Ah, Los Angeles…we all love your sunny, beautiful glory, but there’s no denying you can be a smoggy mess from time to time.
Do a quick search online and you’ll find endless snapshots of the downtown core and the lovely yellow-grey haze that settles in on the worst days. Both the city and the state are making great strides to cut this back, but until we reach a true fix, air pollution is just a reality of life in the inner city core.
C’est la vie, and all.
Most people know smog isn’t great for your health. After all, it is filled with smoke, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and other questionable chemicals, all of which can irritate your lungs and even trigger allergies.
But here’s what you might not know: air pollution can also wreak havoc on your skin, and the effects aren’t always obvious until it’s too late. So, let’s clear the air on this important topic and breathe a little easier, shall we?
WHAT THE HECK IS SMOG ANYWAY?
So, let’s start by talking about exactly what smog is in the first place. You’ve undoubtedly seen it, especially if you spend time downtown often. But what’s in it, and why is it so much more dangerous than regular old fog?
Smog is essentially an air pollution mixture of smoke, fine particulate, and off-gassing from car exhaust, industrial buildings, and even just regular dirt, dust and debris. It comes from the everyday processes going on all around us, and it can contain anything from carbon dioxide to sulfur, PAHs, PCBs, ozone, and even toxic heavy metals.
Because Los Angeles has such high temperatures, we mostly suffer the effects of photochemical smog. It occurs when sunlight with ozone, peroxyacyl nitrates (PAN), tropospheric ozone, aldehydes, nitrogen oxides and a long list of other volatile organic compounds. This chemical reaction traps dust, debris, and gasses close to the ground in a low-lying haze (and results in nitric acid and sulfuric acid rain, too, but that’s another conversation for another time).
In the winter, smog typically contains more carbon dioxide, especially if the temperatures are very low and people are forced to heat their homes. And while that doesn’t happen often in LA, it does mean the negative effects exist year-round.
There is a little bit of good news, though: the air pollution of today is much less harsh than the air pollution present during the several decades ago. That’s because most vehicles and factories now actively take measures to filter problem substances out. But that doesn’t mean smog is innocuous, now – it definitely still impacts your skin.
THE UNPLEASANT EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION
So, here’s the news you don’t want, yet definitely need…
Smog is air pollution, containing a lot of debris and particulate alongside problematic gasses. Your skin is porous, with each pore measuring somewhere around 60 microns in size. This is much larger than the average size of smog particulate, which sits at around 10 microns or so. This essentially means that when you spend time in that haze, it begins to build up on – and in – your skin.
This causes direct damage for many reasons, the least of which is making it impossible for your skin to flush your pores. This limits your body’s ability to channel essential nutrients, vitamins, and hydration to your skin. You might even notice breakouts, whiteheads, and blackheads – but that’s really just the beginning.
We also have to talk about ozone content, too. When ozone mixes with sunlight, it turns into an extremely harsh substance called mono-nitrogen oxide, which begins to absorb into your skin. There, it begins to cause cellular breakdown while also limiting your own natural ability to regenerate.
All of these effects combine into a pretty terrible package. Your skin ages faster, and collagen breaks down at a faster rate. Depending on your genetics, you might even notice premature wrinkling, age spots, melasma, and other signs of damage from free radicals. Ultimately, it’s almost as bad for you as smoking!
So what can you do about it – without moving to Alaska? That’s what comes next!
SUPPLEMENT WITH VITAMINS & MINERALS
Smog limits your skin’s own natural ability to retain and access micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. You can offset this (at least a little) by amping up the amount of nutrients you’re taking in. There are three main ways to supplement:
WEAR SUNSCREEN DAILY
Yes, it’s simple – but way too many people overlook it “just once.” The problem is that “just once” becomes “well, do I really need it anyway if I don’t burn?” And because of the way UV light interacts with smog, the two are much more deadly combined than they are apart.
Ultimately, skipping your SPF could triple or even quadruple your risk for damage. Not worth it! So, use products that contain SPFs at least 30 minutes before you go out or slather on the sunscreen straight-up.
TRY DETOXIFYING PRODUCTS
You can – and should – cleanse every night when you get home using products appropriate for your skin type and condition. Products containing activated charcoal and Vitamin C are especially useful as they quite literally render certain chemicals inert and empower your skin to cleanse itself.
USE A SONIC CLEANSING BRUSH
Want to really amp it up a notch? Apply your favorite detox products with a sonic cleansing brush. Research shows these devices are far better at channeling away particulate and toxins than your fingers, a washcloth, or even exfoliating scrubs. They’re also pretty amazing at removing makeup, too, which makes your end-of-day routine so much easier.
GET A DEEP-CLEANSING FACIAL
Not getting results from a detox formula? Maybe your skin just gets too dry and you can’t use them. At-home methods may not be enough. To combat this and give your skin a “leg up,” schedule in for a deep-cleansing facial every six to eight weeks.
Your provider will use special ingredients to pull out all of that yucky particulate, letting it breathe deep once again. Gentle massage also helps to clear out the same debris and toxins; plus, it feels pretty nice and relaxing, too.
CONSIDER SOMETHING MORE ADVANCED
If you’ve tried absolutely everything and you still feel like smog may be impacting your skin, there are other options. Ask your provider about laser resurfacing, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion treatments. All have the power to help you lift, channel away, and generally kick toxic smog chemicals to the curb.
You might not be able to take the girl out of the city…but there’s no reason you can’t take the city’s smog out of the girl! Schedule a consultation today to find out more.