After genetics, our environment plays the biggest role in how our skin looks and feels. There are a number of factors in our environment that may be affecting your skin—some obvious, and others not so obvious. While we can’t always control the environment, there are steps that we can take to ensure that our skin stays healthy despite all that works against it. Even if you take measures to protect your skin, there may be harsh environmental influences that you aren’t aware of.
In this article, we will look at some obvious and some not so obvious environmental agents that may be causing problems for your skin.
UV (ultraviolet) radiation
Sunlight contains UV radiation, which can cause short-term and long-term consequences to your skin. Many people are familiar with sunburn, which occurs when you spend too much time in direct sunlight. Over time, repeated exposure can cause more serious problems, such as premature wrinkles, dark spots, and skin cancer. A simple solution to these problems is to wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30, which blocks out 97 percent of the sun’s harmful rays. As a best practice, you should reapply your sunscreen every two hours while outside in direct sunlight.
We are all familiar with pollution, but not many people are away that it may be affecting our skin on a daily basis. Air pollution consists of small solid or liquid particles that are suspended in the air—these are called aerosols or free radicals. Aerosols come from gases and fumes emitted from vehicle exhausts, factories, mold spores and smoke. These particles can sometimes be smaller than the pores in our skin and can become trapped. Trapped particles can lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers in the skin and cause sagging and wrinkles. To combat the effects of urban pollution, you will want to use a cleanser or antioxidant serum on your face every night before bed so that the skin can regenerate and heal.
Not all water is created equal. Depending on where you live geographically, you may experience good or poor quality of water—sometimes referred to as water “hardness.” Hard water is water that has high mineral content, including calcium, magnesium, and trace amounts of other minerals. Hard water is known to leave mineral residue on the surface of the skin, which can cause dryness and irritation. Water dense in minerals may also exacerbate preexisting skin conditions, such as eczema and rosacea. One way to combat the effects of hard water is to apply hydrating cleansers and lotions to the skin after showering or bathing. Another solution to this problem is to invest in a water softener, which will help to remove minerals from the water you use every day.
It may come as no surprise that the weather plays a role in skin health. Factors such as low humidity levels and high winds could be robbing your skin of much needed moisture. One way to induce moisture back into the environment is to have a humidifier running in your home. Drinking plenty of water is also a good idea. On windy days, you may want to moisturize your skin with a hydrating lotion or serum.
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