How Environmental Toxins Play a Role in Your Skin Health
Environmental toxins come in many forms: liquid, gas, solid, or a combination, and have a sneaky habit of making their way into things you use or are exposed to every day. Environmental toxins are substances that exist in or are introduced (usually as a result of human activity) into the environment that have a harmful effect on your health in both short and long term capacities.
Any of the vital natural resources we rely on as humans can become polluted, like water, soil, and air. Without realizing it, we are using and consuming these resources and the toxins they contain, which cause negative effects in our health over time. In cases of severe pollution, negative effects may become more noticeable faster than in cases where pollution is absorbed or ingested in smaller amounts over time.
Regardless, environmental toxins pose a threat to your health, but not just internally. Air pollution poses one of the largest risks to the health of your skin and can cause visible issues through exposure, whether it’s infrequent or repeated.
Keep reading to learn more about how air pollution harms your skin and what you can do about it.
Where Does Air Pollution Come From?
Air pollution originates almost entirely from man-made sources, though there are a few natural origins of air pollution. Natural sources are specific to certain parts of the world (though things like wildfires and natural gas releases can technically occur anywhere in the world) and you’re much more likely to be be exposed to air pollution through man-made sources.
Pollution naturally occurs as a result of wildfires, volcanic eruptions, natural gas pockets, and dust carried by wind. These occurrences are far more infrequent than synthetic pollutants, and are less of a risk or concern depending on what part of the world you live in. Of course, they are a big threat to those that are near and are at risk of being exposed to them, but they are less likely than the sure threats of certain synthetic human-produced pollutants.
Sources of man-made pollutants include, but are not limited to:
You can be exposed to air pollutants both indoors and outdoors. The severity of the pollution depends on your location and daily activities. People in rural areas are more likely to be exposed to a high volume of wood burning pollution and agricultural byproducts, whereas people living in cities and other urban environments are more likely to be exposed to a higher concentration of industrial and fossil fuel pollutants.
How Air Pollution Harms Your Skin
Air pollutants can cause varying degrees of damage to your skin depending on the specific toxins and compounds you’re exposed to, how often you’re exposed to them, and the effectiveness of any protective or regenerative measures you take to combat them.
Damage can range from premature aging, acne, inflammation, and irritation to chronic skin conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema. In severe cases, long-term exposure to pollutants can cause serious forms of skin cancer.
This is why it’s so important to take preventative measures and try to limit exposure. There is no avoiding it entirely, so doing what you can to counteract the effects of pollution and protect yourself are vital in maintaining your skin’s health in the long-term.
How to Protect Your Skin From Environmental Toxins
Making sure you’re getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet is a great way to help combat air pollution damage to skin. A diet high in vitamins C & E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids can help fight free radicals that are harmful to your skin. Consider adding supplements to fill any gaps in your diet, and consult with your physician to get recommendations and learn the potential side effects of any
You can (and should) also apply antioxidants topically to aid in the fight. Vitamin C serums are perfect to help fight the oxidative properties of toxins in the air.
It’s also important to cleanse your skin at the end of each night to erase the pollution your body has encountered throughout the day. An almost-invisible layer of grime is present even if you haven’t worn makeup or other products in the last 24 hours. Regular exfoliation can also help gently remove layers of skin that have been exposed to physical and chemical pollutants.
You should also aim to replenish collagen in your skin, as toxins can break down your natural collagen and decrease elasticity and firmness over time. This happens as you age anyway, but toxins can contribute to premature aging. Preventing significant rapid loss of collagen due to repeated, unprotected exposure is the best countermeasure against air pollution’s damaging effects.