Air pollution could be the primary cause of premature skin aging

Studies have warned about the negative effects of ultraviolet ray (UVR) exposure to our skin for decades. Skin-protection advocates now have a new focal point – air pollution.

Research is revealing how damaging air pollution is for the skin. New studies connect air pollution exposure with age spots, pigment spots and wrinkles. Some scientists say it could be the primary cause of premature skin aging in polluted cities.

Vehicle emissions are the focus

When it comes to air pollutants that damage the skin, the main culprits come from vehicle emissions. These include particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Particulates are especially problematic for the skin. Research at the University of Dusseldorf in Germany shows that particulate pollution increases age spots and wrinkles. UV exposure, nutrition and smoking also contribute to skin aging. The study determined that, at least for the pigment spots on the cheeks, air pollution is the leading cause.

It’s not just cosmetic. Studies show a direct correlation between spikes in particulate air pollution in Beijing and an increase in hospital visits by people with skin conditions, including hives and eczema.

What can you do?

Healthy skin is an excellent natural barrier. The top layer of skin is like a tile countertop. There are flattened cells that act like the tiles. These cells are separated by protective lipids. The lipids seal the cells together like grout on the tile countertop.

Some popular skin care products can disrupt your protective skin surface. The following suggestions are for people prone to air pollution exposure.

  • Do use the right routine. A routine of antioxidants (vitamins C and E), cleansing and barrier repair is the best skin defense against air pollution. Products with glycerin, lanolin, niacinamide and beeswax are also recommended.
  • Check air quality sites. Limit outdoor activity when air pollution levels are elevated. Check out

  • Use air purifiers at home and work. You may not be able to control the air outside. But, you can help ensure you breathe clean air in your home with the IQAir HealthPro Plus. You can also advocate for clean air in your workplace by learning about commercial air purification products.

Air pollution is a fact of urban life. By being proactive and minimizing the negative effects of pollution on your skin, you can help your own skin stay healthy for years to come.

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