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The Real Truth Behind the Pollution-Skin Connection

Just how damaging is pollution to our skin?

PPollution: it’s all around us and nearly impossible to avoid. No matter if the pollutant is smoke, fumes, manufacturing by-products, blue light, smog, or particulate matter, the end result is one and the same: free radical damage that causes tremendous damage to skin cells and other cells in the body.

Spending time outside helps feed the soul. There’s something to be said for the calming and relaxing effect of sunlight, fresh air, and balmy nights spent under the moon. However, there’s even more to be said about the damage that countless hours enjoyed outdoors—especially when the skin is unprotected—can lead to both in the present and near future. Every time you walk outside unprotected, you are putting your skin and body at risk for incurring damage. According to a 2016 WHO report, over 3 million people die annually due to pollution, and 90% of people live in an area that does not comply with the WHO Air Quality Guidelines.

Let’s face it: nothing positive comes from pollution. It wreaks havoc on our environment, increases the likelihood of diseases and sickness, and causes a cascade of skin-related events including premature aging, spots, acne, unbalanced pH levels, rosacea, inflammation, and changes to elastin and collagen levels. The skin itself acts as a natural protective barrier against pollution, but when it is bombarded with toxins and pollutants, its ability to self-protect is weakened. With less defense against these damaging factors, the skin is more susceptible to develop dermatological conditions such as atopic dermatitis, eczema flare-ups, and psoriasis.

Pollution emits free radicals (molecules with unpaired electrons). Once these free radicals are let loose into the atmosphere, they bombard the skin. It’s when the skin can’t withstand this attack on itself that oxidative stress ensues, causing visible damage like wrinkles, loss of collagen, and dark spots.

There’s also another type of pollution, blue light, that’s detrimental to skin health.

Known as blue light, or High Energy Visible Light (HEV light), this short-wavelength light is on the blue end of the spectrum of visible light and released from smartphone and computer screens, overhead and indoor lighting, and televisions. A study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology reports that the visible light can produce immediate changes in skin pigment that leads to long-term pigmentation. Other studies assess visible changes in the skin, like redness. Research on blue light damage has led to an uptick in the use of protective antioxidants and ingredients, like polypodium leucotomos root, in beauty products and supplements.

The best ways to protect the skin and body from the damaging effects of all types of pollution is to limit your exposure, wear sunscreen and take antioxidant-rich supplements. We are partial to ShieldUp, which minimizes inflammation and fights oxidative stress with organic antioxidants like organic acerola fruit extract, and TimeCapsule, which contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants like green tea and polypodium leuctomos root to protect against blue light and UV damage—and. Follow these simple rules and your skin will be that much more protected against pollution and its ravaging effects.