HOW OUR LIFESTYLE HABITS AFFECT OUR SKIN
PART III – ENVIRONMENT
When it comes to the health and condition of our skin, there are two predominant factors at play; our genetics (the type of skin we were born with) and our environment (where we live, how we live). This means it’s vital that we not only understand our skin type - so we can develop the right routine to care for it – but that we’re also aware of the many external factors that can impact the health of our skin.
In this article, we examine the key environmental stressors affecting our skin and how we can lend it a helping hand by learning to manage our surroundings.
The news that the sun is the number one environmental factor we should consider when it comes to caring for our skin will shock exactly no one (or, at least, it shouldn’t!). Even so, it’s worth repeating. The sun’s rays have a detrimental effect on our skin. Not only are they the primary cause of skin cancer, they can lead to pigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, and – ultimately - premature aging of our skin.
To mitigate their impact, we need to cover up and stay out of the sun during the heat of the day, as much as possible. And, of course, we must apply sunscreen. But (we can’t stress this enough) choose a natural sunblock if you can, ideally one infused with antioxidants! That’s because most conventional sunscreens are filled with synthetic chemicals like oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate that not only harm our skin, but our environment too. Also, it’s worth remembering that many sunscreens are formulated simply to stop us getting burnt, rather than providing the kind of all-round protection that helps keep our skin in prime condition, with ingredients that soften and hydrate, as well as prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
So, for those who do prefer a synthetic sunscreen, remember to always apply a serum and/or a moisturizer first, one infused with protective natural antioxidants to help guard the skin against the aging effects of the sun’s rays (all four of our moisturizers – Daily Rituals, Hydration Agent, The Dream Cream, and Task Force Nine – and our serum – Vitamin Sea - are perfect in this regard!).
Air pollution runs a close second to UV rays in terms of environmental skin stressors. It is an ever-increasing problem, especially in major cities globally, and has a profound impact on our health and our society. WHO data shows that:
- 99% of the global population breathes air that exceeds guideline limits.
- deaths directly attributable to air pollution are in excess of 8 million per year.
- the social costs of air pollution are around $3 trillion annually.
It's a depressing set of statistics, and for those of us who care about the health of our skin, the news only gets worse. As recent studies have shown, air pollution causes uneven skin tone, inflammation, dehydration, accelerated aging, and skin cancer. This is due in no small part to fine particulate matter – nanoparticles that are up to 20x smaller than our pores – that infiltrate deep into our epidermis (and beyond), leading to a loss of collagen, ceramides, elasticity, and firmness.
If sunscreen is vital to help us counteract the negative effects of the sun’s rays, then an anti-pollution skincare regime is also increasingly important, to help us protect not only our skin, but our general wellbeing.
Here are three simple steps we can all take to help our skin mitigate the damage caused by airborne pollutants:
- Cleanse - Morning and Night: Thoroughly washing our face at least twice every day is critical to reducing the threat and burden of pollution. In the morning, cleansing should serve as the starting point to help prep our skin to face the elements, whilst at night, a deep cleanse is essential to remove not only makeup, but also the associated – and often invisible – grime, soot, and other impurities we all pick up over the course of the day. And remember, always use a mild natural cleanser! The goal is to remove pollutants before they can do too much harm, but cleansing should never come at the cost of harsh scrubbing, which can strip our skin of vital protective oils and cause the kind of drying and/or irritation which exacerbates a whole host of skin conditions, like acne or eczema.
- Keep Those Nasty Free Radicals at Bay! Pollution causes free radicals to get into our skin, poking holes in our collagen and leading to a host of skin issues we want to avoid, including hyperpigmentation, inflammation, acne, rosacea, fine lines, and – because free radicals can cause DNA damage and cell mutation – even cancer. The best way to neutralize them is to layer our skin with a serum and/or moisturizer that’s packed full of antioxidants, helping to bolster our skin’s natural defence mechanisms and ensure healthy levels of collagen, lipids, and nutrients are retained.
- Slip, Slop, Slap: Yep, we not only need sunscreen to help protect us against the sun’s UV rays, but also as an extra shield against man-made pollution. That’s because sunlight and pollution effectively act as accelerants to aging, mixing together to create a toxic brew that impairs our skin barrier, leading to inflammation and premature aging. In concert with antioxidants, a quality natural sunblock helps create a barrier that can protect our skin.