Pollution & Skin

Pollution & Skin

When you start thinking of your skin as a barrier to the outside world, you’ll start looking at your daily habits a little bit differently. It’s easy to protect yourself from things you can see, but microscopic particles like pollution and other particulate matter can go unnoticed and can leave you exposed.

What is in air pollution?

A variety of compounds make up air pollutants, which all have a different impact on the skin. Particulate matter (abbreviated as PM) is a mixture of gas, liquid and/or solid materials that vary in size and composition. You’ll often see PM categorized by their sizes, such as PM 10, 2.5 or 0.1 which correlates to “coarse particles”, “particle matter”, or “ultrafine particles”. Cigarette smoke, heavy metals, and ozone round out the rest of what is typically categorized as the “most investigated and relevant air pollutants [that impact] the process of skin aging.”

Why do I look older?

Skin aging is caused by internal and external factors. The internal or intrinsic factors are generally brought on by the passing of time. Duh, right? As we get older, our body changes. Genetics, hormones, and overall changes in cellular processes impact the rate at which our body ages, and how those changes show up visually. But unless we’re living in a simulation (Hello, The Matrix 5), intrinsic aging is not the only way our body (and skin) ages.

In case you thought pollution was the only external factor, think again! Extrinsic or external/environmental factors are so much more than just air pollution. The MRC Centre for Environment and Health summarizes environmental stressors to include: air pollution, temperature, UV light, sleep, stress, nutrition, tobacco smoke, and alcohol intake. Research indicates that aging extrinsically is “often characterized by coarse wrinkles, pigmented spots (lentigines) and uneven skin tone.”

Simply put, intrinsic aging is the natural progression of skin, which means skin elasticity loss and appearance of fine lines over time, whereas extrinsic aging is the dramatic version that makes everything way more exaggerated and happen way faster. We all know a person like that *cue side eye*.

How can I slow down the effects of pollution on my skin?

Now that we know what is causing premature skin aging, we can discuss what to do to help maintain a youthful glow as long as naturally possible.


Even if you can’t see pollution in the air, this does not mean you can skip giving your face a good cleaning every single night. Before you wind down, it’s important to refresh your skin barrier. For a quick and simple cleanse, wipe off the day with a no-rinse Refreshing Micellar Water. If you have more time to spare or need a deeper clean, reach for a bubbly Purifying Cleanser to lift all those impurities left on your skin surface.

We can hear the noncommittal phrases already – “I wash my face in the morning, it’s fine” or “I’m just too tired to do all of that.” You might be wondering what happens if you skip a few days and don’t clean your face every night? A study conducted on pollution-induced skin aging indicated that the effect of pigment spot formation or hyperpigmentation was strongest with soot or carbon particles in the nano- to micrometer range. The ultrafine particles we mentioned earlier could be wreaking havoc in your skin’s layers, encouraging formation of dark spots. So, wash up or watch the spots start to appear.


Without getting too scientific, a lot of processes and mechanisms in your cells are regulated by oxidative stress. When unchecked, oxidative stress can lead to oxidative damage. To us skincare besties, this can mean an increase in hyperpigmentation and/or loss of collagen structure and integrity, aka saggy or wrinkly skin. Antioxidants are utilized in skin care, nutrition, and overall health care to combat the effects of free radicals and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).

The entire Defend Collection was created to boost your skin’s antioxidant activity. Each product helps your skin barrier fight against and prevent the effects of free radicals to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.


We already know that UVA and UVB rays are damaging to your skin, which is why you’ll always hear every skincare expert and dermatologist telling you that you absolutely need to protect your skin and wear sunscreen every day. But did you know that combining even low concentrations of contaminants found in air pollution (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon or PAH) with harmful UVA contributes to increased oxidative damage in the skin, which in turn increases the effect of extrinsic aging? Premature aging on top of premature aging with all of these combined effects!

Shield your skin from the elements and keep it hydrated all day long with Matte Finish Daily Moisturizer with All-Mineral SPF 30. It’s sheer on all skin tones, has broad spectrum protection for both UVA and UVB rays, and creates a physical barrier from pollutants.

What do I do now?

The pollution challenges around the world don’t seem to be going away any time soon. That’s why it is important for us to keep taking steps to maintain our own barrier to keep us protected.

So, the next time you clean your house and think to yourself “where does all this dust come from?!” just remember that your skin is also exposed to external environmental factors that can accumulate and damage your skin barrier function and skin health. Consistent skincare rituals can help you feel and look healthy and glowing.


About the author, Jasmin Figueroa
Jasmin is an accomplished formulation scientist and skin health expert who has spent her career listening to consumers and developing products that rock. A founding member of the Nuria community, she loves traveling with her family, chilling with her friends at the beach, and will totally judge you if you don’t wear SPF.


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