Our skin accumulates more than its fair share of debris on a daily basis. In fact, along with our respiratory system, our skin is an organ constantly exposed to airborne pollutants. Along with lipids, sweat and skin cells that we naturally produce, pollution from the environment accumulates on our skin creating a sticky chemical film that can create oxidative stress, inflammation and hyperpigmentation. Yes, this is also happening in our beloved suburb of Mount Pleasant, SC.

We can’t always detect the microscopic pollutants in our environment, but you can imagine what builds up on our skin when you look at an exhaust pipe or see a brown haze collect along the horizon. The World Health Organization (WHO) has long recognized the dangers of breathing in hazardous levels of air pollution, but more research is emerging linking these tiny particles to skin damage. Air pollution is a mixture of gas and microscopic solids suspended in the atmosphere. These molecules adhere to skin and can spike inflammation, accelerate signs of aging and impact skin’s natural defenses. While there is a lack of in-depth research in the area of air pollution and skin health, there is clear scientific evidence that skin barrier function and skin hydration are among the most immediate and significant threats air pollution imposes on our skin.

Now that we know what we’re up against, let's look at some daily solutions you can work into your routine to help shield skin from damage caused by air pollution beyond a double cleanse and SPF.


What products will help your skin from pollution:


  • Niacinamide (Vitamin B3): Either orally in doses of 500 to 750 mg twice daily or topically in brands such as SkinMedica and SkinCeuticals, niacinamide is one of the hardest working ingredients and is at the top of the list in being able to successfully reduce the negative effects of air pollution. It has been shown to significantly reduce damage to skin cells, protecting them and helping them recover more efficiently. It also strengthens the skin barrier and actively repairs UV damage – giving your skin all-round protection against environmental stressors.
  • Antioxidants: Build an antioxidant shield with free radical fighters like Vitamin C to strengthen skin’s natural defenses against biologically and environmentally generated reactive oxygen species. As the most plentiful antioxidant in our skin, Vitamin C plays a critical role in neutralizing free radicals and oxidative stress caused by pollution and UV radiation. Since skin is constantly exposed to ambient air pollution in the environment, it’s crucial to boost our natural defenses by applying antioxidant rich formulas, like serums, directly on the skin to build a reservoir of antioxidant power to neutralize disruptive molecules. Other antioxidant powerhouses include Vitamin A, C, D, B-complex and B3, as noted above.


We already recognize the effects of UV radiation on the skin, but now it is crucial to go beyond daily SPF to help prevent and repair damage caused by pollution. The threat from pollution is real and it’s not getting better any time soon. Skin and overall health can be protected with a high antioxidant diet, select supplements, properly cleansed skin, and using antioxidant-rich products. New SPF plus moisturizer formulas now include breakthrough antioxidant technology that helps protect skin against pollution. Ask one of our Sheperd Integrative Dermatology skin care professionals what anti-pollution measures they recommend to protect and restore your skin.