10 Ways the Changing Environment is Changing Your Skin

10 ways the changing environment is changing your skin

We know the environment is changing our world rapidly. Everything, including our skin, is under a constant assault from air pollution and toxic elements in our environment. The consequences to our environment are well-documented, but did you know it can negatively impact our skin too? The changing environment can cause a range of issues, from irritation and premature aging to hyperpigmentation and skin cancer.

Understanding the nature of the changing environment and its impact is the first step in empowering yourself against the effects of global warming, water pollution and more. Let’s dive in and explore the interplay between our genetics, environmental factors, and human health. 

It makes sense that our genes play a role in how impacted we are by environmental problems. However, a genetic predisposition doesn’t guarantee a manifestation of problems, whereas, air pollution has been proven to negatively impact skin impact, always.

How Does Pollution Affect My Skin?

Our bodies are under oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an over-production of destructive reactive oxygen species (ROS) and an inability of the body’s natural antioxidant network to neutralize them.  ROS are initiated by 3 major components relating to pollution: 

  • Particulate matter
  • Ozones
  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptors (AhR)

Here are some recent numbers issued by the World Health Organization (WHO):

While it’s clear that air pollution negatively impacts our health, the effects on our skin are also profound. Even light pollution contains small nanoparticles that can enter and negatively impact your cells. This creates premature aging, like fine lines, in a process known as oxidation. 

In addition, greenhouse gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide can wreak havoc. Our skin is our first line of defense against external factors. It does an amazing job of keeping most pollutants out, but it’s not an impenetrable barrier.  

Pollution is insidious in its ability to break down collagen and damage the lipids contained in it. Pollution hurts your skin’s barrier function by breaking down collagen and the lipids contained within it. Studies have shown that women who live in cities have skin that is up to 10% older than that of women who don’t

10 Ways Pollution Changes Your Skin

Pollution has been shown to cause:
  1. Premature aging
  2. Irritation
  3. Rashes
  4. Breakouts
  5. Cancer
  6. Sensitivity
  7. Discoloration
  8. Dryness
  9. Dullness
  10. Roughness

Since pollution is made up of many components, it’s been difficult to pinpoint which of these are directly responsible for these problems. Scientists study cultured human skin cells to certain pollutants one at a time to discover their effects. In this way, they’ve been able to discover the common culprits for problems like Benzo-a-pyrene, urban dust, ultrafine dust, and diesel exhaust.


What’s most interesting is the real issues aren’t created from the particles themselves, but from the chemicals that are attracted to them. For example: urban dust contains a cocktail of 224 toxic chemicals – from polyaromatic hydrocarbons to pesticides. These pollution particles are usually too large to penetrate the skin themselves, but many of the chemicals attached to them are not. Cigarette smoke is another example of a major pollutant. Studies have shown that it can consist of over 600 chemicals.

Current research is looking to measure how the cells react to different pollutants, but also which ingredients can protect them against the negative effects caused. From there, products can be developed to protect against the damage and repair the damage done as much as possible.

The relationship between poor air quality and skin conditions

There is a clear correlation between an increase in air pollution and spikes in the number of people suffering from skin problems, like acne, hyperpigmentation, and eczema. We can no longer ignore that air pollution is not just affecting our skin on a cosmetic level, but also poses a real threat to our overall skin health.

A recent study done in Korea evaluated the clinical effects of outdoor air pollutants in patients with chronic eczema. Researchers measured daily outdoor concentrations of PM, nitric oxides and volatile organic compounds as a way to estimate exposure to air pollution. They found a direct correlation between outdoor particulate concentration and the presence of symptoms.

In addition, people who live in highly polluted areas have worse skin hydration and a compromised skin barrier, regardless of making better lifestyle choices like cleansing routines, water consumption, and skincare product usage.

While research is still exploring the extent of air pollution impacts on skin health, there is clear scientific evidence that skin barrier function and skin hydration are among the most immediate and significant threats air pollution imposes on our skin.

The good news is that there are ways to protect against the damage and repair at least some of the damage done by environmental changes.

Anti-Pollution Tips To Protect and Restore Your Skin

  • Cleansing: I recommend a 2-step process for cleansing. The first is using a cleansing wipe or makeup remover pad and a second pass or wash with a cleanser to remove any remaining makeup, dirt, grime or pollution left on the skin. You could also use a cleansing brush rather than just using your hands or washcloth to wash your face.
  • Use Products with Niacinamide (Vitamin B3): Used topically like in our Daily Pollution Mist—Niacinamide works hard to successfully reduce the negative effects of urban dust, cigarette smoke, diesel dust, and benzo-a-pyrene. This pollution-fighter significantly reduces the damage caused to the skin cells, protecting them and helping them to recover better. It also strengthens the skin barrier and actively repairs UV damage – giving your skin all-round protection against environmental stresses.
  • Hydration: Drinking enough water and using excellent skin products are key in making sure the skin functions at its best in protecting and strengthening the natural skin barrier. The best products include nourishing oil(s) like in our Daily Nutrition Facial Treatment Oil. With the luxe blend of Jasmine, Neroli, and Marula, your skin is hydrated and rejuvenated.
  • UV Protection: We can’t say it enough: You have to use sunscreen every day. The sun is still one of the biggest environmental stressors. And a quality SPF product should always be part of your daily skin care routine.
  • Antioxidants: The research is clear. Products that have Vitamin A, C, D, B-complex and E, are your skin’s best defense against premature aging. We’ve designed our Nightly AOX Peel with Vitamin A (Retinol) as well as hyaluronic acid to be your anti-aging secret weapon.

Protect Your Skin With Anti-Pollution Skincare

We are just beginning to understand the true threat of pollution. Unfortunately, it’s a complex problem that will take time to improve. To protect your skin, make sure your skin is properly cleansed with skincare products that use antioxidants and quality ingredients specifically proven to be effective against the most common toxins in pollution.