We all know it. We all ignore it.
Air pollution is a topic we skirt around, pretending it’s not as bad as it is, especially as we can not even see it.
London is considered to have very high levels of air pollution. It broke its annual air pollution limit in just five days and at times it has been worse than Beijing’s notorious pollution levels. With superbugs having been discovered on the London Underground and car fumes having been revealed as the major cause of air pollution, it’s not looking good for the capital. Or, for our skin.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Dr Gary Goldfaden commented, “Pollution can cause uneven skin tone, dehydration, dryness, dark spots, expedited ageing, wrinkles, sagging and a deterioration of collagen.”
Particle pollution is the main cause for concern. Also called particulate matter (PM), these microscopic particles are a mixture of solids and liquid droplets found in the air. On the right is a diagram of just how tiny they are. These particles are small enough to pass through the skin and cause a multitude of effects. Dr Mervyn Patterson, in conversation with The Guardian, highlighted, “These agents have a very irritating effect and once they get into the skin, they activate multiple pathways of inflammation.”
There is no need to fall into despair and run for the hills, however. The beauty industry have begun researching protective and preventative measures against air pollution. Dr Frauke Neuser, for example, a senior scientist for Olay, has commented on her team’s efforts to counteract pollution, “We found niacinamide – vitamin B3 – to be particularly effective.”
“You don’t have to sit back passively and put up with it,” Patterson continues. “You can take sensible, easy steps that will make a difference.”
Such steps include using cleansers and sonic brushes to deep clean the skin, good day and night creams to form and repair protective barriers, and mineral makeup to shield the skin. Healthy skin provides a naturally strong barrier, so drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet goes a long way in the fight against the damaging effects of pollution. Patterson does caution the use of face scrubs, since they may damage the skin barrier and encourage further inflammation. However, regularly using hydrating sprays, such as toners, will calm any inflammation and boost the skin’s natural moisture barrier.
Knightsbridge facialist, Linda Meredith, believes human skin will eventually adapt to polluted city life, but not in our lifetimes. Speaking to the Evening Standard, Meredith continues, “Over the past 60 years, toxins, chemicals and hormones have built up in the air. Our bodies are trying to adapt to the barrage but it has all happened too quickly and led to skin problems and allergies.”