now in many skin products.
Fighting pollution’s effects from the inside out
What you eat also feeds directly into your skin’s ability to protect and repair itself. A diet high in essential fatty acids protects the lipids in your skin, and keeps your skin glowing. An excess of Omega-6, found in vegetable oils, rise to the skin’s surface and become oxidized by the sun. This process can lead to DNA damage, skin cancer and premature aging.
A diet high in antioxidants allows the skin to protect the collagen that keeps your skin firm and luminous. Berries, orange foods, spinach and kale are all good sources of antioxidants and other nutrients that keep your skin healthy.
Research shows that certain foods high in potent antioxidants act as an internal sunblock. Green tea, for example, protects your skin from the sun’s rays and helps to prevent skin cancer. It’s also found in many topical skin creams and serums.
By paying more attention to the products we use and the foods we eat, we can keep our skin healthier and free of more toxins.