How can I protect my skin from the negative effects of air pollution, such as smog?

Exhaust gases, fine dust, smog: air pollution in urban areas attacks the skin, our body’s outer layer. What skincare products can strengthen the skin’s natural protective barrier?

The fine lines around our eyes and laugh lines at the corners of our mouth are all perfectly natural, just like the process of ageing. But how this process works is very different from individual to individual. In addition to genetic factors, our lifestyle, nutrition, stress management, sleep and environmental toxins such as UV rays, nicotine and other toxins also affect our skin and can contribute to faster skin ageing.

Environmental stimuli have a negative effect on the skin

Too much sun is bad for our skin. Skin ageing caused by UV light is also known as photoageing. Excessive exposure to heat radiation (infrared rays) and fine dust are further negative influences that irritate and dry out the skin, which can cause premature ageing. They support the formation of free radicals in our tissue and cells, which causes oxidative stress. This, in turn, attacks the elastic fibres of the skin, which contributes to loose, sagging skin.

Oxidative stress contributes to early onset of age-related pigment spots

In recent years, scientists have proven the link between air pollution, such as fine dust caused by road traffic, and skin ageing. Nitrogen dioxide pollution, such as soot from diesel engines, heavy metals embedded in dirt particles, and smog not only damage our respiratory tract and the lungs, but also our largest organ, the skin. Their impact is particularly high in cities. Air pollution causes oxidative stress and, similar to UV light and tobacco smoke, makes the skin more prone to inflammation. This is especially the case in more mature skin, which has weaker protective mechanisms and is slower to regenerate. Mature skin is particularly sensitive to chemical and physical stressors. A study of older women by the Leibniz Institute for Environmental Medicine Research (IUF) in Dusseldorf showed that those who were exposed to higher concentrations of urban air pollutants had 20 percent more pigment spots on their forehead and cheeks and a deeper nasolabial fold between the nostrils and the corners of their mouths, than those who lived in rural areas. Another study found that women with certain genetic variants had a higher risk of developing more pigment spots due to fine dust exposure.

Facial skin is particularly sensitive

An international study by German and Chinese scientists revealed an interesting detail: the skin on our hands and arms seems to be less affected by air pollution. It is mainly the facial areas that lose their fresh appearance due to the polluted air.

What protects the skin from air pollution?

As appealing as urban life can be, our skin needs special attention in the city. This includes careful cleansing and nourishing care that combat the effects of pollution by protecting against free radicals and strengthening the skin’s natural protective barrier. Skin care products with antioxidant properties can help to prevent premature skin ageing and the development of age spots (lentigo senilis). Compounds found in the pomegranate (Punica granatum) have proven to be effective. Nutrient-rich punicic acid is derived from pomegranate seed oil, made from the dried seeds of the red, vitamin-rich fruit. This rare, polyunsaturated fatty acid is a natural antioxidant, helping to neutralise free radicals and limit oxidative stress caused by air pollution. Pomegranate seed oil also strengthens the skin’s natural protective barrier and supports cell renewal. Thanks to these beneficial properties, nutrient-rich skin care with pomegranate seed oil will give the skin a boost of new energy.

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