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by Raychel Agramon, June 09, 2021
Do you love the hustle and bustle of city living? While the big city may offer a central, convenient location, its polluted surroundings can do some damage to your skin. According to experts, environmental toxins may trigger breakouts, even an untreatable variant called “chloracne”.
How Pollution Affects the Skin
As per Aesthetician Bella Schneider, environmental pollution affects the skin in a bad way. “Living in urban areas where there is a lot of pollution - dirt, debris, dust - it's common for it to collect on your face and block your pores, ” she said in her interview with the Daily Mail.
While the skin is designed to get rid of such pollutants, the body may be slow to respond in the face of excessive exposure. As such, this ‘toxin overload’ may lead to acne, rashes, and other skin conditions.
Annie Tevelin, on the other hand, cites the pollution’s effects on the body itself as a driving force behind acne. “Pollution weakens the skin's immunity,” she explained in her interview.
According to a study by Parrado et al., pollution may compromise skin immunity by impairing the skin barrier. A damaged skin barrier is more susceptible to germs and pollutants that trigger breakouts.
She also added that pollution affects the body’s “ability to fight off free radicals.” These harmful substances, which are brought about by exposure to pollution, smoking, and UV rays, can damage the skin as well. They can trigger inflammation, which blocks the pores and results in acne.
Chloracne: a Severe Form of Environmentally-Related Acne
Chloracne is a condition caused by chronic exposure to environmental pollutants called chloracnegens. One of the more popular examples is dioxin, a chemical compound that can affect hormones and trigger certain cancers.
While chloracne often occurs in occupations in close contact with herbicides, it can occur in other populations as well. Contaminated food or industrial wastes can also lead to chloracne.
Chloracne often appears as non-inflammatory comedones and strawberry cysts. According to Ju et al., it may also manifest as lesion/s on the face, neck, underarms, trunk, extremities, even the genitals. These manifestations are signs that the system has already been poisoned by chloracnegens.
Since this cannot be managed with the usual acne treatments, the best way to prevent chloracne is to prevent exposure to chloracnegens.
Combating Pollution-Related Acne
City living calls for a ‘unique’ kind of regimen. After all, you are always exposed to smoke, pollutants, and other harmful factors. Here are the products that can help you maintain clear skin despite the presence of urban pollution:
Because pollution brings about acne-causing free radicals, consuming antioxidants proves to be one of the best ways to fight breakouts. Antioxidants help neutralize these harmful substances, thereby keeping the skin clean and clear.
One of the best pollution-fighters out there is Vitamin C, which can be found in citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, and several supplements. Ascorbic acid binds effectively to free radicals, neutralizing them before they can damage the cells.
In her Allure interview, dermatologist Patricia Wexler further explained that Vitamin C “aids in your skin's natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells." Since Vitamin C can speed up the healing process, it can also help make acne marks ‘disappear’ faster.
Also known as Vitamin B3, Niacinamide is an antioxidant that works well against free radicals. In her Glamour UK interview, pharmacist Shabir Daya said that "It (Niacinamide) has been shown to strengthen the skin barrier function."
In other words, Niacinamide can help ‘trap’ moisture, which keeps the barrier plump and strong. This makes the skin more effective in defending itself from pollutants and other substances that may cause acne.
Daya also added that “Niacinamide has been shown to regulate oil secretion.” This is particularly helpful in preventing breakouts since excessive sebum can clog the pores and trigger pimples.
Niacinamide is also known to have anti-bacterial properties, and as such is effective against pimple-causing Propionibacterium acnes.
With these features, regular Niacinamide consumption may help keep pollution-caused acne at bay. Good sources include meat, fish, eggs, beans, green vegetables, and whole grains.
Niacinamide may be obtained through supplements as well.
Probiotics or ‘beneficial bacteria’ are some of the fiercest defenders against acne. For one, they can help boost one’s immunity. As such, these microbes can help strengthen your skin’s defenses against P. acnes, a microbe that causes breakouts.
Probiotics also have anti-inflammatory properties, making them useful against acne, itself an ‘inflammatory’ condition. According to a study by Porubski et al., strains such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria are known to help reduce the amounts of cytokines. These substances are known to trigger inflammation in the body.
The same study also shows that probiotics may help reduce oxidative stress. This is usually brought about by free radicals, which are generated by exposure to pollutants, smoke, and UV rays. Since free radicals trigger inflammation (and subsequent acne), probiotics’ anti-oxidative properties may help curb pimple development as well.
Probiotics can be obtained from fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha, among many others. They are also available in supplements, which provide millions of beneficial colony-forming units per capsule.
As mentioned, pollution-related dirt and debris can clog the pores and lead to pimples. As such, Scheider emphasizes the need for thorough face cleansing. You can do so effectively with anti-pollution skincare, which, as the name suggests, is suitable for people living in urban areas.
To make the most out of anti-pollution skincare, make sure to use products made with antioxidants (including Vitamin C and Niacinamide) and probiotic extracts. This makes for a 1-2 punch against environmental acne, especially if you are supplementing yourself with the aforementioned substances.
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Environmental pollution can cause acne in a variety of ways. They lead to toxic deposits that end up clogging the pores. They can also weaken skin immunity, making it less effective against damaging free radicals.
As such, the body needs antioxidants or substances that can help neutralize these harmful molecules. Good examples include Vitamin C, Niacinamide, and Probiotics. These nutrients – whether taken orally or used as skin care – may help boost the skin's defense against environmental aggressors.
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