Pollution and the Skin

We have known for many years about the negative impact of pollution on our health and the environment. However, only more recently have we begun to understand how pollution impacts our skin.

WHAT EXACTLY IS POLLUTION?

Air is essential for life because it provides us with oxygen. The air around us is a mixture of gases, and is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and traces of water vapour, carbon dioxide, argon among other components. Air pollution is when the air around us is contaminated with noxious gases and particles in concentrations that endanger our health, the health of animals, and even plants (NASA).

Pollution is all around us and exists in many different forms. Particulate pollution sometimes known as particulate matter (PM) – are tiny pieces of solids or liquids that are suspended in the air. Some particles, like dust, dirt, soot and smoke, are large enough or appear dark enough that we can actually see it with our naked eye, either in the air or on your washcloth after wiping your face. 

Others particles are too small to be seen in the air and can only be detected using an electron microscope (CDC) [1].

Some particulates occur naturally, like ash from volcanoes, forest fires, or dust storms. The burning of fossil fuels from cars, power plants, or factories are also a significant source of particulates.

PM is often described in terms of particle size; PM10 is a way of saying that particulate matter  is 10 microns or less in diameter, and PM2.5 is particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter. To give you an idea of how small 2.5 microns is, the average human hair is about 70 microns in diameter [2].

There is also gas pollution such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

The burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation causes a significant amount of gas pollution [2].

All forms of pollution can collect on your skin and trigger or create skin conditions.

WHICH AREAS OF THE WORLD HAVE THE MOST POLLUTION?

Pollution is particularly problematic in large cities worldwide and is becoming worsen with time. As of 2016, more than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) limits.


The following is a list of some of the top most polluted cities on earth according to the WHO: Kanpur, India; Shijiazhuang, China; Dammam, Saudi Arabia; Ludhiana, India; Delhi, India; Baoding, China; Xingtai, China; Bamenda, Cameroon; Raipur, India; Patna, India; Al Jubail, Sauda Arabia; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Allahabad, India; Gwalior, India; Zabol, Iran.

WHICH AREAS OF CANADA HAVE THE MOST POLLUTION?

Pollution is a problem even here in Canada. Despite having environmental policies and great education we have industry and consumer behavior that leaves our air dirty.

The following is a list of some of Canada’s most polluted population centres according to  standards in place by the World Health Organization: Windsor, Ontario; Quebec City, Quebec; Regina, Saskatchewan; Yellowknife, Northwest Territories; Hamilton, Ontario; Kitchener, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Toronto, Ontario; St. Catherine’s, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 

WHICH AREAS OF OTTAWA HAVE THE MOST POLLUTION?

Despite the City of Ottawa being a mostly government town with less industry we also have some hotspots of poor air quality. These include: Nepean, Lowertown, Aylmer, Quebec, and Hintonburg. (IQ Air)

HOW DOES POLLUTION AFFECT THE SKIN?

The skin is as our first line of defence to all of the threats in our environment. Along with ultraviolet light and harsh climates, pollution is another one of these stressors.

 

When pollution comes into contact with our skin, it does more than simple rest against the surface. Some pollution particles are so tiny that they can easily penetrate through the skin’s pores.

 

Being so small, this allows the pollution particles to to infiltrate deeper into layers of the epidermis, causing not only inflammation and dehydration but it also disrupts the skin’s barrier and breaks down collagen, which accelerates wrinkling and ageing [3].

 

 

Pollution particles induces oxidative stress through the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-16 and IL-8.

 Overall, increased pollution levels are associated with acne, skin sensitivity and visible signs of ageing, including hyperpigmentation via the regulation of oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokines [4].

 

An important study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in 2016 studied women living in urban and rural environments over a 24 year period and found that those exposed to more pollution had more dark spots (lentigines) and wrinkling [5].

 

According to a new study in 2017, we now understand that inflammation is responsible for the progression of acne. This study also revealed that while acne is common among between Asian and Caucasian women, Asian women experience inflammatory acne more frequently and report flare-ups during high-pollution periods [6].

 

A 2014 P&G study of 200 women aged between 30 and 45 compared the skin quality of women living in the city to that of women living in rural areas. Both groups had similar lifestyles and were exposed to the same amounts of ultraviolet radiation. After analyzing the data, researchers concluded that living in the city makes the skin age 10% faster than living in the countryside.

HOW CAN YOU PROTECT SKIN FROM POLLUTION?

Proper cleansing.

All the experts agree that properly cleansing your face and neck every night to remove dirt and environmental toxins from the skin’s surface is the most important thing you can do to protect your skin from pollution.

Moisturize.

Use your favourite moisturizer to replenish the skin’s lost moisture caused by pollution and to protect the skin’s lipid barrier from pollution.

Use antioxidants.

Use a serum packed with antioxidants every day to neutralize harmful free radicals produced by pollution.

HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOUR OWN SKIN FROM POLLUTION?

AlumierMD’s Alumience A.G.E.® is an exclusive formulation that reduces the visible signs of aging caused by free radicals, pollution and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Using a unique blend of antioxidants, specialized peptides, antiglycation ingredients and a biomimetic pollution shield, Alumience A.G.E.® provides the ultimate in daily protection.

Exo-PTM (Alteromonas Ferment Extract) is featured in Alumience A.G.E.® Exo-PTM is a sustainable purified polysaccharide from a unique microorganism ecosystem in French Polynesia that forms a biomimetic shield on the surface of the skin to protect against pollution and smog.

RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS TO HELP THE SKIN WITH POLLUTION

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