How to Protect Your Skin from Air Pollution

Posted by Brooklyn S. on

We all know the significance of cleansing our faces at the end of the day. However, when we cleanse our skin before hitting the sack, it's usually to draw out all the dirt, oil, and makeup from the skin's surface. UV rays, microbes, free radicals, and other airborne pollutants that come in contact with our skin throughout the day can wreak havoc on the skin.

Unfortunately, there has been a spike in the levels of these toxic elements in our surroundings, making our skin even more prone to damage caused by air pollutants and environmental stressors that we may not even be aware of. Let’s understand how air pollution and environmental damage can affect your skin and how to protect it against it.

What is Environmental Pollution?

Environmental pollution refers to the toxic compounds found in our surroundings, such as chemicals, gases, microbes, or other harmful particles in the air. Some of these environmental pollutants occur naturally, while most of them are a result of human activities. Smoke and chemicals emitted from warehouses, automobiles, cigarettes, wildfires, improper waste management, burning fossil fuel, and certain household activities can lead to environmental pollution. Our skin is regularly exposed to the environmental pollutants caused by these factors and gets affected due to their detrimental effects on the skin cells.

How Environmental Pollution Affects the Skin?

Air pollutants can cause cell damage, collagen breakdown, weaken the skin’s protective barrier, trigger premature aging, cause inflammation, and lead to many other adverse effects on the skin. Some of the common skin issues that result from environmental damage include:

  • Premature Aging: Aging of the skin is a natural process, but pollutants, like heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), cause oxidative stress and inflammation in the skin, accelerating the aging process, resulting in wrinkles, fine lines, discoloration, and a dull complexion.
  • Skin Dryness: Pollutants can cause the skin's lipid barrier to break down, causing trans-epidermal water loss and making the skin more vulnerable to dryness, dehydration, and irritation.
  • Skin Sensitivity and Irritation: Pollution particles are toxic to the skin and can penetrate the skin, causing allergic reactions and irritation. These particles can cause itching, burning, and irritation. They are particularly problematic for individuals with sensitive or dry skin. It’s not always clear which factors contribute to acne or breakouts, but pollution and increased sebum production are two common culprits. Exposure to air pollutants may also be associated with the formation of black and whiteheads.
  • Damage the Skin Barrier: Exposure to air pollutants can cause collagen breakdown and deteriorate the skin’s natural barrier, reducing its ability to fight oxidative stress and retain moisture. Also, a compromised skin barrier damages the skin's surface and allows the pollutants to get absorbed through our skin into our bloodstream. 
  • Acne Breakouts: Air pollutants can clog the pores and increase sebum production, causing acne outbreaks. Certain environmental agents, such as dirt and bacteria, can also add to the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. The best skin-cleansing products for oily skin contain anti-sebum ingredients that can reduce the production of oils.
  • Skin Discoloration: Environmental damage can also affect the skin’s tone, leading to dark spots, dullness, uneven skin tone, and melasma. UV rays, free radicals, and heavy metals, in particular, are known to cause pigmentation irregularities or hyperpigmentation.

How to Protect the Skin from Environmental Damage

No matter where you reside or how much you look after your skin, environmental pollution can seriously threaten your skin. Protecting your skin from these air pollutants and environmental stressors is more important than ever. To neutralize the effects of environmental damage, your basic skincare routine that includes cleansing, moisturizing, and exfoliating may not be sufficient. Following a skincare regimen packed with antioxidant and protective ingredients is crucial. 

Here are some skincare ingredients that can be effective in protecting your skin from the adverse impacts of air pollutants:

Retinoids: Retinoids are a group of vitamin A encompassing various compounds, like retinol, retinoic acid, tretinoin, tazarotene, retinyl esters, retinaldehyde, and retinyl palmitate.¹ These vitamin A derivatives have been seen to assist in reducing the signs of aging that arise due to environmental damage.

Retinoids can help improve skin texture, stimulate collagen production, reduce discoloration, and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Their effectiveness in warding off oxidative damage makes them an ideal rejuvenating and protecting agent. Furthermore, it helps unclogs the pores, giving the skin a smoother and even appearance.

Hyaluronic acid: Environmental factors can pave the way to dehydration and moisture loss in the skin. Add a deeply hydrating and moisturizing skincare compound to your skincare routine to mitigate this effect. And let’s face it, what could be more hydrating than hyaluronic acid

This compound is a humectant that attracts and retains moisture, helping keep the skin hydrated and plump. This ingredient also encourages the production of collagen and elastin in the skin. Moreover, hyaluronic acid also promotes better microcirculation to the skin, ensuring a higher delivery of nutrients and oxygen. Sundree’s RYSE+SHYNE Facial Serum contains powerful antioxidants, Hyaluronic acid, Niacinamide, Vitamin C, and CBD. This lightweight serum helps hydrate and brighten the skin while minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  

Ceramides: Ceramides are lipids naturally produced by the body and are also found in the skin's barrier. Their function in the skin is to ensure the optimal health and structure of the skin barrier. Ceramides in your skincare products can help support the skin's protective lipid barrier, prevent moisture loss, retain moisture, and shield the skin from toxic elements that cause environmental damage.

Another notable action of ceramides is their skin-soothing and repairing properties. Hence, in addition to treating and preventing dryness and cell damage, skincare products with ceramides can aid in relieving itchy, inflamed, and flaking skin.

Peptides: Peptides are the segments of short chains of amino acids that form the body's building material of protein molecules.³ Collagen and elastin are two proteins needed for a healthy and youthful complexion. A reduction in the level of peptides can cause skin problems, such as hyperpigmentation, texture changes, and loss of firmness.

Peptides, especially copper peptides, in skincare products can help fuel collagen production in the skin and improve the skin’s elasticity. They can assist in repairing and protecting the skin from environmental stressors. Peptides are widely known for their restoring, nourishing, and protecting abilities.

Niacinamide: Niacinamide, also known as niacin or vitamin B3, offers multiple benefits for the skin. One of the primary roles of this compound is improving the function of the skin barrier, regulating sebum production in the skin, increasing collagen production, and enhancing the skin's natural defenses against environmental damage.

This compound is commonly added to skincare products with a water-based formula, including serums, lotions, toners, and moisturizers. Niacin is a water-soluble molecule with matchless antioxidant, anti-aging, brightening, and soothing properties. This non-acidic and non-allergenic compound is ideal for people struggling with dry, sensitive, itchy, inflamed, and acne-prone complexion.

Vitamin E: The powerful humectant and antioxidant actions of vitamin E are enough to place it at the top of the best ingredients to fight environmental damage. The intense hydrating and moisturizing effect of vitamin E helps strengthen the skin barrier, which prevents water loss through the skin's outer surface and combats oxidative stressors in the environment, including free radicals and UV rays.

The anti-inflammatory quality of vitamin E in skincare formulas soothes irritated, dry, and sensitive skin. So, if you’re searching for one ingredient to do it all for your sensitive or dry skin, this compound might be your best shot.

Final Thoughts

Countless harmful elements in our environment can have various adverse effects on the skin, such as free radicals, bacteria, UV rays, toxic gases, and other pollutants. These environmental factors can profoundly affect our skin's appearance. Hence it’s imperative to guard the skin against these air pollutants that can otherwise lead to many skin issues.

Your best defense against air pollution or environmental damage is loading your skincare regimen with antioxidant compounds. Antioxidant ingredients hold a special place in the skincare realm and help preserve a healthy and youthful complexion. Most antioxidant agents provide additional skin benefits, along with fighting off environmental damage.


  1. WebMD. (2023). ‘Tretinoin .025% Topical Cream – Uses, Side Effects, and More’, WebMD, Accessed June 30, 2023. Available at:
  2. S. Brooklyn. (2021). ‘Hyaluronic Acid in your Skincare Routine’, Sundree, Accessed July 1, 2023. Available at:
  3. S. Brooklyn. (2021). ‘Copper Peptides 101: Why You Need It In Your Skincare Routine’, Sundree, Accessed July 1, 2023. Available at:

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