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We Had No Idea How Damaging Pollution Is To Your Skin

A dermatologist breaks it down for you.
PHOTO: Getty
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Dr. Justine Hextall, consultant dermatologist on behalf of The Harley Medical Group, recognizes a huge link between pollution and your skin. Below, she explains.

1. Skipping cleansing at night allows pollution particles to deeper penetrate your skin.

These particles are ten to twenty times smaller than our pore size, which allows them to infiltrate deeper layers of the skin, causing not only inflammation and dehydration but also a cellular-level reaction that leads to lost elasticity and firmnessNight time is when our skin regenerates, so it's the perfect time to apply an anti-oxidant serum and protect against that daytime free radical damage from pollution, stress, and UV exposure.

2. Free radicals can trigger acne or wrinkles.

When pollution gets into your skin, it creates free radicals, highly unstable molecules that have unpaired electrons. These molecules remove electrons from healthy skin cells, leading to damage. Free radicals can increase inflammation, which may trigger acne, rosacea, and skin pigmentation. Free radicals also regulate damaging enzymes such as MMP-1, which break down collagen and elastin, our skin's scaffolding. This leads to skin sagging and wrinkles.

3. Air quality impacts water quality, too.

As a dermatologist, I find the greatest effect on skin comes from the water quality in an area. Areas with hard water , containing a lot of minerals, can be very drying and irritating to skin. Exposure to pollution will also definitely create an effect, but usually over a longer period of time.

4. Exposure to dirty air can cause dull, dry skin.

Pollution is made of microparticles that penetrate deep into the skin. They cause free radical damage that leads to inflammation, dryness, pigmentation, and damage to collagen and elastin, leading to wrinkles. Once the skin barrier becomes dry and inflamed, it becomes less effective. As a consequence, the skin finds it harder to retain moisture and is less of a barrier against irritants and infections. Such skin could be referred to as sensitive.

5. It can inflame rosacea and skin pigmentation.

Air pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), volatile organic compounds(VOC), oxides, ozone, and cigarette smoke damage our skin. Once the skin's natural oils are damaged , there is increased water loss. This leaves the skin dry, inflamed, and vulnerable to further irritants and inflammation. Free radical damage leaves the skin pigmented, wrinkled, and sensitive to inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors. 

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