The Types of Indoor Air Pollution Damaging Your Skin

When we talk about pollution, it’s reasonable to assume that we’re talking about the outdoor environment. 

Research suggests though, that in urban environments where we spend up to 90% of our time, our skin is vulnerable to growing levels of indoor air pollutants (IAPs).

As we’ve increased the efficiency of our homes, to avoid wasting energy, we’ve increased our risks of being exposed to toxic amounts of ‘off-gassing’ or the release of toxic gasses and molecules from otherwise harmless household products. 

Classified as the ‘degradation of air quality by pollutions’ IAP’s are a massive issue in the fight against premature ageing caused by environmental aggressors. 

Anyone who visits our Beauchamp Place Clinic will testify to the purity of the air as a result of our research around this. 

Outdoors we have smog, ozone damage, heavy metal residues petrol fumes to contend with. Inside, the list is easily as long and complex:

Biological contaminants:

This list includes dead skin cells, parts of insects, viruses (like the cold), pet residues, mildew, mould and bacteria. All of which can cause irritation, dehydration, congestion, infection and inflammation if left on the surface of the skin for too long. 

Dust:

Most dust seems innocuous to skin, but dusts from wood, asbestos, flour, grains and silica (building materials) left to sit on the surface of the skin can cause irritation and symptoms of dermatitis. 

Tobacco smoke (ETS) or second-hand smoke:

This is an obvious one, but cigarettes are an absolute skin no. Exposure to tobacco particles can cause extremely rapid skin deterioration and ageing.  More than 80% of second-hand smoke is invisible to the naked eye, and the chemicals from one cigarette will linger on clothes and in a room for up to three hours.  These residues are absorbed through the skin’s membranes and can lead to inflammation, fine lines and wrinkles, discolouration and increased sensitivity.  

Fine particulate matter (PM) 

Residues from wood and coal fires, wood burning stoves and alternative heating sources can be a major culprit for skin irritation and dehydration, leading to increased lines and hypersensitivity. 

Nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2)

Nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are products of gas and coal residues not burning properly.  Sources include ovens and stoves and they can cause irritation and oversensitivity over time. 

Pesticides 

Research indicates low levels of pesticides are present in the air of most western homes.  This can be the results of using pesticides, such as weed killers, and/or by contaminated dust, dirt and air entering the home from outside.  

Pesticides can penetrate deep into the cellular level of the skin, altering its fundamental DNA composition. They compromise the skin’s natural defences leaving it at higher risk of sun damage.  Longer-term exposure can also lead to irritation, inflammation and discolouration. 

Formaldehyde

This chemical is used in flooring, carpets, upholstery and curtains. Whilst we all make a small amount just by being humans, in large amounts it’s easily absorbed the skin and lungs making it highly dangerous to humans.   Exposure causes allergic dermatitis, surface burning and inflammation.   

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)

These are organic chemicals containing carbon that vaporize at room temperature. In high concentrations, VOCs are very damaging to skin. They are up to 10x more present inside your home then they are outside, where they can disperse easily. 

Common sources include candles, nail polish removers, mothballs and clothing deodorisers, glass cleaners, dishwasher detergents, alcoholic beverages, laundry detergent, paint, wood polish, aerosol deodorants, air fresheners and hair spray. The National Library of Medicine suggests that amongst other health complaints VOCs contribute to atopic dermatitis and eczema, rapid skin ageing and pigmentation. 

The key to managing these environmental aggressors is in the use of a good barrier method on the surface of the skin.  Urban Protect Day Oil, £225 (link) combines Argan Oil to shield the surface of the skin whilst nourishing the lower dermal layers.  The pure gold flakes work to ionise the skin and encourage cell turnover, while Vitamin C supports the skin’s natural defences from attack.