As they flock to cities in droves, one of the nation’s largest cohorts — the infamous and omnipresent millennials — have more to worry about than increasing rent prices and everyone resenting them for just about anything. Living in cities could simply be sabotaging your skin. To combat the effects of increasingly congested living situations, here’s how to protect yourself.
November 3, 2017
How to Save Your Skin from Pollution
Because a clean city is hard to come by
Photo courtesy of Jon Flobrant/Unsplash
But first, ozone
Ozone is a gas occurring in both the Earth’s atmosphere and at ground level. The upper ozone — stratosphere — is our naturally occurring Superman. It extends upwards of 6 to 30 miles from the ground and protects us and our environment from the sun’s harmful rays (aka, UV rays).
The lower ozone at ground level — troposphere — is the one we want to keep an eye on. Ground level ozone is created by man-made chemical reactions, such as when coolants, exhaust, and pesticides are released into the air. These pollutants creating ground level ozone can be harmful to breathe and can damage our plants and crops. Plus, air and particle pollution — what city construction and road repair can contribute to — are two of the five major air pollutants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And in 2016, it was reported that about 80 percent of the world population lived in urban environments that exceeded World Health Organization air quality guidelines.
These human activities could potentially be strengthening ground level ozone, diminishing the protective effects of our stratosphere. Without the stratosphere out in full force, our skin could be more susceptible to the sun’s harmful rays peeking their way through. While checking the Air Quality Index on the regular can help, here are three easy ways to protect your skin from daily pollutants.
Slather on the SPF
Every single day.
While sunscreen won’t solve all your skin’s pollution problems, SPF (sun-protection factors) is quite possibly the easiest mode of protection from potentially harmful rays.
UV rays come in two forms: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are long, penetrating into the deeper layers of your skin. Unprotected exposure to UVA rays has been said to lead to premature skin aging and wrinkling, as well as some skin cancers. UVB rays can penetrate the starter, outer layer of skin. These rays have more energy than their UVA counterparts, and are thought to cause most skin cancers as they are said to damage the skin cells’ DNA directly.
Surprisingly, most sunscreens traditionally protect only against UVB rays. For double-duty SPF, make sure you’re applying a sunscreen that can protect against both UVB and UVA (typically labeled “multi spectrum” or “broad spectrum”), and slather it on multiple times throughout the day. Additionally, choosing physical sunscreens, typically made with mineral-based formulas, are thought to be better for sensitive skin and may contain less skin irritants than chemical sunscreens.
Wash it out
Your skin is like a net for particle pollution. So are your clothes. When taking a shower, thoroughly clean your skin with moisturizing, natural ingredients. Plus, while cleansing your body of the day’s toxins, taking shorter showers can also help you save water. Win-win.
Bonus points for exfoliating to rid yourself of dead skin cells which may be filled with soot and debris from the day’s dirty smog.
Antioxidants are free radical fighters that can stop free radicals from causing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is what happens when free radicals produce chain reactions that can damage cells. Air pollution and prolonged exposure to sunlight are known to inhibit oxidative stress, so loading your body with antioxidants can help.
Our bodies can make their own antioxidants naturally, though its production slows as you age, so along with increased exposure to air pollution, some external sources can provide extra antioxidant support.
Your body absorbs antioxidants better when they come from direct, real food sources, like berries, dark leafy greens, and spices like turmeric. Not sure if what you’re eating is fortified with free radical fighters? Make sure your plate is rich in color, that will help ensure you’re getting a wide variety of antioxidants and nutrients from various fruits and vegetables.
Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.