Photo Credit: nhpr.org
Unless you live on top of a mountain, you are going to have some encounter with pollution of one form or another on a daily basis. It’s kind of unavoidable. Whether it’s the exhaust from a BMW, cigar smoke, city smog and dirt, fumes from mechanical equipment, it’s all around you. Couple pollution with the incredible shrinking ozone layer, and your skin is in danger. Pollutants increase the levels of free radicals produced by the body, that in turn, cause damage to your DNA. This attack can lead to premature aging, tissue damage, skin cancer, and other diseases. Pollution has been linked to a host of health ills including asthma and other respiratory diseases, and now a growing body of evidence suggests it is an enemy of your skin; causing itching, inflammation and even accelerating wrinkles and sagging.
The search is now on to find ingredients that can help blunt these effects, says Frauke Neuser, PhD, a principal scientist at Proctor & Gamble Beauty at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in San Francisco.
One study of 600 people out of Beijing, China showed that the greater the pollution, the more people who sought treatment from a dermatologist for itching. Now the same group is exploring the link between pollution and pollutants and acne, dermatitis and psoriasis.
Another study looked at how pollution affects complexion and appearance. “We knew that women in polluted inner cities had much drier skin, and we thought it could be due to the fact that they lead more stressful lives and drink less water, but when we realized this was not the case, we started to look at pollution and pollutants,” Neuser says.
And it seems like they were on to something. When skin cells were exposed to pollutants, inflammation markers shot up, Neuser explains.
The question is what can be done about this outside of the green and global efforts to curb pollution in the air. One skin care ingredient, niacinamide, also known as vitamin B, may help protect the skin. “It helps reduce inflammation and builds the skin barrier,”she says.
This ingredient is already found in many skin care products including, Olay’s Total Effects Moisturizer fragrance free SPF15 ($18.69) and Total Effects Featherweight Moisturizer SPF15 ($18.69).
“There may be other not-yet-identified ingredients that also help protect the skin for pollution and pollutants,” says Neuser.