Is Air Pollution Damaging Our Skin?

WORDS: SOPHIE HENDERSON
FEATURE IMAGE: CAROLINA PIMENTA

A seismic shift is erupting right across the beauty industry, as beauty marketers begin to hone in on the various impacts of environmental change to our planet. Anti-ageing and sun protection have remained a definitive way to target and encourage the younger generation to purchase new skincare, but for a growing majority so aware of sudden changes to the world around them, the likes of smoke and car fumes seem upmost detrimental to optimum health and skin conditions.

For those of us living in major cities, or any form of urban environment, pollution is becoming increasingly visible. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, wrote in his initial manifesto that ‘10,000 of our fellow Londoners die prematurely each year, because of air so filthy it is actually illegal,’ and he was referring to harmful air conditions in and around the UK capital. However, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds guideline limits. It may not be entirely visible, but air pollution is widespread, and the damage caused to our skin is just beginning to be explored, and understood.

Larissa Jenson, beauty industry analyst at NPD Group spoke to the Business of Fashion, announcing that in order for the anti-pollution category to accelerate, “the consumer will need to understand the difference between all of the environmental stressors.” They’ll also need to know why these products are integral to a daily routine. “Like any new area of the market,” she continues, “brands need to invest time and energy into having that conversation with the consumer on why this should be important and how it helps prevent damage.”

But what exactly is air pollution? And how can I reduce the risk of damage?

The WHO separates air pollution into two categories: Ambient (outdoor) and Household. They define air pollution as the ‘contamination of both indoor and outdoor environments by any chemical, physical or biological agent.’ Essentially, the air quality surrounding the vast majority of us is not as it should be.

The world of skincare is beginning to acknowledge Air Pollution, and so it must be doing something to our skin, right?

Smog starves your skin of oxygen and dries out natural oils; this results in premature skin ageing, causing wrinkles, dark spots and loss of skin elasticity. Ozone (a pale blue gas with a sharp odour reminiscent of chlorine) quickly strips away vital Vitamin E, and there is also an increased risk of conditions such as eczema.

Various brands – such as Oskia, Kiehls and Munrad – are developing products specifically aimed air pollution. Besides investing:

To help support the World Health Organisation’s plea for cleaner air, tweet with the hashtags #AirPollution, #BreatheLife and #CleanAir4Health.