Clearing the Air: The Truth about Air Pollution’s Effects on Skin

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You’ve heard it from your mom at the beach, and you’ve heard it here at Mirra: sun damage is bad. Not much room for debate on this one. But we’ve got news for you dear readers: there’s another dirty little player on the field that you may not have thought of. First name air, last name: pollution. Research suggests that environmental pollution may be as guilty of skin crimes as UV light on unprotected skin. While its significantly worse in big cities, living in a more rural area does not make you exempt from air pollution damage. Pollution moves and travels easily; it’s ubiquitous and inevitable. Knowing this, it’s important we get down to the facts so that we are doing all we can to protect ourselves. Here at Mirra, we won’t let pollution cause your skin to go up in smoke. 😉

What exactly is air pollution and what does it have to do with my face?

Air pollution refers to the gases and particles released into the air by human activity. In other words, stuff in the air that wouldn’t be there otherwise. The biggest and baddest boys on the block are automobile and truck exhaust, manufacturing by-products, cigarette smoke and the worst of them all, smog. Now take a deep breath (and try not to cough) Mirra readers, because the following list ain’t pretty. Here are some of the consequences of ongoing, day-to-day exposure to these pollutants.

  1. Brown spots

  2. Uneven and dull skin tone

  3. Wrinkles

  4. Enlarged pores

  5. Sensitivity and redness

  6. Dryness and itchiness

Okay, so what is actually going on here? While these pollutants are not directly penetrating our skin, they cause damage to our skin’s surface, making it easier for the pollutants to enter our body. Remember our article about the skin barrier? Obvi you do loyal Mirra readers but let’s quickly refresh. “The job of your skin barrier, your skin’s outermost layer, is to keep irritants out. The stratum corneum is responsible for preventing water loss and keeping irritants at bay, but when the brick-and-mortar structure of the epidermis is damaged, the skin barrier function is weakened. Water escapes and it’s open sesame for that landfill of smog, bacteria and other mood-altering infiltrators.”  [1] Put simply, once our skin barrier is damaged, it becomes much easier for pollutants to pass through. Once this happens, the collagen and elastin that keeps us lookin’ young, fresh and fly starts to break down. Welcome wrinkles, we are so glad you could make it.

Always. Use. Protection. (not just the kind you’re thinking of…)

At the most basic level, you should be washing your face every night. No exceptions! Yet while this a solid first step, it can only go so far in protecting our skin from small particulate matter that is small enough to lodge itself in your pores and cause ongoing damage. This can lead to acne breakouts and trigger the damage in deeper layers of skin, causing wrinkles and discoloration. Unfortunately your nightly pre-bedtime face rinse is not enough to remove particles once they are already trapped in your pores.

So, for those pesky pollutants that penetrate too deeply, please welcome to the stage, antioxidants. Antioxidants can help prevent oxidative stress before it has a chance to do a number on your skin. Be sure that whatever pollution-fighting products you are using include skin-strengthening peptides to strengthen the skin’s surface and counter the effects of collagen depletion.

You Used to Call Me On My Cell Phone (Until you heard about blue light)

Okay Mirra, if I’m chillin’ in my office for most of my day, I’m avoiding a lot of potential environmental damage, right? You might have heard of blue light from the sun, but the real damage comes from the up close and personal blue light exposure emitting from our cell phones, tablets and computers. Pretty tough to avoid these items in this day and age… While antioxidants can help protect our skin from blue light damage, we can also take an extra measure of care and set our phones to “night mode” whenever possible.

When it Comes to Pollution, Mirra has the Solution (Conclusion)

Preventing environmental damage to your skin should be as high of a priority as preventing sun damage. It is now more important than ever that our daily SPF joins forces with your antioxidant products for a new daily routine. Though of course we can’t solve the problem of environmental damage, we can certainly take the proper steps to shield our skin from the effects of pollutants.


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