Effects of Pollution On Skin

            The topic of pollution and skin is something that many people are talking about. Everything affects everything. Our skin is very sensitive and environmental pollution affects us more than we realize. We all know it affects the earth but we don’t talk about the ways in which it affects our skin. Over the years, air pollution has increased greatly and there are serious consequences to our health. Human skin plays a role as a barrier, a protective layer, and is exposed to the most air pollution. Major air pollutants that have harsh effects on the skin include the solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and cigarette smoke[1]. Depending on what type of skin you have, these pollutants will affect you differently. Everyone’s skin is different and some of us have more sensitive skin than others. 

The Dangers of Ultraviolet Radiation

            Of course, our skin has the potential to be extremely protective, but environmental stresses can disrupt the strength of that protectiveness. There are so many toxins in the air that we are unaware of, who knows what is going to break out skin down. Different environmental pollutions affect our skin in different ways. For example, ultraviolet radiation has a huge effect on skin aging. It has also been linked to the cause of diseases such as malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma[2]. While these may sound like big scary words to you, the takeaway from this is that the effects of pollution on the skin have severe negative repercussions. Ultraviolet Radiation damages the DNA of your skin, that’s how it works. However, the depth to which it is able to penetrate depends on the wavelength of the radiation. Studies have shown a frighteningly large correlation between exposure to ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer. 

naturally considerate pollution and the skin

Effects of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

            As previously mentioned, another very dangerous environmental pollution is Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, one of the most widespread organic pollutants there is. Wood burning is a huge cause of this pollutant. It can also come from exhaust fumes from cars and all smoke that comes from the burning of organic materials. This means that cigarette smoke is a huge cause of the Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons that are found in the air. You would not believe the number of correlations there are between pollution and skin issues. Long term exposure to PAH can lead to oxidative stress and skin aging[3]. Like other pollutions, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons are also linked to the development of skin cancer. Any time waste is burned, fossil-fuel and wood combustion, or the burning of metal, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons are formed thus increasing serious problems for skin that is exposed to it. 

What Exactly is Causing Early Aging?

            Because of discoveries and new inventions, our bodies are under more stress than ever before. I don’t even think we realize all the consequences that come with the new developments of technology and advancements we have made. The more we push the world around us with new discoveries, the more we expose our bodies to. The reason our skin is starting to age and damage more rapidly is due to oxidative stress. What does this mean exactly? Oxidative stress comes from an overproduction of destructive reactive oxygen species and the inability of your body’s natural antioxidant network to neutralize them before they damage the skin and other organs[4]. Who thought pollution and skin issues went hand in hand the way they do. 

Let’s Look at Some Facts

According to the World Health Organization, ninety-two percent of people around the world live in cities that do not comply with the World Health Organization’s air quality standards. Ninety-two percent, let that sink in. That means only eight percent of our entire world lives in healthy air conditions, which means no one is truly safe from these pollutants. Another statistic given from the World Health Organization is there are six and a half million deaths associated with both indoor and outdoor air pollution. This number has doubled since 2012. Almost our entire population is exposing itself to frightening consequences because of the effects of pollution on the skin and their organs. 

Pollution Can Cause Severe Acne and Eczema

While skin cancer is a huge result of exposure to air pollution, it also affects the skin on a less detrimental, yet nonetheless painful, scale. Acne, hives, and eczema are all caused by exposure to air pollution. While acne may not be a matter of life or death, those scars can stay with you for the rest of your life. Chronic acne is a horrible issue for some and very hard to get rid of. We all want beautiful skin and acne will leave marks on our skin regardless of how big or small the individual pimples are. My little brother had horrible acne throughout high school and was in so much pain every time he shaved his face. This isn’t even a matter of looking good, these issues cause serious pain. Not to mention, a bad case of eczema can absolutely destroy your skin and cause severe discomfort. It is not just about appearances, while these seem like cosmetic issues, they can have serious effects on a person’s comfort.

pollution and the skin

The Toxic City

            If you are someone like me, who lives in an overcrowded city like New York, you have to work extra hard to keep your skin clean. I walk out onto the streets of New York City every day and am reminded of all the dirt and toxins that are in the air. I’m just referring to the dirty air that I can see, I can’t even imagine what is in the air that I can’t see. There is gray smoke flying out of the ground and I walk right through it. My poor skin is exposed to so much. I walk down into the subway where there is absolutely no fresh air so I can only imagine the toxins that are floating around down there. The point is, we expose our skin to so much every day. It is trying to protect us but eventually, these toxins are going to affect us.  

We Have To Protect Our Skin

            Because we expose our skin to so much, we have to work extra hard to try to keep it clean. Cleansing twice a day is imperative. Now, I know this is asking a lot but your skin needs it. We all get lazy, I know I do. I wake up late and rush out the door without thinking twice about washing my face. But, if you commit to it, washing your face once in the morning and once at night will become a ritual. Another trick for keeping your skin healthy is taking vitamin B3. There are also skincare brands that use B3 in their products so if you don’t want to take it orally you can use it topically as well. B3 is known for successfully reducing the negative effects of cigarette smoke, urban dust, and diesel dust[5]. Pollution and skin health is a huge issue. We have got to work hard to protect our skin. Our bodies do a lot for us, so let’s go the extra mile to keep them healthy. 



[3] 389/fenvs.2014.00011/full



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