How your skin care could protect you from pollution

Like many teenagers, Nicolas Travis struggled with severe acne. But he did something about it."My experience w...

Posted: Mar 21, 2018 11:01 AM
Updated: Mar 21, 2018 11:01 AM

Like many teenagers, Nicolas Travis struggled with severe acne. But he did something about it.

"My experience with acne sparked off my passion for skin care," the 30-year-old said. "I wanted to go back to basics and treat the most fundamental aspect of skin health: a healthy barrier."

Air pollution may aggravate skin conditions such as acne and skin cancer

Anti-pollution products aim to protect against UV rays and fight oxidation

Growing up in Asia, where air pollution is rampant, Travis wanted to protect his skin against pollution, which he thinks aggravated his acne. It took him years to get it under control after trying a number of products such as antibiotics and cortisone shots.

"Pollution is a huge contributor of inflammation, and you can't really run away from it," Travis said.

The Singaporean man studied biomedical and pharmaceutical science at the University of Bradford in the UK and, in 2016, launched a skin care company, Allies of Skin. The products aim to utilize the antioxidant properties of ingredients such as Moringa and Manuka honey, which are thought to help strengthen the structure of skin and fight damaging molecules -- in turn, protecting it.

Pollution and your skin

Air pollution can lead to skin aging and the worsening of inflammatory skin diseases like eczema, acne and psoriasis, said Dr. Chan Yung, a dermatologist with the Apex Dermatology Institute in Hong Kong. It can also increase the risk of skin cancer.

Yung recommends combating these effects by wearing sunscreen and a hat, even using an umbrella during the daytime. But he also advises the use of an antioxidant to help reduce oxidative stress from free radicals.

A topical antioxidant is best, he said, because the oral absorption of vitamins is limited, leaving the amount available for skin further reduced.

White blood cells produce free radicals from oxygen to kill bacteria or viruses, explains Linwei Tian, an environmental epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong. When they are exposed to air pollution, these free radicals may be created to fight off potential pollution deposits, but as the white blood cells cannot kill the pollution particles, more white blood cells come in, creating even more free radicals, causing oxidative stress and inflammation.

Traffic-related air pollution has also been shown to cause the formation of lentigenes -- dark spots on the skin -- in women in Germany and China, with the most pronounced changes on the cheeks of Asian women over 50, according to research in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

A recent study in China found that indoor air pollution, due to close proximity to smokers, cooking fuels and roads, can also cause skin aging.

But while studies like these suggest a direct correlation between air pollution and skin damage, Dr. Henry HL Chan, a dermatologist with the Hong Kong Dermatology and Laser Center and a professor at the University of Hong Kong, said it's hard to find exact statistics on just how big a role pollution plays.

Two factors cause the greatest damage -- sun and smoke -- and when air particles cause free radical damage to cells, certain parts of our cells are not replaceable, Chan said.

Protecting yourself

Many skin products, like Travis' Allies of Skin, utilize the properties of antioxidants to help prevent the formation of free radicals.

Moringa leaf extract, which is rich in antioxidants, was the most commonly used botanical in anti-pollution claims, used in 6% of product launches in 2015, according to Mintel, a global market intelligence agency.

Other anti-pollution products protect by serving as a barrier to air pollution. For example, the Shiseido brand IHADA claims to prevent air pollution particles from adhering to the skin. Shiseido won an award for a shield technology to keep off air pollutants from the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists in 2017.

Anti-pollution products first appeared on the market 10 years ago, according to Mintel, which covers 38,000 thousand product launches a month. More than one in three (38%) beauty products launched with an anti-pollution claim in the Asia-Pacific market in 2016, up from 28% in 2015, according to Mintel's study.

Clarins, now on its seventh-generation anti-pollution complex, was one of the first on the market in 1991. Spokesman Lucas Petry said the company's products are enriched with plant extracts like African ebony, Furcellaria, Alpine sanicle and Lampsana to protect skin from free radicals, treat scarring and soothe irritation.

But Chan and other experts question the true effectiveness of these products, saying there is no way to prove that skin care products can prevent possible skin damage from pollution.

Many of these skin care products may have antioxidant properties, Chan said, but the billion-dollar question is whether they are concentrated enough to really combat damage and the aging process.

Instead, the University of Hong Kong professor recommends using a simple skin cleanser and ingesting antioxidant supplements such as vitamin C and E.

Air pollution in Asia

Antioxidants work by fighting how the body is trying to combat pollution, and skin care products build a barrier aimed at stopping pollution from getting into the body in the first place.

But neither option fights the pollution itself, so environmental epidemiologist Tian argues that we should instead work toward legislation for clean air.

The World Health Organization describes air pollution as a "public health emergency," causing 3 million deaths a year from outdoor pollution and 6 million deaths from indoor pollution in 2016.

Much of this air pollution occurs in Asia. In a study of 482 cities in the region, 99.6% were exposed to unhealthy air quality levels based on WHO guidelines, according to Clean Asia Air, an international nongovernmental organization that works toward better air quality and healthier, more livable cities.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 135372

Reported Deaths: 2406
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin34290991
Ramsey14168361
Dakota9897138
Anoka8872150
Washington598672
Stearns588344
Scott342934
Olmsted327730
St. Louis302669
Wright254115
Clay232843
Nobles227616
Blue Earth20457
Carver18207
Sherburne171122
Kandiyohi17055
Rice164810
Mower152917
Winona126019
Chisago10402
Crow Wing103522
Lyon9766
Benton9509
Waseca9299
Beltrami9017
Otter Tail8737
Todd8266
Steele7613
Morrison7429
Nicollet73917
Itasca73617
Douglas7083
Freeborn6844
Polk6734
Le Sueur6315
Martin61317
McLeod6024
Goodhue59711
Watonwan5794
Becker5754
Isanti5615
Pine5490
Carlton4441
Chippewa4443
Mille Lacs41315
Hubbard3962
Dodge3940
Wabasha3840
Cass3775
Pipestone35117
Rock3404
Meeker3313
Brown3243
Unassigned29253
Yellow Medicine2856
Murray2833
Cottonwood2820
Redwood28111
Roseau2650
Fillmore2640
Renville25611
Sibley2543
Wadena2393
Faribault2350
Jackson2151
Kanabec21510
Swift2071
Houston2061
Pennington1951
Lincoln1840
Stevens1841
Aitkin1792
Koochiching1704
Pope1610
Big Stone1410
Lac qui Parle1403
Wilkin1374
Marshall1261
Lake1230
Norman1170
Mahnomen1162
Clearwater1140
Grant994
Red Lake782
Traverse570
Lake of the Woods441
Kittson420
Cook170

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 116514

Reported Deaths: 1643
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk19024288
Woodbury724797
Johnson586230
Black Hawk562698
Linn5591132
Dubuque521157
Scott456639
Story401018
Dallas346344
Pottawattamie324744
Sioux244716
Buena Vista226112
Marshall202036
Webster184415
Plymouth166728
Wapello153062
Clinton149226
Muscatine147758
Des Moines139610
Cerro Gordo137726
Crawford136114
Warren12617
Carroll115612
Jasper111234
Henry10675
Marion101810
Lee95610
Tama94837
Delaware78013
Dickinson7417
Wright7271
Boone7239
Mahaska69724
Bremer6779
Washington66211
Harrison65815
Jackson6333
Benton5902
Lyon5537
Clay5354
Louisa52315
Winnebago49719
Hardin4777
Winneshiek4779
Hamilton4754
Cedar4746
Kossuth4690
Poweshiek45911
Buchanan4544
Jones4474
Floyd43711
Emmet43019
Clayton4233
Iowa4109
Page4060
Mills4053
Cherokee4032
Sac3994
Guthrie39515
Cass3903
Butler3832
Fayette3814
Franklin38118
Shelby3732
Allamakee3719
Madison3623
Chickasaw3611
Clarke3523
Humboldt3253
Hancock3204
Palo Alto3142
Grundy3115
Calhoun3094
Osceola2851
Mitchell2811
Howard2709
Monroe25911
Monona2451
Taylor2432
Jefferson2391
Union2314
Appanoose2273
Pocahontas2262
Fremont2061
Lucas2056
Ida1932
Greene1870
Van Buren1802
Davis1784
Montgomery1787
Adair1701
Keokuk1611
Decatur1500
Audubon1481
Worth1450
Wayne1213
Ringgold882
Adams810
Unassigned110
Rochester
Clear
20° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 7°
Mason City
Clear
23° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 13°
Albert Lea
Clear
23° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 12°
Austin
Clear
25° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 15°
Charles City
Clear
27° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 17°
Temps gradually warming through the week!
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events