How to Protect Your Skin from the Environment

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How to Protect Your Skin from the Environment
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From the sun’s UV rays to air pollution, many do not realize just how damaging the environment can be to the skin. 

It isn’t just the outdoor environment either…

Even the light from your phone or television screen can end up causing significant amounts of skin damage. 

Want to know how to keep your skin protected from all of these environmental onslaughts? 

Here are a few steps to take…

Protecting Your Skin from the Sun

The biggest culprit when it comes to skin damage is the sun and its UV rays.

The sun emits three types of UV rays; UVA, UVB and UVC. 

Fortunately, UVC rays are absorbed by the atmosphere before they end up reaching the surface of the planet, meaning that you only have the other two to worry about. 

Wondering what UVA and UVB rays actually do to your skin? 

Quite a bit, such as: 

  • UVA – destroy the skin’s structural proteins, leading to a loss of firmness, elasticity and smoothness. They are the leading cause of wrinkles when it comes to aging skin, and can even penetrate through glass 
  • UVB – directly responsible for sunburns, sun spots, and other sun-causing skin blemishes and discolorations. They also play a major role when it comes to the development of skin cancers

So, how do you protect your skin from both of those rays? 

The answer is a sunscreen. 

When it comes to choosing a sunscreen…

Many people tend to only focus on SPF rating. This is definitely important, and you need an SPF of at least 30 to keep your skin adequately protected from the sun. 

However, the SPF rating system only measures how effective a sunscreen is at protecting against UVB rays.

In order to ensure that a sunscreen protects against UVA rays too, it must state that it is a broad spectrum sunscreen. 

Infographic on sunscreen protecting skin from UVA and UVB rays

In addition to making sure that your skin is always protected by a sunscreen, you should also take additional steps to keep your skin protected from the sun. 

Wondering what else you can do? 

Try staying in the shade during the hottest hours of the day, which are usually between 11am and 3pm, although this varies depending on where you live. 

Sun-protecting accessories, such as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, can also make a huge difference to the level of protection your skin receives. 

Protecting Your Skin from Air Pollution

You may not realize it, but air pollution is something that can cause some serious skin damage. 

Not only can this lead to hyperpigmentation, rough patches, acne and a dull complexion, but the toxins in air pollution also rapidly accelerate the rate at which your skin ages. 

How does it do this? 

By destroying the collagen and elastin within your skin, while also creating free radicals that damage the DNA in your skin cells. 

Research has found that living in a polluted area causes your skin to age faster than those who don’t live in a polluted area. By the time you reach the age of 60, you will have the skin of a 62.5 year old, and this isn’t taking into account any other environmental or lifestyle factors.

You are probably thinking…

Air pollution is all around me, how am I meant to protect my skin from it? 

There are a few different ways in which you can do this, such as: 

  • Cleansing and exfoliating – cleansing at the end of each day helps to remove pollutants from the surface of your skin, while exfoliating a couple of times a week will clear your pores out of any pollutants that have managed to work their way inside 
  • Moisturize – this creates a physical barrier between your skin and the environment, preventing pollutants from penetrating into your skin 
  • Don’t smoke – tobacco smoke is a form of air pollution. If you are a smoker, then you are directly exposing your skin to these toxins each time you light up. Plus, smoking damages your skin from within too, giving you even more reasons to quit the habit 

While all of those methods will help to protect your skin from further damage caused by pollutants, what about the damage that has already occurred? 

The answer to this lies in antioxidants. 

In order to fight against the pollutants being encountered, your white blood cells create free radicals to kill the bacteria. However, pollution particles cannot be killed, meaning that the free radicals end up attacking healthy skin cells, creating more free radicals and resulting in a vicious cycle. 

This then leads to oxidative stress, inflammation, accelerated aging and more. 

 

Illustration demonstrating a cell undergoing oxidative stress

How do antioxidants help with this? 

Well, free radicals are essentially atoms that are missing an electron. The reason why they attack other cells is to steal their electrons in order to heal themselves. 

Antioxidants contain several spare electrons, which they then give to free radicals, therefore neutralizing them and turning them back into healthy cells. 

Of course, there are certain antioxidants that are better than others when it comes to tackling the effects of pollution on the skin…

Here are some of the best ones to try: 

  • Vitamin C – reduces oxidative stress and neutralizes free radicals, while also increasing the production of collagen and fading away dark spots
  • Retinol – encourages the natural exfoliation process, enabling the skin to rid itself of toxins itself. Retinol is also one of the best ingredients out there for tackling the visible signs of aging, which can often be brought on by exposure to air pollution 
  • Vitamin E – heals the skin and increases elasticity 
  • Resveratrol – antimicrobial properties that protect against air pollution, while also extending the lifespan of cells within the body
  • Polyphenols – found in green tea and fruit extracts, polyphenols increase the way in which the skin is able to protect itself from pollutants, while also speeding up skin healing

The best way to deliver these products to your skin is through a serum. 

Why a serum? 

Because they consist of lightweight formulas that the skin can quickly and easily absorb, meaning that the active ingredients within a serum will penetrate deep into your skin’s layers and bring about a more significant change.

Think you’re safe because you don’t live in a polluted area? 

Don’t forget to take indoor air pollution into account too. Everything from cooking fumes to fire smoke can lead to the same effects as pollution from a city environment, meaning that even those in unpolluted areas will likely still benefit from taking the steps to protect their skin from air pollution. 

Protecting Your Skin from Dry Indoor Air

Now that the colder months are approaching, you are likely going to be spending more time indoors, and will probably be exposed to some form of indoor heating. 

Whether this may be an electric heater or a fireplace, just about every form of indoor heating has the effect of drying out the air around it. 

Of course, this isn’t an issue solely limited to the winter months, as even the air conditioning used during the summer can have this same effect. 

Why is dry air such a bad thing? 

Because when the air around you is dry, the rate at which water evaporates from your skin drastically increases. 

This then leaves your skin looking and feeling dry, dull and dehydrated. 

So, what can you do about this? 

Well, prevention is always better than cure, so that means finding a way to prevent the air within your home from drying out. 

The best way to do this is with a humidifier. 

These add moisture back into the air, reducing the amount of moisture that ends up evaporating from your skin. 

Using a moisturizer is also essential…

When applied, a moisturizer forms a thin film over the surface of your skin. This helps to keep the moisture from the moisturizer itself locked into your skin, while also preventing the moisture already in your skin from evaporating. 

The thicker and a greasier a moisturizer is, the better it will be at helping your skin to retain moisture. 

Protecting Your Skin from Cold Temperatures

Cold temperatures actually have a similar effect on your skin as dry indoor air, which is mentioned above, due to the fact that cold air is also usually lacking in humidity. 

This makes a thick moisturizer essential, as the cold will end up stripping your skin of its moisture. 

Other topical ointments may also be necessary, especially if you tend to experience dryness or flakiness in cold temperatures. 

In addition to topical products, you can also protect your skin from the cold through the clothes that you wear. 

Layers are always best in cold climates, with clothing made from smooth and natural fibers. Try to avoid wool, as this can end up irritating the skin, leading to rashes and itching. 

Dietary improvements can also make a difference to your skin in cold temperatures…

Try to incorporate more essential fatty acids into your diet.

Why? 

Because research shows that these may be noticeably effective when it comes to replenishing the skin’s natural oils, which it needs in order to keep itself protected and hydrated when exposed to cold temperatures.

Where can you find these essential fatty acids? 

Here are a few of the best sources: 

  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts and other nuts 
  • Oily fish, such as salmon and sardines 
  • Peanut butter and other nut butters 
  • Certain oils, such as olive, wheat germ and canola 

They can also be found in smaller quantities in whole grains, beans and other vegetables. 

One more thing to keep in mind when in cold temperatures…

You may think that you don’t need a sunscreen, but the sun’s UV rays are still present, no matter how cold it may be outside. If you are surrounded by snow, this actually reflects and magnifies UV rays, making sunscreen even more important. 

Protecting Your Skin from Electronic Devices

The idea that your electronic devices may be damaging your skin likely seems absurd, but this is actually a serious problem that many aren’t aware of. 

Wondering how these devices actually cause skin damage? 

It is primarily due to the HEV light, which stands for High Energy Visible Light, emitted from these devices. This is more commonly referred to as blue light. 

How does this affect the skin? 

In small doses, you’re pretty much safe, but excessive blue light can lead to the following: 

  • Increased cell oxidation 
  • Hyperpigmentation 
  • Inflammation 
  • A damaged skin barrier 
  • Accelerated aging 
  • Uneven skin tone 
  • Skin dullness  

This is all down to the wavelength of blue light, since it produces a significant amount of energy that then interferes with the skin’s natural functions. 

When it comes to protecting your skin from all of this, you have a couple of different options…

The first is to purchase an HEV light-protecting skin care product. 

These will contain certain ingredients, such as fractured melanin compounds and lutein, that are able to filter away the blue light, preventing it from entering into the skin. Many of these products will also offer additional protection against other forms of environmental skin damage, making them well worth the investment. 

Don’t want to splurge on specialized skin care? 

You don’t need to, because there is another fix…

There are several apps out there that you can download onto your devices to filter the blue light that is emitted. 

Here are a few to try: 

  • Night Shift
  • F.lux
  • Twilight

They are available across just about every platform, and are worth downloading onto each of your devices, especially the ones that you use most frequently. 

Learning about all of the many ways in which the environment can damage your skin may seem frightening at first, but there are always steps that you can take to prevent this from happening. From wearing a sunscreen regularly to keeping your skin hydrated when the air is dry, making the effort to protect your skin from the environment now will pay off big time in the long run. 

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