The environment is becoming increasingly more toxic and your skin may be suffering as a result. ‘Toxic skin syndrome’ might not be an official term yet, but with rising levels of air pollution and environmental toxins, it may not be too long before it is.
Your skin is highly vulnerable to damage from external influences such as air pollution and UV rays; and is also affected by toxins that enter your body via air, food and water.
How do toxins affect your skin?
• Toxins from air pollution mix with the skin’s oils, leach beneath the surface and damage skin cells
• The skin’s barrier becomes more porous and easily vulnerable to damage from external influences such as air pollution
• Pollution and UV rays combine to create highly reactive molecules that damage collagen, elastin and proteins in the skin
• Inhaling polluted air means less oxygen available to skin cells inside the body. Less oxygen means they are less able to function properly and repair themselves
• Toxins create harmful free radicals, which damage the skin both inside and out. The body uses antioxidants to deal with free radicals, however these soon become depleted and if not constantly replenished via the diet, free radicals are left to wreak havoc and cause more damage to the skin.
Signs of toxic skin:
- Dehydrated, dry, flaky skin
- Regular flare-ups of skin conditions such as eczema and acne
- Premature ageing - fine lines, wrinkles, poor skin tone
5 Steps to protect your skin
1) Cleanse regularly – Having a daily cleansing routine is an important step in the fight against skin toxins. Cleanse morning and evening to remove any toxins which may have stuck to the surface of the skin. Avoid harsh, exfoliating cleansers too often, as it’s important to preserve and protect the skin’s natural barrier. Over-exfoliated skin may become irritated, inflamed and more porous, so choose a gentle cleanser instead.
2) Choose a cleaner environment - It’s not always possible to avoid air pollution but it’s a good idea to do this wherever possible. For example, if you walk the dog, cycle or jog regularly, choose more rural, traffic-free areas instead of next to a busy road. Invest in some house-plants such as peace lily or spider plant to help purify the air inside your home. Identify any small ways to reduce toxic exposure as this will make a big difference over time.
3) Suncream – Whilst there’s a heavy debate about using suncream too readily in terms of vitamin D (suncream blocks vitamin D production in the skin) there’s definite benefits for using it to protect your skin from the more harmful UV rays. A daily facial moisturiser containing SPF is a good habit to adopt to protect your skin. See our guide to optimising your vitamin D levels through safe sun exposure and supplementation.
4) Top up your skin nutrients – Healthy skin needs a steady supply of vitamin C; an essential nutrient for the formation of collagen and elastin, and biotin - a water-soluble nutrient that is often referred to as the ‘beauty vitamin’ and needs to be consumed daily in small amounts to maintain optimal levels. Healthy skin also needs essential fats – omega 3 EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) & DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and omega 6 GLA (gamma linolenic acid) to stay smooth, supple and hydrated. In addition, water is vital for healthy skin – it helps to keep skin hydrated and also helps the body to flush away harmful toxins. Aim for at least 1.5 litres daily.
5) Antioxidants – These important substances are supplied by the diet and help to counter the damaging effects of toxins and harmful oxidative stress. It’s essential to add plenty of antioxidants into your diet to support healthy skin. Eat plenty of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and their oils, wholegrains, lean protein such as chicken, fish, beans and lentils. For added protection, supplement with powerful antioxidants such as CoQ10, Maritime bark extract, citrus & rosemary extracts and the antioxidant-rich carotenoid, astaxanthin.