With over half of the global population now living in cities*, many of us are wondering how pollution affects our health. And with the epidemic of hypersensitive and dull complexions that seems to accompany urban life, many women are also looking for information about the effects of dust and pollution particles on their skin. Read on for our expert insights.
Questions to an expert: Dr. Philippe Beaulieu, is pollution harmful for skin?
In a word, yes. Pollution is a generic term covering a wide range of reactive substances. These can be solid particles suspended in the air, or toxic gases like nitrogen dioxide and ozone. These chemicals are able to react with skin's component elements such as the lipids and proteins forming its surface barrier.
Pollution: The new beauty enemy
Traffic fumes contain microscopic "particulate matter" (soot), which is invisible to the naked eye, sometimes 2.5 microns or less. These particles are small enough to penetrate down to skin's deeper layers, they can even become lodged in pores and hair follicles. The result? Particulate matter triggers cascades of oxidative stress that lead to manifold problems within skin.
- Micro-inflammation heightens skin's sensitivity and discomfort.
- Biochemical reactions cause skin's pigment producing cells, melanocytes, to go into overdrive, dulling the complexion.
- Finally, oxidative stress can eat away at skin's own building blocks, collagen and elastin, leading to accelerated wrinkle formation.
What type of cleansers can rid skin of these harmful substances?
Skin needs a formula able to trap and remove even microscopic dust and pollution, while leaving its precious lipids intact. A formula able to target "the bad" while leaving "the good" behind. That's why I recommend women living in cities cleanse their faces with a skintype-specific micellar water twice daily. The most advanced brands have proven their ability to remove invisible pollution and dirt**, while respecting skin's need for a soft and gentle touch.
* "UN says half the world's population will live in urban areas by end of 2008". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 26 February 2008. Archived from the original on 9 February 2009.
**Before/after visual of PM 2.5 videomicroscopic imaging
Legend: +41% pollution particle removal versus a classic water