Pollution: Your Health & Your Skin


On a daily basis, our bodies are fighting pollutants and toxic chemicals in the world's atmosphere and, although air pollution isn't a new environmental concern, it is an issue effecting our skin and internal organs much more than you think...

  • SKIN
  • BODY
  • TIPS

How much do you know about air pollution?

When we hear the word 'pollution', we tend to think of Diesel cars emitting clouds of smoke into the atmosphere... But what we don't necessarily think about are all of the other sources of air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, and what they are doing to our skin and bodies.

With help from our friends at Clean Air Day, in this blog post we discuss how air pollution effects our skin, body and organs, and ways in which we can help better protect ourselves against the environment we have created for ourselves.

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Our skin is our bodies largest organ, weighing in at just over 3.5 kilograms per adult and stretching to 22 square metres. It's made up of 3 layers, with newly created cells taking up to 5 weeks to make their way to the skins surface, showing just how complex this organ is.

"Skin acts as a waterproof, insulating shield, guarding the body against extremes of temperature, damaging sunlight, and harmful chemicals. It also exudes antibacterial substances that prevent infection and manufactures vitamin D for converting calcium into healthy bones. Skin additionally is a huge sensor packed with nerves for keeping the brain in touch with the outside world. At the same time, skin allows us free movement, proving itself an amazingly versatile organ."


With all of this information in mind, what effect does air pollution actually have on our skin?

Surprisingly, the effects that pollution can have on our skin, isn't likely to actually be from the components that make up what we consider to be Air Pollution itself, but it's more the harmful chemicals that find a way to attach themselves to those particles that are the main issue for our biggest organ.

Urban Dust contains at least 220 toxic chemicals and many of these chemical compounds are actually small enough to penetrate our skin, whereas the particles of pollution are too large. For example, pollutants like cigarette smoke has been shown to contain 6000 chemicals, easily absorbed by the skin.

As we've mentioned in a previous blog post, there is a clear correlation between air quality and the skin conditions plaguing the residents of more urban areas, like built up cities. However, this doesn't mean residents of rural areas are safe, as there are many sources of pollution, some are listed below:

- Fuel combustion from motor vehicles (e.g. cars and heavy duty vehicles)

- Heat and power generation (e.g. oil and coal power plants and boilers)

- Industrial facilities (e.g. manufacturing factories, mines, and oil refineries)

- Municipal and agricultural waste sites and waste incineration/burning

- Residential cooking, heating, and lighting with polluting fuels

"Those living in highly polluted areas have significantly worse skin hydration than subjects living in the cleaner suburbs despite making better lifestyle choices (such as cleansing routines, water consumption and greater skin care product usage). In addition, compromised skin barrier function was found in the urban dwellers."


The Consequences

- Irritation

-Premature Aging

- Psoriasis/Acne

- Atopic Dermatitis/Eczema

- Pigmentation

- Skin Cancers

The above consequences of pollution on the skins surface, is thought to be due to oxidative stress which is defined as: "physiological stress on the body that is caused by the cumulative damage done by free radicals inadequately neutralised by antioxidants and that is held to be associated with aging".

Pollution is by no means a new health issue, but it is becoming increasingly more important that we're all aware just how much damage air pollution, both outdoor and household, is doing to our bodies.

"Did you know that the costs to society of air pollution are similar to those cause by obesity and smoking?"

The figures and statistics paint a very bleak picture in regard to our health in relation to pollutants, as the air we breathe is directly relational to our overall health and how our organs function over a short and longer period of time. It's believed with new reports emerging that "9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants" which attributes to an estimated 7 million deaths a year worldwide.


What is Household Air Pollution?

Household activities, like cooking, heating, lighting and boiling water, with dirty or inefficient technologies generate and emit harmful pollutants right into the air we breathe when we believe to be safe in our homes. Space heaters, wood burners, poorly vented stoves, open fires and wick lamps are just a small portion of what contributes to the pollutants emitted into the air, with the most well-known being Carbon Monoxide.

Carbon Monoxide is "a colorless, odorless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of carbonaceous fuels such as wood, petrol, coal, natural gas and kerosene in simple stoves, open fires, and wick lamps." Exposure to Carbon Monoxide can cause a wide range of health issues, including increased rates of asthma in children, increased rates of bronchitis and increased rates of cardiovascular disease. Exposure to high levels can be deadly. This is made possible by the way the particles of Carbon Monoxide impair the amount of oxygen transported in the bloodstream to critical organs.


What is Outdoor (Ambient) Pollution?

"Ambient (outdoor air pollution) is a major cause of death and disease globally. The health effects range from increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits, to increased risk of premature death." Outdoor Pollution originates from natural sources, but the contribution from human activities in the great outdoors far exceeds that of natural sources to pollution levels:

- Fuel combustion from motor vehicles (e.g. cars and heavy duty vehicles)

- Heat and power generation (e.g. oil and coal power plants and boilers)

- Industrial facilities (e.g. manufacturing factories, mines, and oil refineries)

- Municipal and agricultural waste sites and waste incineration/burning

- Residential cooking, heating, and lighting with polluting fuels

One of the most harmful and most present pollutants is Particle Matter (PM) "are inhalable and respirable particles composed of sulphate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water."The particles are so harmful due to the small diameter, allowing them to easily penetrate lungs entering the bloodstream. The main sources of Particle Matter include include both diesel and petrol engines, solid-fuel combustion for energy production in households and industry, as well as other industrial activities like building, mining, manufacture of cement, ceramic and bricks, and smelting.


The Consequences

- Increases the risk of lung cancer, contributing to 1 in 13 cases

- May increase the risk of bladder cancer

- Increases the risk of death from cardiac and respiratory causes

- Leads to more visits to A&E and hospital admissions

- May increase the risk of type 2 diabetes

- NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) causes coughs and phlegm in adults

Just to name a few...

Tips for Protecting Your Skin

Your skincare products and associated routine can have a massive effect on the way pollutants effect your skin. Pollution particles can cause lots of skin issues like uneven skin tone, dehydration, dryness, dark spots, expedited ageing, wrinkles, sagging and a deterioration of collagen. With this in mind, it's best to have a routine of products that tackle these issues effectively and protect our skin as much as possible form the visible and invisible signs of air pollution.

1. Double Cleanse - Use a gentle and natural scrub, for both body and face like our Blackspice Body Scrub and our Olivestone Face Scrub, first to help break up the layer of dirt, sweat, grime etc. from the skin's surface. Follow this with a natural soft or foam cleanser, like our Micellar Cleansing Water, to cleanse away the remaining oils and impurities that might have remained on the skin.

2. Anti-Oxidant Rich Moisturiser - Using a natural, anti-oxidant rich formula to hydrate your skin, like our Original Moisturiser, and body will help to protect against free radical damage done by pollutants to the skin's surface. Added bonuses of Vitamins, like Vitamin E, and UV Absorbers also help to protect against free radicals.

3. Targeted Skincare - Using an SPF protection product, like our Protective Moisturiser, will allow your skin to be covered from UV rays and is a simple way to make an effort with your skincare. But targeted skincare products, that work to defend against pollution specifically are important have as part of your routine, natural formulations like our Anti-Pollution Face Serum defend your skin with the most effective ingredients.


Tips for Reducing Indoor Air Pollution

As suggested by the Clean Air Day Organisation:

1. Conscious Cleaning - think about what products you use. Avoid aerosols and make sure use fragrance-free or naturally scented products.

2. The Right Energy Suppliers - Choose a company that provide renewable energy tariffs, which will mean reducing the pollution caused by power stations.

3. Open Window Policy - When cooking or cleaning, make sure the room is well ventilated, which will get rid of fumes quickly and help avoid the build up of air polluting moulds too.

Find more tips at Clean Air Day's Website.


Tips for Reducing Outdoor (Ambient) Pollution

As suggested by the Clean Air Day Organisation:

1. Walk - Instead of driving, walk to your destination or at least try to use public transport where possible to reduce your emissions and reduce your exposure to air pollution too.

2. Avoid High Pollution Days - Around 10 to 20 days a year there are higher levels of pollution than normal, on these days it's best to avoid main roads and city centres or built up areas, as well as working out at the gym if you already have heart or lung conditions.

3. Consume Less Energy - In your workplace, make sure the heating/air conditioning is used only when needed, fill up the kettle to do everyone's cuppas at the same time, car pool when travelling to surrounding areas and many more.

Find more tips at Clean Air Day's Website.

There are plenty of resources out there to better inform you on everything from what type of pollutants there are, what effect they have, to how to bring simple solutions to your home, your outdoors and the people around you:

- Clean Air Day

- Global Action Plan

- Daily Air Quality Index

- Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA UK)

- National Health Service (NHS)

- World Health Organisation (WHO)