The term "acid rain" may sound alarming. Despite containing the word 'rain', acid rain doesn't only occur when the sky is cloudy and pouring water to the earth's surface.
According to the U.S. , deposition of acidic components such as sulfuric acid (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) to the ground from the atmosphere can occur in wet or dry forms. Although nature does produce these chemicals, for instance from volcanic activity, most of the sulfuric acid and nitrogen oxides that cause acid rain come from burning fossil fuels. They then react with water, oxygen, and other chemicals in the environment to form airborne sulfuric and nitric acid before being precipitated back to the ground. SO2 and NOx can not only appear in the rain, snow, and fog but also in dust and gases. These two compounds can be transported by wind, contributing to the surging severity of pollution in both bustling cities and tranquil countryside.
UV radiation is one of the most deleterious villains that we need to fight. However, research suggests that other environmental pollutions (e.g. heavy metals, volatile gases, particulate matter, etc.) affect skin health through several potential mechanisms such as generating free radicals and disrupting the skin protective barrier. Another study indicates that both indoor and outdoor pollution contributes to exacerbating skin damage leading to accelerated aging, uneven skin tone, dark pigmentation spots, excessive sebum excretion, and moisture loss.
If we have to live among these pollutants, how do we keep them at bay and protect ourselves from the catastrophic effects (aside from avoiding exposure, of course)?
Wash It Off Before Bed
The importance of removing the grime from your skin after being exposed to all sorts of contaminants cannot be stressed enough. Board-certified dermatologist, Kellie Reed, M.D., of Westlake Dermatology suggests to Healthline that cleansing reduces the particle load of pollutants on the skin.
Obviously, if you have been wearing makeup, you need to remove them so your pores don’t get clogged. However, not wearing makeup is not an excuse for you from skipping this vital skincare routine. Without proper cleansing, dirt and micropollutants might still linger on your skin and block your pores. We don't want that, do we?
Since this is the first step in protecting your skin against environmental damages, invest in a mild, natural, anti-pollution cleanser that offers deep cleansing or purifying benefits without stripping off the skin layer too much. You can also look for ingredients such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid in your facial cleansers, as they can penetrate your skin at a deeper level and dissolve particulates that may clog pores.
Neutralize The Free Radicals
On top of the naturally produced free radicals, contact with pollutants will aggravate the free radical content in our bodies. Research has mentioned that UV rays increase free radical production even more. So, what can we do to hinder these excessive free radicals? We can't just let them wander around breaking our collagen down and causing wrinkles, can we? Of course not! Therefore, we need antioxidants to help us.
You might've heard of ingredients like vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (tocopherol), and resveratrol. Those are only a few of the many antioxidants that are commonly found in skincare products. It has been shown by research that daily topical application of serum containing vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid prevents pollution-induced damage to the skin. Suppose that's not enough evidence of the powerful antioxidants. In that case, another study done by researchers in Italy shows that the subjects experienced improvements in skin hydration levels and dark spots after applying serum with vitamin C and ferulic acid.
For the antioxidants to work their magic, the key is to layer on the serum before applying moisturizer. Applying serum will allow the skin to absorb the active ingredients better because serums are intended to penetrate deeply into the skin, said Corey L. Hartman, MD, FAAD, to Byrdie. So, after cleansing and patting your fresh face with toner, don't forget to drip some antioxidant serum.
One tiny thing to keep in mind, some people might have an allergic reaction to certain antioxidants. So you might want to do a patch test first or consult your dermatologist before trying anything new.
Shield Up With Moisturizers and Sunscreens
A fragile barrier will allow microparticles and UV rays to penetrate the skin easily and compromise our health. Meanwhile, a solid defense makes it harder for the invader to enter. That's what we want for our skin, a strong protective barricade against pollution particles.
Regularly applying moisturizer will not only help keep our skin hydrated but also strengthen our top skin layer. Moisturizers aim to fortify the surface of the skin, effectively bind skin cells, and increase hydration. GABI+SKIN's Facial Hydrating Lotion is all-natural, vegan, and packed with antioxidants and moisture trapping ingredients.
But, hold on. The journey doesn't stop there. Dr. Adam Mamelak, a board-certified dermatologist, explained to Healthline that some pollutants are activated by UV radiation before they become detrimental. Therefore, incorporating sunscreen into our skincare routine is a must. Look for mineral-based products that include either zinc oxide or titanium oxide with at least SPF 30.
Induce Skin Regeneration
Exfoliation removes dead skin cells, promotes the growth of new skin cells, and speeds up skin damage repair. By exfoliating regularly, both physically and chemically, we induce the thickening of our protective barrier which will result in healthier-looking skin.
For a physical exfoliant, we recommend GABI+SKIN's Exfoliating Coffee Scrub. It is made from natural ingredients filled with anti-aging and antioxidant ingredients that will leave your skin smooth and moisturized. You read that right! It's an exfoliant that won't make your skin dry and flaky.
In addition, a simple lifestyle change may also contribute to stimulating skin cell regeneration. For instance, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating healthily by opting for food with generous antioxidant properties will boost your metabolism.