Environmental pollution is a significant problem in many large cities around the world and anti-pollution skin care is a hot new trend that came out of Asia and is making its mark across the globe now as manufacturers and ingredient suppliers alike focus their attentions on this trend.
‘Particulate matter’, also known as particle pollution or PM, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets, made up of a number of components, including acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles.
The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems, with the biggest concerns over particles that are 10 micrometres in diameter or smaller because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs.
Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects. Some particles are also classified as ‘fine’ as they are 2.5 micrometres or smaller in diameter, often found in smoke and haze.
The inhalation of these particles is of great concern, but when it comes to the skin, it is a different ball game as all different sizes of particles can be penetrated through pores and hair follicles, for example, and this has seen a surge in the number of products that can protect against this.
Speaking with Formula Botanica Director Lorraine Dallmeier, she tells us that the effect that these pollutants can have on the skin depends on the daily environmental exposure and that this will vary from location and between individuals.
“However, if you live in a large polluted city then it is very likely that your skin is being exposed to significant pollution every single day,” she says.
Much research has been carried out on the effects of pollution on the skin, and Dallmeier highlights the following as the key contributors:
- Ozone in photochemical smog appears to speed up skin ageing, by depleting Vitamin E levels in the skin, interfering with wound-healing processes and causing oxidative stress.
- Skin exposed to pollution areas experiences a higher sebum secretion rate, when compared to non-polluted areas.
- There is a tendency of the cutaneous pH to decrease when exposed to pollution. One study found a higher a significantly higher amount of lactic acid in the skin in polluted areas compared to non-polluted areas.
- Squalene and vitamin E are the main antioxidants at the surface of the skin. Squalene is decreased in polluted areas, as this antioxidant is mobilised to combat oxidative stress in the skin. Low values of both these two antioxidants is normally associated with dry skin which may be a side effect of pollution.
- Cholesterol in the skin is decreased when exposed to pollution.
According to Dallmeier, anti-pollution skin care will either include products that prevent skin damage caused by pollution, or products that rectify skin damage caused by pollution – or both.
“Anti-pollution skin care products should: incorporate adequate levels of antioxidants; have a gentle cleansing action to remove grime; aim to balance the natural oil levels of the skin; strengthen the barrier function of the skin; provide good moisturising properties; and normalise skin pH by ensuring that the product’s pH level sits in the correct pH range for the skin, 4-6.5,” she says.