Sure, pollution is bad for your health, but do you know it also causes your skin to age faster? It’s true — and knowing that means you can take steps to ensure your complexion looks younger and healthier!
How pollution ages the skin:
Pollution (including smog and minute particles floating in the air) promotes the free-radical damage that harms collagen, the building block of plump, healthy skin. “This leads to premature wrinkling and the development of dark spots,” along with broken blood vessels, enlarged pores, and sagging, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The proof: A landmark study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology reveals that women exposed to environmental pollutants have deeper wrinkles and 20 percent more dark spots than women who had less exposure. Microscopic bits of soot called nanoparticles burrow into skin and cause oxidative stress, which can damage DNA and prevent cells from working as they’re meant to. And protecting skin from smog isn’t just for city dwellers. Invisible impurities in the air can affect folks in suburbs and rural areas, too.
How to shield skin inside and out:
There’s good news though: One of the most effective — and easiest! — ways to win the battle against pollution is by eating more antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies to help minimize skin damage from free radicals, says Dr. Zeichner. “Citrus fruits and brightly colored vegetables are loaded with antioxidants that support healthy skin cell function. So simply loading your shopping card with oranges, lemons, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers can help keep your skin fortified.
How to build a protective barrier:
Although it’s important to properly cleanse your skin daily — and, of course, apply sunscreen — that’s not enough to provide proper pollution protection, experts say. Consider also using one of the new antioxidant cleansers, creams, or serums, which can counteract the effects of day-to-day environmental skin stressors.
- First Aid Pure Skin Cleanser ($21, Sephora) is infused with antioxidant-rich herbs, such as white tea, licorice root, and feverfew, to clear pores of pollutants without irritating skin.
- Olay Total Effects 7 in 1 Moisturizer ($19.53, Walmart) is packed with the B vitamin niacimide, which helps bulk up the skin’s barrier to defend against oxidative damage caused by smoke and soot.
- Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($39, Dermstore) contains vitamin C and other antioxidants.
These products should be used in the morning to protect the skin from pollutants encountered by day, and again at night to counteract any that may have managed to accumulate on the skin’s surface.
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This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Reverse Aging.