Many parts of the U.S. that aren’t accustomed to experiencing poor air quality are recently being hit with advisories. The top priority in these circumstances is protecting your lungs and overall health, but your skin health is also at a disadvantage.
We’ve heard about the wildfire smoke infecting our airways, and we often expect city pollution to be a pest, but Santa Monica, CA dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD says it can also be an issue in the countryside. “Exhaust fumes, by-products of fertilizers and other chemicals found in farming communities can also be harmful to the skin,” says Dr. Shamban. “They gain entry to the skin through tiny little pores of the sebaceous glands, eccrine glands and hair follicles. They provide oxidative stress that can accelerate aging and development of skin cancer.”
Southlake, TX and Monroe, LA dermatologist Janine Hopkins, MD notes that “acne, hyperpigmentation, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis have been shown to be influenced by air pollution” as well. Even just a few key changes to your routine can make a significant difference in protecting your skin health.
Cleanse skin after going outside
Generally, cleansing in the morning and evening is all the skin calls for, but when air quality is questionable, Dr. Hopkins recommends cleansing immediately after outdoor exposure. She suggests using a gentle cleanser like Caudalie Vinoclean Cleansing Micellar Water ($30). On a similar note, Dr. Hopkins notes you should avoid going to bed without cleaning your skin and applying an overnight repair product.
Add an exfoliating cleanser to your routine
Dr. Shamban suggests making one of your cleansing moments of the day an exfoliating one with a product like a salicylic acid cleanser. An exfoliating cleanser is better suited to get in there and remove pollution and other unwanted particles.
Avoid behaviors that can exacerbate issues
While air quality is troublesome, Dr. Hopkins advises avoiding adding to the problem. If you generally smoke, vape or burn candles, she suggests skipping these activities on account of air quality.
Buy an air purifier
If you don’t already own an air purifier Dr. Hopkins and Dr. Shamban both recommend getting one. Having an air purification system in your indoor space will help filter out some of the problematic particles in the air, which is great for both your skin and lungs.
Avoid prolonged outdoor activity
This can be a real bummer on a nice summer day, but it’s not only for the health of your skin but your whole body. Dermatologists don’t love prolonged sun exposure on any given day, but when the air quality is bad, they’re extra discerning. Both Dr. Hopkins and Dr. Shamban recommend reducing outdoor activities. When you do go outside, Dr. Hopkins says antioxidant and sunblock use is essential.