Asian man wearing sunglasses riding public transportation

You would think that braving the outdoors would dirty up your face and that’s it. You can just wash up and you’re good to go. Unfortunately, air pollution effects on your skin can be severe—and they’re not always visible. According to a 2017 study in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, global air quality has gotten worse, which means more skin damage.

How pollution affects the skin is theoretically simple: Based on a 2015 study in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, the induction of oxidative stress (which is caused by excessive free radicals) and inflammation are the primary vehicles for environmentally triggered skin concerns.

Read on to find out how exposure to ultraviolet radiation, volatile organic compounds, cigarette smoke, and more nasty pollutants are hurting your skin – and what you can do to protect it.

Cracks Are Beginning to Appear

Have you begun noticing the signs of aging on your face? Lines are quickly appearing and your skin feels slack and sensitive. That UV radiation affects the quality of your skin is not new information. Research published in Molecules in 2014 described it as “one of the most important environmental health hazards” and a well-known cause of wrinkling, pigmentary changes, thinning, among others.

Couple UV radiation with ground-level ozone (when nitrogen oxide mixes with volatile organic compounds) and your skin has an express ticket to the future. A 2019 German study, “Skin Damage by Tropospheric Ozone” discussed evidence that long-term exposure to O3 leads to premature aging.

Acne Is Causing Skin Damage

Air pollution could be making previous skin concerns worse.

A two-year study in Beijing, published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, showed a correlation between worsening cases of acne and concentrations of particulate matter, which is the mix of liquid droplets and solid particles in the air. Examples of particulate matter include ash and dust.

While dust and dirt alone won’t prompt zits, which happens when pores get clogged with oil, they can cause allergic reactions, irritation, and inflammation – all of which could aggravate acne.

Other Skin Conditions Are Getting Worse

Did you know that air pollution isn’t limited to the outdoors? Your home can be full of pollutants.

Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis are usually genetic, but environmental stressors, such as air pollution can trigger them.

For example, a 2012 study in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology surveyed primary school students in Seoul, Korea. It revealed that children with a history of allergies who also moved into newly made homes when they were babies are more prone to eczema flare-ups. The reason? They were exposed to dangerous materials used in construction. Newer houses, the study reported, also have higher levels of indoor chemical pollution.

The 2015 study in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health confirmed that air pollution effects could also trigger hives.

Your Skin Is Becoming Spotty and It’s Just Not the Same

The thing is these compounds that we’ve mentioned usually work as a team. Particulate matter, for example, can be found alongside another common air pollutant, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, which is in smoke, from the exhaust to cigarettes. They’re all working overtime to wreak havoc on your skin. They can sink deep into your pores and attack your cells, creating a free radical party that can wreck collagen and elasticity. These air pollution effects can goad your pigment cells to go haywire and cause hyperpigmentation.

How Can You Protect Skin From the Effects of Pollution?

Unfortunately, you can’t afford to be happy-go-lucky with your skin. We’ll spare you the specifics, but the World Health Organization categorized the Philippines’ air quality as “moderately unsafe.” Hence, you need to be diligent with a skincare routine. Even a simple one will help compensate for the beating your skin is getting.

Properly and religiously clean your skin, especially your face. POND’s Men Acne Solution Anti-Acne Face Wash goes beyond cleansing the surface. It has Thymol-T essence that goes deep within the skin, targeting and fighting acne-causing bacteria even long after you’ve rinsed your face.

You can also try Master Clay Facial Wash Acne Fight, which has active charcoal ingredients to combat 99.9% germs. Not only does it remove deep-seated dirt, but it also helps treat environmentally induced skin damage by reducing pimples and evening skin tone.

Being the most exposed organ on the body, your skin needs protection from external stressors. Now that you’re more aware of the air pollution effects on your skin, you can care for it better.