Environmental Exposure – Pollution and Premature Ageing

  • UV radiation is not the only environmental factor that causes skin ageing.
  • A landmark study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology compared women living in urban and rural environments over 24 years and found that those living in the urban area that had been exposed to increased pollution had more dark spots and wrinkling.
  • Microscopic particles are released into the atmosphere every second from fires, power plants, construction sites and motor vehicles.
  • These tiny chemical particles create an invisible but toxic film on the surface of the skin.
  • The microscopic size of the particles allows them to easily penetrate the skin pores, making their way through the deeper layers of the skin to eventually target the skin cell nucleus.
  • They create a cascade of intracellular damage.
  • This process is driven by the activation of free radicals leading to oxidative stress.
  • It also triggers a phenomenon known as replicative senescence; this is a process of cellular ageing, where the cell can no longer replicate.
  • This is a natural process, but it can be triggered prematurely by the effects of UV radiation and environmental toxins.
  • The negative effect of this process is the shortening of telomeres at the ends of DNA strands, which help ensure chromosomal stability.
  • Skin cells are some of the most rapidly dividing cells in the body; when DNA is damaged, it is susceptible to replicative senescence, which means they are no longer able to divide, multiply and repair themselves.
  • The additive effect of these processes leads to intracellular and collateral inflammation and dehydration of skin cells and surrounding structures.
  • This causes collagen breakdown and damages the lipid layer of the skin, thus impairing its barrier function, which manifests itself in the loss of elasticity, firmness and volume.

Effects of pollutant exposed skin:

  • Inflammation
  • Oxidative stress
  • Protein, DNA & Lipid damage
  • Skin irritation or allergies
  • Clogs pores and worsens acne


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