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Air pollution may just be ruining your skin

Nasty emissions spewed out from vehicles may be bad for your lungs – and it seems it could also be affecting your skin, too.

That’s according to a report in the 2016 Journal of Investigative Dermatology, which found a link between air pollution and increased unwanted pigmentation and dark spots on the skin, otherwise known as lentigines.

Scientists looked at a group of Chinese and German women and found that an increase in 10 ug/m3 in NO2 (aka nitrous oxide) produced 25 per cent more dark spots, specifically around the facial area.

Cosmetic doctors have looked at figures from their clinics and have witnessed a 25 per cent increase in the number of consultations for pigmentation over the last five years and a 30 per cent increase in the number of enquiries for pigmentation treatments.

A 100 per cent increase in the number of skincare products that target pigmentation has also been seen over the last five years.

Highly polluted areas such as the south east and London saw the most pigmentation-related cases, around 95 per cent, compared with greener places such as Northern Ireland.

Doctors fear it is pollution from cars, factories and buses that is damaging our skin, not so much sun’s rays as previously thought.

Cosmetic dermatologist Dr Hilary Allan of Woodford Medical Clinic in Essex said: “The results of recent studies directly linking air pollution to the appearance of pigmentation and signs of ageing on the skin are very alarming.

“It is making us entirely rethink everything we know about pigmentation – it is not the sun but traffic pollution that is ageing and killing our skin.

“This study demonstrates that air pollution increases unwanted pigmentation on the skin and is a heavy contributor to the signs of skin ageing. If air pollution continues to worsen then at this rate, I predict that 90 per cent of those living in heavily traffic-polluted cities will develop unwanted age spots.

“With traffic pollution emerging as the single most toxic substance for skin, the dream of perfect skin is over for those living and working in traffic-polluted areas unless they take steps to protect their skin right now.”

Obviously a dermatologist would have a vested interest in the rise of pigmentation and its alleged effects, but there’s no disputing the impact air pollution has on our lungs. Some particulates have actually been proven to cause cancer, so it is such a stretch to imagine the damage caused to other areas of the body?

After all, reports say that 5.5 million people around the world are dying prematurely because of air pollution, 40,000 of whuich

The damage is said to be caused by article pollution, or particulate matter as it is also known. These solid particulates and liquid droplets, which can be visible to the eye, are created by diesel engines and power plants.

Some scientists believe the particulate matter can be covered by smaller polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are lipophilic. Basically, that means they can dissolve in your skin’s oil, allowing them to penetrate the outer layers of your exposed face.

As the polyaromatic hydrocarbons make it to the deeper skin tissue, they can allegedly cause ‘oxidative stress’, leading to unwanted chronic inflammation and the ‘destruction’ of collagen, which leads to wrinkles.

Those with sensitive skin and sufferers of inflammatory skin disorders such as eczema are said to be more susceptible to the effects of air pollution.

So what can you do if you want to keep your beautiful skin, even if you live by a motorway? Dr Hilary Allan and Dr Mervyn Patterson of the Woodford practice recommend a variety of tips, including applying high-protection UV sunscreen and removing pollution-sullied make-up whenever possible.

Eating a ‘healthy diet rich in omega oils and antioxidants’ to help support the body’s natural defences and avoiding harsh and abrasive exfoliants that actually strip away some of said defences while making the skin more susceptible to UV rays were also advised.

You could, of course, simply move away from the hustle and bustle to the countryside and enjoy much fresher air and fewer cars.



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