While we’re often preoccupied with treating our skin ‘type’, we can overlook the obvious need for treating our skin in accordance with our environment. Studies are showing that environmental triggers can sensitize our skin, and this is different from genetic sensitivity or being born with sensitive skin. What do we mean by our environment? Think pollution, humidity, and sudden temperature changes in climates – like going from the cold, dry winds outdoors to dry heat indoors.
Air pollution contains microscopic contaminants, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which help produce Reactive Oxygen Species, or “free radicals.” It refers to the gases released into the air by human activities, such as auto exhaust, manufacturing processes, cigarette smoke, and many others. These strip the skin of barrier lipids, thus increase skin sensitivity, discomfort and even premature signs of skin aging. Furthermore, small airborne pollutants get stuck in pores, causing acne-like breakouts and triggering damage in the deeper layers of skin, right where wrinkles and most discolorations form.
Although air pollution is obviously worse in big cities, living in rural areas doesn’t mean you’re free from risk. All forms of pollution move through the atmosphere, water, and can settle in soil on the ground.
A little humidity can be a good thing for keeping your skin soft and hydrated. However, when the skin is exposed to low humidity, this moisture evaporates quickly, leading to dryness, irritation, and peeling. High humidity levels, on the other hand, can lead to excess sweat and oil production therefore clogging your pores with toxins. Additionally, high humidity promotes the growth of bacteria and mold resulting in skin irritation, redness and even breakouts.
Colder weather, central heating in your home as well as hot weather and air conditioning can all deprive skin of its moisture, leaving it feeling irritated and sensitive. Bitter cold winds can strip moisture from skin left exposed as well, so the winter months you might find your skin to be rough, red, tight or cracked.
The heat can also lead to skin sensitivities like a heat rash, as the moisture gets trapped under the skin and can lead to a rash made up of blisters or bumps.
Always take into consideration sun exposure and the effects of damaging UV rays on the skin. Using adequate sun protection is an all year-round consideration.