How Pollution Can Hurt Your Skin
Like us, we’re sure you can’t help but cringe at the thought of how widespread pollution is damaging our precious earth. Top offenders air pollution, water pollution, radioactive pollution, and thermal pollution are wreaking havoc on earth’s climates, ecosystems, and public health; not to mention daily havoc on your skin. It is critical to understand what types of pollution your skin faces when you walk out the door each day, and to know how to minimize its damaging effects. We’ll walk you through the four top pollutants, what organic skin care products can do to protect your skin, and what daily precautions you can take to lessen pollution’s footprint on your daily life.
Think putrid smog, clouds of car exhaust trailing into the sky from miles-long traffic jams, and dismal haze hanging over the horizon of an otherwise gorgeous fall morning. Car emissions, industrial burning, and off-gassing from chemical-ridden products are all major contributors to massively decreased air quality in the past 100 years, proving that modern industry has come with damaging emissions that affect air quality, respiratory and cardiovascular health across the globe.
While the current state of air quality may look bleak, there’s a glimmer of hope: the EPA says they seek "to identify specific chemicals as well as specific sources (like cars, trucks and power plants) that can impact air quality. A major goal is to pinpoint the sources most responsible for health risks." What can you do to reduce your exposure to harmful air pollution? First, utilize government sites that give daily updates on air quality in your area, like AirNow.gov. Second, utilize public transit, walking, and biking to your destination when possible, and be mindful of Spare the Air days.
Air pollution has the ability to erode earth’s ozone layer, spelling disaster for a LOT of things -- even your skin. As the gas layer of our atmosphere that buffers us against sun’s intense rays (without this layer, no life could sustain on earth), a weakened or compromised ozone layer allows for more ultraviolet radiation to pass through, directly onto your delicate skin. For skin, increased UV exposure means rapidly developed signs of aging, a lessened ability to fight damaging free radicals, and decreased collagen and elastin production. Let’s put it this way: you’re going to need a lot of SPF.
Common forms of pollutants in water are chemical, industrial, and agricultural runoff, oil seepage, particulate infiltration, and littering. While water resources take chemical precautions to reduce water pollution in our potable and household water sources, these additives may be harmful to skin; uses of hardcore chemicals like chlorine may help to purify water sources, but they aren’t doing our skin any favors. Chlorine can strip skin of the natural oils that maintain the important balance of moisture and hydration, resulting in many adverse skin reactions like increased oil (sebum) production to counteract severe dryness and loss of elasticity in dry, flakey skin.
While this one may seem like a giant leap, there are more possibilities for radioactive exposure than you might think. Extreme cases of radioactive pollution where prolonged exposure and high levels of radioactivity are present result in catastrophic effects to health, but even low-level exposure can lead to mild or moderate skin irritations like redness, rashes, and lesions. In addition to the obvious dangers caused by major nuclear incidents (think Chernobyl, Fukishima), improper storage and disposal of radioactive waste during everyday industrial operations can infiltrate air, soil, and water.
Start by knowing your local Superfund sites: the EPA lists all contaminated sites in the USA, some of which contain radioactive waste but are still inhabited or operating as normal. “Depending on the type of facility and the type of radiation, contamination could be found in air, liquids, equipment or soil. Once discovered, these sites are closely monitored to protect people from exposure to radiation,” states the EPA’s Contaminated Sites page. Still think the possibility for exposure to radioactive pollution is a stretch?
Air pollution at both a local and global scale will have direct effects on thermal cycles, aka temperature. When carbon gases are released by humans by way of burning coal, oil, and gas, we inadvertently trap heat within our atmosphere, which leads to rising temperatures. Rapid increases in temperature are harmful not only to plants, water sources and wildlife, but also to human skin. Excessive heat can make it more difficult to maintain hydrated skin, and can increase skin’s likelihood to be damaged by trapped ultraviolet radiation, VOC’s, particulate matter, and even cigarette smoke. Increased signs of aging, anyone?
Anti-Pollution Skin Care Products
While the answer for minimizing pollution lies far beyond organic skin care, there are daily measures you can take to fight adverse effects of harmful pollutants and environmental damage.
Skin care against Air Pollution: Start by implementing a detoxifying skin care routine to flush out environmental toxins; look for algae, activated charcoal, and antioxidants to help your skin battle free radicals. And when it doubt, always add an SPF.
Skin care against Water Pollution: Use an organic cleanser (like our Nopal Cactus Cleanser) and organic toner (like our Flower Water Toner) combo to deeply hydrate and remove potential chemical particulates from your faucet water. After, deeply moisturize with our organic Seaberry Moisturizer to reverse any long-term damage from skin-stripping chlorine or potentially irritating fluoride in household water.
Skin care against Radioactive Pollution: The best you can do to protect yourself from potential, low-level radioactive pollution by way of skin care is to load up on pure, potent antioxidants from organic sources. Think Puristry Vine Therapy Serum, Puristry Restorative Facial Oil, and Yerba Mate Eye Cream.
Skin care against Thermal Pollution: We said it once, and we’ll say it again: SPF! But first, make sure to deeply cleanse on a regular basis with a gentle hydrating facial cleanser, and restore hydration with a concentrated organic facial toner with a high water content; preferably one with extra skin softening benefits. While rapid temperature increases may have varying effects on different skin types, it’s important to remember that hydration will also be beneficial for skin.
Want more ways to protect skin health? Check out our blog feed for more great tips and education! Learn how to get more from flowers, how to eat your way to healthier skin, and how to pamper skin at home with an antioxidant-rich facial oil. Happy skin health!