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.
Lasers are one of many modern technologies that can be used to our benefit–but did you know they’re very effective when used for skin care? More and more people are seeking laser treatments to reveal youthful-looking, healthy skin and to erase the flaws right off their face. For laser newbies, it might sound scary or dangerous, but these procedures are perfectly safe and produce great results for those that want to slow or reverse signs of aging.
What is laser treatment?
Laser treatments use focused light to penetrate the skin, removing or repairing skin irregularities both on and under the surface. It varies in intensity based on the exact type of laser being used. Laser treatments are performed by trained professionals in medical spas, dermatology clinics, and plastic surgery clinics and should not be attempted by amateurs. While the lasers are perfectly safe if used in the correct application with safety measures, they can cause serious harm if not handled appropriately.
What kind of skin concerns do laser treatments address?
Laser treatments can help a whole host of skin issues! This goes way beyond anti-aging: because there are so many different kinds of laser treatments, there is an equally diverse number of skin concerns that they can be used to fight or repair.
Here’s a quick list of some of the things that laser treatments can help with:
- Uneven pigmentation or hyperpigmentation
- Spider veins
- Enlarged pores
- Acne scars
- Treatment-resistant melasma
- Surgical or injury scars
- Sun damage
- Hair removal
- Tattoo removal
- Fine lines
- Skin texture
- Loose skin
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it should give you a good idea of the types of skin issues that could benefit from laser treatment. If you have a skin concern that isn’t on this list, talk to your dermatologist to see what type, if any, could be helpful in treating your specific condition.
Types of Laser Treatment
There are two main categories of laser treatments: ablative and non-ablative.
Ablative lasers work on the top layer of skin, using an intense light to remove a very thin layer and stimulate the skin underneath. This works well to remove flaws on the surface, like sun damage, texture issues, and deep scarring, as well as reduces moderate fine lines and wrinkles. This is a more aggressive, invasive type of lasering and is often used in resurfacing procedures.
A slightly more mild option is a non-ablative laser treatment. Non-ablative lasers work by heating up the skin at a deeper level than ablative lasers and therefore don’t harm the surface, making this a much less invasive option for certain skin issues. Heating up the subsurface skin tissue stimulates collagen production and can help with acne scarring, hyperpigmentation, and mild wrinkles or fine lines.
Either of these treatments can also be fractionated. Fractionated ablative or non-ablative laser treats only an evenly distributed percentage of an area of skin instead of the whole area all at once. It quite literally only uses a fraction of the laser’s area. Fractionated lasers create targeted, precise, self-healing micro-holes in the skin to treat the area at the most effective level.
There are also other types of non-invasive lightwave treatments that will help your skin look better from the inside out. BroadBand light therapy can reverse visible signs of aging and acne by stimulating skin at a deep level, much like non-ablative laser treatment. Intense Pulsed Light therapy (abbreviated as IPL or colloquially known as photofacial) pulses intense light waves into the skin to reduce discoloration and repair sun damage.
Side effects of laser treatment
Before you schedule your first appointment for laser treatment, you should be aware of potential side effects. Laser treatments can induce some uncomfortable and unappealing side effects before you see the final results and may be shocking if you aren’t fully prepared before undergoing treatment.
Potential side effects include (but are not limited to):
- Itchy skin
- Eye injury
- Change in skin color
- Peeling or flaking
Some of these symptoms–like peeling and flaking–are perfectly normal and to be expected as part of the healing process after receiving laser skin treatment.
Others should be addressed with your dermatologist and/or primary physician right away. Things like infection or eye injury should always be taken seriously as soon as you notice symptoms, as delaying treatment can sometimes result in long-term complications.
Severity of symptoms will differ depending on which type of laser treatment you receive because of the varying levels of intensity of treatment. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours in mild cases to several weeks for more extreme treatments.
What’s the best laser treatment for anti-aging?
That depends! Everyone’s skin is different and what works well to tackle your aging concerns doesn’t necessarily work for someone else’s, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Both ablative and non-ablative lasers can treat common signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines, sun damage, and texture at different levels of progression.
Ablative lasers treat more acute conditions and produce more dramatic change with fewer treatments. Non-ablative treatment may require more sessions to achieve the desired result but will cause less discomfort and milder, more temporary symptoms than ablative lasers.
A big factor to consider when determining which laser treatment is right for you is the recovery process. Treatments using ablative lasers may require more intense recovery measures and may be more disruptive to your everyday life than treatment with non-ablative lasers.
Potential recovery measures for laser treatment include making sure skin stays hydrated, using cold compresses to alleviate swelling, avoiding sun exposure, and diligently using sunscreen.
In the case of more intense ablative laser procedures, many patients opt to take a few days (or weeks) off of work. This is due in part to the dramatic appearance of the skin while undergoing the healing process and can also be beneficial to focus on following post-procedure orders to protect your investment in your skin and ensure best results.
There are two main types of sunscreen: chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing ultraviolet (UV) radiation and converting it into heat, while physical sunscreens work by reflecting or blocking UV radiation. Both types are effective at protecting against UV damage, but chemical sunscreens have come under scrutiny in recent years for their potential health risks.
These active ingredients in chemical sunscreen can be problematic for a number of reasons. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are both endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with the body's hormone production. Octisalate, octocrylene and avobenzone are all photo-sensitizers, meaning they can increase the skin's sensitivity to sunlight. And finally, homosalate has been shown to disrupt the body's natural production of vitamin D.
Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it can interfere with the body's hormone production. It's been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen in the body and can also act as The UV radiation before it can damage the skin.
Homosalate is a UV filter that absorbs UV radiation. It has been shown to disrupt the body's natural production of vitamin D and may also act as an endocrine disruptor, meaning it can interfere with the body's hormone production.
The proposed concentration limit of 2.2 percent for oxybenzone and 1.4 percent for homosalate is based on the fact that these ingredients are not safe in the current amounts used.
U.S. sunscreen manufacturers are legally allowed to use these two chemicals at concentrations up to 6 and 15 percent, respectively, and hundreds of sunscreens manufactured in the U.S. use them at concentrations that far exceed the European Commission's recommendations. These ingredients are all systemically absorbed into the body after one use according to studies published by the FDA, (Matta 2019, Matta 2020), according to studies published by the FDA, which also found that they could be detected on the skin and in the blood weeks after no longer being used (Matta 2020). Previous studies detected many sunscreen ingredients in breast milk and urine samples (Schlumpf 2008, Schlumpf 2010). In addition, it's possible for sunscreen users to inhale ingredients in sunscreen sprays and ingest some of the ingredients they apply to their lips, so the ingredients must not be harmful to the lungs or internal organs.
Safe Alternatives- Physical sunscreen
Physical sunscreens work by reflecting or blocking UV radiation. They are typically made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are both effective at protecting against UV damage. However, physical sunscreens can be difficult to apply evenly and can leave a whitish cast on the skin. They also need to be reapplied more frequently than chemical sunscreens. But overall, physical sunscreens are considered to be more safe and effective than chemical sunscreens. So, if you're looking for a sunscreen that will protect you from UV damage without any potential health risks, a physical sunscreen is your best bet.
So, what's the bottom line? When it comes to sunscreen, be choosy about the ingredients and don't overdo it. Your health—and the health of the planet—will thank you.
AHAs and BHAs are types of hydroxy acids. You can find both acids in a variety of:
The purpose of both AHAs and BHAs is to exfoliate the skin. Depending on the concentration, a related product may remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, or it may remove the whole outermost layer.
Still, neither type of hydroxy acid is “better” than the other. Both are highly effective methods of deep exfoliation. The differences lie in their uses.
AHA stands for alpha hydroxy acid. BHA stands for beta hydroxy acid.
AHAs are water -soluble acids made from sugary fruits. They help peel away the surface of your skin so that new, more evenly pigmented skin cells may generate and take their place. After use, you’ll likely notice that your skin is smoother to the touch.
On the other hand, BHAs are oil-soluble. Unlike AHAs, BHAs can get deeper into the pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum.
Although AHAs are often marketed as safe for all skin types, you’ll want to take care if you have extremely dry and sensitive skin. You may need to gradually work up to daily use to avoid irritating your skin.
BHAs, on the other hand, are primarily used for acne and sun damage. These products go deep into your hair follicles to dry out excess oils and dead skin cells to unclog your pores. Because of these effects, BHAs are most suitable for combination to oily skin. Lower concentrations may be used to help calm sensitive skin. You may also have more success with BHAs if you wanted to reduce rosacea-related redness.
All AHAs yield significant exfoliation. Still, the effects and uses can slightly vary between types of acids. Your selected AHA should have a maximum concentration between 10 and 15 percent. Apply new products every other day until your skin gets used to them. This will also reduce the risk of side effects, such as irritation.
No matter which AHA you choose, the strong exfoliating effects make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Wear sunscreen every morning to prevent burns, age spots, and increased skin cancer risks.
Lactic acid is another common AHA. Unlike other AHAs made from fruits, lactic acid is made from lactose in milk. It’s also known for its significant exfoliation and anti-aging effects.
Tartaric is another type of AHA. It’s made from grape extracts, and may help alleviate signs of sun damage and acne.
Citric acid is made from citrus fruit extracts. Its main purpose is to neutralize the skin’s pH levels and to even out rough patches of skin. Citric acid makes a good serum or toner used before applying a moisturizer. It may even help work with sunscreen to provide maximum UV protection.
Malic acid is a type of AHA-BHA crossover. It’s made from apple acids.
Mandelic acid contains larger molecules derived from almond extracts. It can be combined with other AHAs to increase exfoliation. Used alone, the acid may improve texture and pore size.
Salicylic acid is the most common BHA. Concentrations can range between 0.5 and 5 percent, depending on the product at hand. It’s a well known as an acne treatment, but it can also help calm down general redness and inflammation.
Citric acid while primarily classified as an AHA, some formulations of citric acid are BHAs, too. Rather than even out your skin’s pH levels, this type of citric acid is primarily used to dry out excess sebum and clean out dead skin cells deep in your pores.
Don’t mix face acids
- Don’t use salicylic acid with any other acid at the same time. Extreme skin irritation may occur when mixed.
- Avoid salicylic acid with products that contain niacinamide.
- Don’t use glycolic acid or lactic acid in combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). This will cause the ascorbic acid’s benefit to disappear even before it begins to work.
- Avoid using AHAs with retinol.
AHAs and BHAs, if these actives are used at too high of a concentration or too frequently, they can irritate your skin and compromise the skin barrier.
Dermatologists don't — and can't — argue there. In my opinion, [retinoids'] benefits are more about the skin's appearance," says Dr. Katta. "The compounds in retinoids can help boost collagen, but they're not necessary for healthy skin. The most important factor in maintaining healthy skin is about protection and promotion." Research shows that although retinoids thicken the skin overall, they thin the skin barrier, the built-in protective layer that guards against invading pathogens and environmental aggressors and locks in moisture.
How Does Retinyl Palmitate Form Vitamin A?
The different retinoids have slightly different functions and benefits. All the retinoids are converted into retinoic acid in the body. Retinoic acid is the main ingredient that has a direct biological effect on the skin. Retinoic acid is a metabolite of vitamin A and is responsible for most of the benefits to the body and skin.
Retinoic acid is available as a prescription treatment known as tretinoin or Retin – A. Tretinoin can cause skin irritation including excessive peeling, redness, and photosensitivity which limits its use.
EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, which rates ingredients based on toxicity. Retinol can rank anywhere from six to nine out of 10, making it a "high concern" ingredient. For reference, lead and formaldehyde — two undisputed toxicants — earn 10s.
The overall product or ingredient score in Skin Deep is calculated from information drawn from the nearly 60 integrated toxicity, regulatory and study availability databases," Leiba explains. "Retinols get a high score in Skin Deep because government testing has shown that, on sun-exposed skin, these chemicals can increase the risk of skin lesions and other skin damage."
Again, there is no definitive evidence that topical retinoids lead to cancer or reproductive toxicity, but the evidence we do have is pretty much on par with that of parabens. (Read: Not agreed upon by professionals, requires more research.) So what's the difference between potentially-toxic parabens — largely shunned by both indie brands and drugstore giants as a precaution — and potentially-toxic retinoids?
The Best Alternatives to Retinol for Your Skin
Sunscreen is essential for protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. However, the claims made from some of these natural ingredients are proved to not be as effective as we thought.
UVA and UVB Rays
UVA and UVB are the two types of ultraviolet radiation that come from the sun. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin, causing long-term damage such as wrinkles and age spots. UVB rays affect the surface of the skin, causing short-term damage such as sunburns. Both types of rays can lead to skin cancer.
The efficacy of natural ingredients- Zinc Oxide
Zinc oxide is one of the most common ingredients used in sunscreens. Even though zinc oxide is a chemical, sunscreens that contain zinc oxide are often referred to as natural, or physical. This means that the ingredient does not penetrate the skin but rather block the sun by sitting on top of skin.
Surprisingly, not all sunscreen ingredients protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Zinc oxide, however, does. “It’s a photostable, broad-spectrum sunscreen, so it has one of the broadest UVA coverages of all the sunscreen ingredients.
“Zinc oxide can be ‘micronized,’ meaning it’s processed into very small particles, so small that the preparation appears clear when applied on the skin.” Non-micronized formulations, she explains, are often less cosmetically elegant and are more opaque or white. So, if you’ve ever applied a sunscreen that left a white, powdery cast on your body, it most likely contained zinc oxide as a key ingredient.
Carrot seed oil
Carrot seed oil does have health benefits, but protection from the sun is not one of them. Carrot seed oil has an SPF of 38 but it does block the harmful UVA and UVB rays, and should not be used on it's own as a sunscreen.
Red raspberry seed oil
Red raspberry seed oil is a natural sunscreen with an SPF of around 28 to 50. However, it has not been proven to be effective against UVA rays. Because raspberry seed oil doesn’t offer UVA protection — which is responsible for 95 percent of UV rays — raspberry seed oil alone isn’t recommended as a sunscreen. Given its other beneficial characteristics, however, it can be used as a healing agent for other skin conditions.
Almond oil does have SPF, but it’s not very high. The SPF of almond oil is only 2 to 6. This means that you would need to apply a lot of almond oil to your skin to get the desired level of protection. Almond oil is also not water-resistant, so it’s not a good choice for activities like swimming or sweating.
Coconut oil has an SPF of around 4 to 6. The Mayo Clinic also mentions that coconut oil only blocks 20 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays compared to sunscreen’s 97 percent.
It’s imperative that a sunscreen provides either UV-absorbing or UV-blocking protection to be effective. There is not one scientific study proving coconut oil, or any other natural oil for that matter, provided any adequate UV-absorbing or UV-blocking protection. But as far as zinc oxide (the main ingredient for sun protection in these DIY recipes), mixing active cosmetics isn’t as simple as adding the recommended amount.
Shea butter has an SPF of around 6, also not enough protection against harmful UVA rays. However, shea butter is known for its high concentrations of fatty acids and vitamins, an ideal cosmetic ingredient for softening skin. Shea butter also has anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
There are many natural ingredients that can be effective for sunscreen. Some of the most popular include zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and avobenzone. Each of these ingredients has its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to choose the one that is best suited for your needs. Zinc oxide is a physical barrier against the sun's rays, making it a good option for those with sensitive skin. It is also effective at blocking both UVA and UVB radiation. Titanium dioxide is another physical blocker that is less likely to cause irritation. It is not as effective as zinc oxide at blocking UVA radiation, but it is better at blocking UVB radiation. Avobenzone is a chemical blocker that protects against UVA and UVB radiation. However, it can be unstable in sunlight and can cause skin irritation. Ultimately, the best natural sunscreen ingredient will depend on your individual needs and preferences.
Winter tends to leave our skin awfully dry and dull. A great way to retain healthy, glowing skin is by making DIY masks. There are three masks listed below that will help you get the perfect summer glow.
Masks are a simple, effortless technique to nourish our skin. One of the main benefits of DIY masks is the assurance that the ingredients are natural and non-toxic. These masks contain less than 5 ingredients all of which can be found in your kitchen or at your local grocery store. Knowing all the ingredients that go on your skin is always best!
- Pumpkin Puree: 1 cup
- Unripe Papaya (no seeds): 1 cup
- 1 Egg
Blend ingredients until the texture is smooth and creamy. Apply to your face with a brush or hands. Avoid lips and eyes. Leave your mask on for 10- 20 mins. Wipe this mask off with a damp cloth.
Tip: Do this mask before bed and wake up with glowing skin!
- Turmeric: 1 tsp
- Honey: 1 tsp
- Plain Yogurt: 1 tbsp
- Lemon Juice: 1 tsp (optional)
Mix ingredients until the texture is smooth and creamy. Apply to your face with a brush or hands. Leave your mask on for 15- 20 mins. Rinse this mask off with warm water and apply your daily moisturizer afterward.
- Chickpea Flour: 1 tbsp
- Turmeric: ¼ tsp
- Almond Oil: ¼ tsp
- Plain Yogurt: 2 tbsp
Blend ingredients until the texture is smooth and creamy. Apply to cleansed face with a brush or hands. Leave your mask on for 30 mins. Rinse this mask off with warm water.
Show us your summer glow by using the #aionaaliveglow
We would love to see how the masks worked on you ☺