The Aging Effects of Pollution
While I deplore the excessive time lived indoors by most of us modern urbanites (unless it’s time spent supine on a chaise lounge, with a purring Siamese cat and a volume of P.G. Wodehouse), there are certain dangers lurking in the great outdoors that can thoroughly wreck one’s complexion. Of these, sunlight is the best known, but airborne pollution also contributes to skin aging and degeneration. It is, in fact, the second most harmful skin aggressor after the sun.
Research studies conducted in China, the United States and Germany have found that pollution accelerates skin aging. Chinese research that compared 200 women aged 30-45 in urban versus rural China found that living in city pollution can age the appearance of skin 10 percent faster than residing in the country.
Pollutant gases stick to your skin and break down the barrier function of the skin — the waxy moisture-retaining layer composed of squalene. This leads to degradation of the collagen, resulting in prematurely aged skin. The effects of the most common pollutants are far from pretty:
- Ozone and nitrogen oxides cause inflammation, leading to irritated and reactive skin;
- Carbon monoxide is responsible for tissue hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen supply to the tissues), the skin’s metabolism is slowed down (dull complexion, premature aging, dryness);
- Sulfur dioxide leads to impairment of the hydrolipidic film: the skin becomes irritated and sensitive;
- Particles in suspension may cause irritations and allergies.
Ozone, in particular, depletes the skin of antioxidants — its aging effect is intensified by both UV rays in hot weather and the increased airborne particulate matter in colder weather. The constant presence of toxic waste, exhaust, industrial smoke and heavy metal floating in the air is difficult to avoid. Two new beauty trends have arisen in response to this latest environmental skin threat: skin detoxification and anti-pollution skin care.
Although I sometimes fantasize about escaping the city’s miasma of pollution by exchanging my urban domicile for a rural dwelling and devoting my life to my horse and hounds, at this point it is far more realistic to focus on protecting my complexion with the latest in anti-pollution skin care. Anti-pollution ingredients include antioxidants, niacinamide and algae extracts.
Clarins has developed an excellent anti-pollution skin care line — I always apply the UV Plus Anti-Pollution SPF 50 before heading outdoors. This product has a light, delicate texture but keeps your skin protected from the elements throughout the day.
At night, try AnneMarie Börlind Beauty Pearls Anti-Pollution and Regeneration Serum. This serum restores the skin from environmental damage and free-radical formation. Its special detoxifying ingredients include green algae and tara tree seed extract.
Next week, I’ll explain how to detox the skin to prevent pollution from damaging it — stay tuned!