Ideally, we should be wearing sunscreen all year round - not just to prevent skin cancer, but also to protect against skin ageing. However, ultraviolet light from the sun is not the only factor that can age your skin. Did you know that exposure to air pollution makes you look older, as it plays a vital role in skin ageing?
Researchers in Germany, Switzerland and the USA, recently published results on the impact of air pollution on aging in a group of 400 women aged 70 to 80 years. The ageing of the women’s skin was assessed by a well-established skin aging score called SCINEXA (score of intrinsic and extrinsic skin ageing). Traffic-related air pollution exposure where the women lived was determined in two ways. Traffic particle emissions and the amount of soot in fine dust were both measured. The researchers also looked at background particle pollution levels.
Analysis showed that exposure to air pollution was significantly linked to skin ageing and particularly to pigment spots (sometimes known as liver spots). A link between air pollution exposure and wrinkles was weaker. Exposure to air pollution makes you look older as an increase in soot and traffic particle pollution was linked to a measurably large number of pigment spots on the forehead and cheeks. And background particle pollution, not necessarily arising from traffic pollution, was also linked to more pigment spots on the face. There was also a link found between exposure to particulate air pollution and the appearance of those ageing skin folds down the side of the nose.
One of the researchers, Professor Jean Krutmann of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the University of Dϋsseldorf has put forward some ideas why poor air quality can trigger skin ageing. The carbon particles in air pollution are so small that they enter the body and are able to stimulate cells’ production of the pigment melanin - hence you get more age-related pigment spots. There could be a technical solution, however. A skin cream that contains a substance that blocks the entry of the particles to the melanin-producing cells is already being developed. To benefit from all the positive health effects of cleaner air, we recommend using an indoor air purifier. The best place for an air purifier is normally the bedroom, where people spend most of their time when they are at home. It might also be worth thinking about using an air purifier at your place of work. Offices are notorious for poor indoor air quality. Cheap ventilation systems, carpets, cleaning products as well as dust from printers can quickly create toxic indoor environments.
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Source: Vierkötter et al Airborne particle exposure and extrinsic skin aging Journal of Investigative Dermatology December 2010 130: 2719-2726]