We’ve all heard how the sun is a big culprit when it comes to age spots and wrinkle formation.
But it seems that traffic pollution is now the most toxic substance for our faces, according to leading dermatologists Dr Hilary Allan and Dr Mervyn Patterson, of national chain Woodford Medical Clinic, reports Daily Mail.
Apparently, particles from traffic fumes can penetrate deep into the skin, weakening its natural barrier thus letting bacteria and environmental pollutants in.
Pollution also speeds up the breakdown of the collagen that keeps our skin supple – eventually leading to problems with pigmentation and wrinkles.
Their warning comes after a new study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology revealed exactly how drastically traffic fumes can cause our skin to age.
According to Dr Allan, “The results of recent studies directly linking air pollution to the appearance of pigmentation and signs of ageing on the skin are very alarming. It is making us entirely rethink everything we know about pigmentation – it is not the sun but traffic pollution that is ageing and killing our skin.”
“This study demonstrates that air pollution increases unwanted pigmentation on the skin and is a heavy contributor to the signs of skin ageing,” he said.
Dr Patterson said, “Unless people do more to protect their skin they will end up wearing the pollution on their faces in 10 years’ time,” especially those living in cities.
How traffic fumes age our skin
Pollution from traffic fumes is known as particulate matter (PM), and is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets, Dr Patterson explained.
“Some particles such as soot, dust and smoke are large and can be seen with the naked eye,” he said.
“Other particles are very small and can only be seen by an electron microscope.”
Scientists call these particles, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and they are produced by coal fires, power plants as well as car fumes, particularly diesel engines.
These PAHs can dissolve in oil, meaning they can penetrate through the outer layers of the skin weakening the skin’s protective layer and cause oxidative stress which ages skin cells.
The collagen in the skin is then damaged and that’s how you get unwanted pigmentation and wrinkles.
How to reduce the impact or air polution
Here are some tips from Dr Hilary Allan and Dr Mervyn Patterson at Woodford Medical Clinic
1. Apply high-protection UV sunscreen every day, even when it is cloudy.
2. Switch to mineral make-up that is free from unwanted chemicals and high in UVA/UVB protection.
3. Always remove makeup (and all the intermingled pollution) with cleansers and toners.
4. Use skincare products that contain ingredients formulated specifically repair the skin barrier and contain anti-inflammatory ingredients which will stop the skin from ageing.
5. Avoid exfoliating abrasively. The benefits of physical exfoliation are overplayed and simply remove many of the important ‘roof tiles’ that are an integral part of the our skin’s first defence shield.
6. Avoid products containing glycolic acid or retinol. Glycolic acid disrupts the skin barrier and makes the skin more vulnerable to UV.
Retinoids disrupt the skin barrier, increase inflammation and irritation and leave the skin significantly more UV-sensitive.
7. Use serums which contain vitamins A,B,C,D and E. Serums penetrate deeper into the skin.
8. Eat a balanced, healthy diet rich in omega oils and antioxidants that support the skin’s own defence mechanisms.