The countryside seems to have a lot going for it — plenty of fresh air, plenty of green spaces, and a bit more peace and quiet than you’ll ever find in an urban area. But, life in the city also has its perks, or else people would be flocking to rural areas in droves. In an urban area, you’re near the hustle and bustle of life, there’s usually more opportunity for work and social activities, and it’s generally easier to get certain things accomplished.
One big drawback of the city is that some aspects of it might actually make you age more quickly. While today’s cities are a lot cleaner than just a few decades ago, higher levels of pollution can increase your risk for developing certain signs of aging, such as wrinkles or hyperpigmentation, at a younger age. Pollution, combined with a busier nightlife that can go hand in hand with city life, and exposure to the sun’s UV rays can make you look years older than you are.
Pollution and Your Skin
When you think of pollution, you might picture smog filled cities in the 1970s and 1980s, or even earlier. While smog might not hang heavily in the air anymore, that doesn’t mean that pollution is a thing of the past. Particulates and pollutants that you can’t see can be just as damaging, if not more so, than the ones you can see.
The tiny particles found the exhaust from cars or buses or in the smoke produced by tools at a construction site can cause oxidative stress to your skin cells. The particles also damage the collagen beneath the skin, so that it loses its support structure and is more likely to wrinkle earlier. Pollution also plays a particularly big role in the development of age spots or hyperpigmentation. When particulates sit on the skin, they stimulate the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for the spots.
Pollution doesn’t just make you look older. It can also exacerbate a number of skin conditions, particularly those related to inflammation or irritation, such as rosacea. People with very sensitive skin might find that they are more likely to have a rash or irritation when the air is heavily polluted.
Protecting Your Skin
While there isn’t pollution screen in the same way that there is sunscreen, there are a few ways you can protect your skin from the damaged caused by pollution, without having to flee the city for the nearest rural area. One option is to use more protective skincare. Look for products that contain antioxidants, such as vitamin C, to help reduce oxidative damage. You can also focus on adding more foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as vegetables, berries, and citrus fruits, to your diet.
Exfoliating, or removing the top layer of dead, damaged skin cells can also be a way to protect and improve the look of your skin. A variety of chemical peels are available to help your skin. Some peels contain antioxidants to help protect your skin from pollution damage and to help undo some of the damage caused by the pollution, such as hyperpigmentation.
Along with exfoliating, deep cleansing of the skin from time to time can also be beneficial when it comes to fighting back against the effects of pollution. You can try using a deep cleaning cleanser at home or a deep cleaning mask from to time to remove any lingering particles from your skin.
In some cases, putting a barrier between your skin and the pollution can help. Wearing foundation or a primer on your face, along with sunscreen, will help keep particulates off of your skin.
What About Rural Areas?
It’s important to note that people in rural or suburban areas aren’t exactly completely protected from the risks of pollution. While the air might be somewhat cleaner out in the country, there are still cars and trucks that pass by on busy roads. There might be a factory that spews noxious fumes into the air, too. Protecting your skin from the sun’s UV rays and from any possible pollution is just as important out in the country as in the city.
If you’re concerned about how life in the DC area is affecting the health and appearance, Dr. Jessica Kulak, an aging face specialist practicing at the Naderi Center, can help. Dr. Kulak can recommend ways to protect your skin and can discuss your options for reversing any damage caused by years of pollution or years of sun exposure. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Kulak, call (703) 481-0002 to reach the office in Herndon, Virginia or (301) 222-2020 for an appointment in Chevy Chase, Maryland.