Pollution & the Skin

Pollution & the Skin

Have you ever thought about the impact that pollution has on your skin?

Pollution exists everywhere in our environment which means that our skin is constantly exposed to pollution. Over time, pollution impacts upon the health of our skin which is why it is essential that we determine the level of pollution that clients have been subjected in order to treat skin conditions effectively.

Pollutants that affect the skin include:

  • Air Pollutants – toxic air smoke, cigarette smoke
  • UV Radiation
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Ozone

These pollutants are formed when the following occurs:

  • burning
  • waste incineration
  • metal production
  • fossil-fuel
  • wood combustion

We cohabit with pollution as it exists in our homes, our work places, gyms, restaurants and in the great outdoors! As a result of this we need to understand the skin and how it is impacted by pollution.

The skin (mainly the epidermis) is firstly and majorly targeted by air pollutants. Skin is impacted even further when we see a combination of these air pollutants in the one location. A thorough skin analysis will show changes to both the barrier function and integrity of the skin. To put it bluntly, the skin will be under major stress!

Air pollutants will also impact upon the normal functions of lipids in the barrier which not only causes the skin to become irritated and dry but also disrupts the normal skin bacteria. This allows an entry portal for bacteria which may cause skin rashes, bacteria growth, acne, fungus, inflammation and allergies such as eczema/dermatitis. Oxidative stress increases and there are also changes to DNA and the protein structures within the skin.

Eczema/dermatitis are in epic proportions in countries where pollution is extremely high such as Asian countries and over populated cities. It is important to be aware of this if treating a skin that has been exposed to this type of environment.

We can see an increase in pigmentation changes to the skin when polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons pollutants are present. PAHs induce melanocyte proliferation which in turn increases the risk of skin pigmentation.

Conditions such as asthma which are triggered by air pollutants can also impact the skin. Air pollutants increase the levels of reactive oxygen species in the epithelial lining fluid of the respiratory tract and this causes oxidative stress. Erythema, pigmentation and eczema are related to this type of pollution.

As I have already mentioned, it is important to understand the level of pollution that clients have been subjected to when we are treating their skin. Anti-oxidants are an essential part of the daily skin care routine and a must to help protect the skin from pollution.

You can learn more about the impact of pollution on the skin in my online courses. Head to my online course at to deepen your understanding of how pollution impacts the skin.

Yours in skin,

Gay Wardle

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