If you live in a city, simply walking down the street can damage your skin. Car emissions, industrial fumes, and environmental chemical residues loaded with harmful hydrocarbons, nanoparticles, and other cocktails of toxins are absorbed by the skin, the main concern being, of course, that all these air contaminants damage our lungs and enter our bloodstream.
They do, however, also affect the skin, damaging its top layer and causing oxidative stress. The epidermis is protected by a fine layer of fat produced by the sebaceous glands, rich in essential fatty acids, cholesterol, vitamin E, squalene, and triglycerides. Its main job is combating bacteria with its acidic PH, protecting the skin from UV rays, reducing water evaporation, and fighting physical and chemical aggressors. Pollutants on the skin, however, lead to oxidative stress - the body suffers from an imbalance of oxidants, in the form of free radicals, and antioxidants like vitamins C, E, and beta carotene. It is this imbalance that is then responsible for ageing of the skin.
The body’s cells produce free radicals in their normal metabolic processes, as well as releasing antioxidants that neutralise them. In general, the body is able to maintain a balance between the two, but certain environmental factors, diet, and lifestyle choices can contribute to an excess of free radical production. Oxidative stress starts off a chain reaction on the skin, weakening its dermal structure by “informing” the enzymes to breakdown collagen and elastin.
In addition, studies on the health of skin in polluted areas have shown a significant reduction of vitamin E, cholesterol, and squalene, an alteration of the PH, and change in sebum production. Consequently, the skin becomes more fragile, considerably less protected from toxins, and vulnerable to ageing. Pollutants, radiation, and particles clog the skin reducing its ability to “breathe” and exchange its energy with the environment; the poor blood microcirculation makes the skin dull and opaque, weakening the immune system and increasing risk of inflammation and allergic reactions.
What can be done to prevent this from happening, then? Firstly, using high quality, organic beauty products will help replenish all the antioxidants and fat components that have been damaged or lost due to the pollution. There are enough pollutants in the environment; we don’t need extra chemicals on our skin. By choosing moisturising products naturally rich in antioxidants and oils, the skin will easily rebalance what has been lost. Some botanical extracts will even stimulate cell renewal and rejuvenate the skin.
Step two is keeping in mind that the skin is a mirror of our inner body and emotional wellbeing, and starting the day with meditation and gratitude can work wonders. Feeding the body with organic nutrients and natural supplements will speed up the metabolism and kick off the natural detox chain.
A daily beauty regime will also help keep skin healthy. Each evening before bed, it’s important to clear the skin thoroughly, removing debris, impurities, and dirt that has accumulated during the day. A good cleansing balm will do just that, and make much more of a difference than washing your face with just water. I recommend using a cleanser, alcohol-free toner, and a good moisturiser twice daily to maintain a healthy glow. On top of that, use a mild, exfoliating face mask once a week as a skin detox.
Lastly, walk in nature as much as you can. Practice yoga and pranayama to oxygenate your cells and get rid of the excess of CO2 that comes with stress and anxiety. Laugh more and be grateful for your life; there is no better treatment for keeping your youth.
More articles by Dr Spiezia here.