The Ultimate List of Environmental Factors Affecting Skin Health

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Dryness, skin rashes, premature aging, acne, and eczema may all be the result of environmental factors that influence your skin. The WHO defines the environment connected to health as “all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all its related behaviors.” Though you may be genetically predisposed to certain skin problems, it may be aggravated by environmental factors. So, it’s essential to be cognizant of the damage that the environment can have on your skin. Read on

Stress

Your emotions have a strong effect on your skin. Stress happens to each one of us. Since you cannot avoid your job, bills or life, in general, it’s better that you learn to manage stress. If you don’t, then stress can show up on your skin, nails, and hair in ways you don’t like.

 

Stress causes a chemical reaction that makes your skin more reactive and sensitive. It can also make it harder for skin problems to heal. Stress boosts production of cortisol and other hormones, which causes your sebaceous glands to produce more oil.

Oily skin makes you more prone to acne and other skin problems. Stress even causes under eye bags, dry, flaky skin, acne, rashes and hives, flushed face, fine lines, graying hair, thinning hair and deep grooves in your nails.

Prevention. Take care of your skin and don’t neglect it even if you are tired or stressed. Get regular exercise, take time for something you enjoy, even if it is only for ten minutes. Practice stress management techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises, meditation or visual imagery. Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Have a face to face conversation with someone.

Diet

The skin is the reflection of your total body health. A balanced diet that keeps your inside healthy will keep your outward appearance looking good. Poor nutrition has a detrimental effect on your skin tissue.

Fats play an essential role in your skin’s health. Your skin uses fat to form a waterproof barrier. The omega 6 fatty acids enhance healthy skin growth, and omega 3 acids prevent dry skin. A diet deficient in these essential fats might lead to skin problems.

Vitamin C is essential for the growth and repair of tissues. Together with vitamin E, it protects your skin from sun damage and significantly enhances collagen production.

Zinc deficiencies negatively impact your skin.  Zinc is a must for healthy skin turnover. A diet deficient in zinc puts you at risk of dermatitis. Another mineral crucial for skin health is selenium. Deficiency of selenium causes slow hair growth, prevent normal skin cell development and raises the risk of skin cancer.

Simple carbohydrates like refined sugar found in most bakery goods spike up your insulin levels and cause a wave of inflammation throughout your body. Caffeine amps up the amount of stress hormone cortisol that leads to acne breakouts. Too much fatty protein results in dull and puffy skin, and under eye circles.

Dairy whether it is ice cream, sour cream or cheese promotes increased blood levels of androgen which leads to excess oil production and increases the risk of acne breakouts.

Prevention: Experts say paying attention to balanced nutrition is the best way to make sure you’re eating a healthy skin diet.  To get a soft, supple skin and a radiant glow, here are some skin specific treats that will give a boost of glowing good health to your complexion

  • Olive oil
  • Tomatoes
  • Dark chocolate
  • Oatmeal
  • Sardines
  • Green tea
  • Kale
  • Walnuts
  • Orange peel
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Rosemary
  • Almond milk
  • Water
  • Soy
  • Oysters
  • Yellow bell peppers
  • Kiwi
  • Eggs
  • Pumpkin
  • Red wine
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Carrots
  • Mackerel
  • Chickpeas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Plums
  • Whole grain foods

 

Climate

Sudden temperature changes whether it may be cold, dry or hot, and humid- an area’s climate can drastically affect your skin. Weather extremes either hot or cold can exacerbate some existing skin conditions or create new ones, so it becomes necessary to understand how weather affect your skin.

 Winter Dryness

Cold temperatures mean low humidity which dries out and strips moisture from your skin. The dry air both inside and out can dehydrate your skin. Your skin starts to feel itchy and dry during the winter months. Some skin care experts consider winter as the worst season for acne.

Warm Weather Concerns

A high temperature can make your oil glands secrete more sebum which mixes with your sweat and leaves your skin uncomfortable with a shiny appearance. If you have acne, it may get worse.

Chlorinated water in swimming pools can cause a severe form of acne called the chloracne. Sometimes sunscreens may aggravate your skin conditions. So, dermatologists recommend oil-free varieties to prevent flare-ups. Extreme heat and humidity can increase fungal infections such as impetigo and athlete’s foot.

Prevention. To combat winter dryness, use a milky and creamy textured facial and body cleanser. Change your moisturizer to an emollient-rich formulation which includes essential fatty acids and hyaluronic acid to help lock in the moisture. You can add essential oil to your moisturizer to protect the suppleness of your skin.

To combat higher temperatures, use a gel or foam based cleanser to remove sebum and sweat residue from your skin. Use a light-weight consistency moisturizer; you can also use the serum option if you have oily skin.

Skin Products

There are thousands of chemicals in beauty products, many of which get absorbed into your body. Most of these synthetic chemicals are skin penetrators, skin irritants, endocrine disruptors and are carcinogenic. Some of the harmful chemicals are listed here

Parabens- they are widely used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold in beauty products. Parabens contain estrogen mimicking properties that link to an increased rate of breast cancer.

Synthetic Colors

They are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources and is suspected to be a human carcinogen. It is a skin irritant which links to ADHD in children.

Fragrance: According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrance mixes is linked to dermatitis, allergies, respiratory defects and potential effects on the reproductive system.

Phthalates: they are endocrine disruptors and increases your risk of breast cancer, congenital reproductive disabilities in males and females and early breast development in girls.

The other chemicals include triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, formaldehyde, toluene, and propylene glycol. Sunscreen chemicals such as PABA, benzophenone, avobenzone, homosalate, and methoxycinnamate also affect your skin health. For more information, you can check here.

Sun Exposure

The immediate danger of too much sun exposure is sunburn that accelerates skin aging. Exposure to the sun causes

  • Pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions
  • Freckles
  • Benign tumors
  • Fine and coarse wrinkles
  • Mottled pigmentation
  • Sallowness
  • Telangiectasias(dilation of small blood vessels under your skin)
  • Destruction of elastin and collagen tissue

Ozone depletion significantly affects your skin health. The chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons used in refrigeration and methyl bromide while inert at earth surface temperatures reacts with ozone in the cold polar stratosphere. The range of health impacts on ozone depletion includes malignant melanoma, non-melanocytic skin cancer, sunburn, chronic sun damage and photo dermatoses.

The UV rays of the sun are the primary cause of skin cancer. But the UV light from the tanning beds is also equally harmful. The exposure to sunlight during winter months puts you at the same risk as exposure during the summertime.

Prevention. Staying out of the sun is the wisest way to avoid sun damage. Always wear sunscreen. Avert the sun in the middle of the day from 10 am to 3 pm. Wear protective clothing and sunglasses that filter UV light.

Airborne Allergens

When something touches your skin, your immune system overreacts and sends antibodies to help fight the invader which is the allergen. The result is a red itchy rash called the contact dermatitis. It is of two types

  • Allergic contact dermatitis which occurs when your body reacts to an allergy trigger
  • Irritant contact dermatitis which is caused by harsh cleaners.

Skin allergens include nickel, medications like antibiotics, sunscreens, bug sprays, fragrances, and plants such as poison ivy, cleaning products, latex, and chemicals.

Prevention. Find out what causes the allergy and avoid it. Wear gloves to protect your skin. You may try hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, cold compress, oatmeal baths and antihistamines to get relief from itching.

Most skin allergies aren’t life-threatening, but in some cases, you may suffer from anaphylaxis which can make it difficult to breathe. Make a call to 911 if your lips start to swell or itch and if you find difficulty in breathing.

Smoking

Smoking reduces the level of oxygen in your blood and constricts the blood vessels. It causes changes in the composition of your skin causing premature aging. Studies say that skin loses its elasticity and gets small red lines that are the result of the dilation of blood vessels. The more you smoke, the more rapid your skin ages.

Your skin loses its youthful glow and turns grayish or orange. Smoking can lead to premature wrinkles. Scientific literature tells us that moderate smokers had lines double in the count than non-smokers. And heavy smokers had three times more the number of premature wrinkles than non-smokers.

Smoking prolongs the time taken for wound healing because it slows down the growth and regeneration of blood vessels surrounding your injury. As if this is not enough smokers have a high risk of wound infections, surgical failure, blood clots and dead tissues.

Smoking increases the risk of foot ulcers and arterial ulcers. Smokers are more prone to genital warts, cervical cancer, intraepithelial penile cancer, and other wart-virus related types of cancer. They are at high risk of getting skin cancers. By weakening the immune system smoking significantly increases the risk of psoriasis and discoid lupus erythematosus.

Prevention: Quitting this habit is the only way to reduce or prevent the risk of all the dangers we’ve discussed above.

Air Pollution

Air pollution can cause dryness, premature aging, eczema, skin rashes, and acne. Both indoor and outdoor pollutants cause serious health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency says that the indoor pollutants can be two to five times higher than the pollution outside.

Indoor pollutants such as particles from pressed wood and foam insulation and creosote from stoves and fireplaces cause dry skin, irritation, and rashes.

Residents living in areas of high levels of air pollution have been found to have more skin problems. Air pollution drastically increases the number of free radicals present in your skin. There is scientific evidence that traffic-related air pollutants primarily PAHs, VOCs, oxides, and PM accelerates skin aging and cause pigmented spots on the face.

Prevention: to reduce indoor air pollution allow more fresh air from the outdoors, use products that emit lower amounts of formaldehyde and keep the humidity low inside.

Apply antioxidants topically. Include more antioxidants in your diet. Wash your skin regularly, use sunscreen. Moisturize to boost your skin’s natural barrier. You can grow indoor plants that absorb the harmful indoor pollutants.

Alcohol

Alcohol dehydrates your skin. As a result, your skin will look less plump and dry. Drinking too much alcohol deprives your skin of vital nutrients and minerals. Rosacea a skin disorder that leads to facial disfigurement is linked to alcohol.

Alcohol hampers your liver health, which in turn severely affects your skin. Skin darkening, or hyperpigmentation may occur around the eyes, mouth and on the legs. Alcohol drastically increases your risk of skin cancer.

Prevention: ditching this terrible habit may nurse your skin and body back to good health.

Water Pollution

Tap water contains chlorine which damages your skin and causes premature aging. Chlorine in large quantities can cause severe harm to skin and lungs. When you take a bath, the heat opens up your pores and lets the chlorine seep into your skin. The Chlorine strips the natural oils from your skin and causes it to crack and wrinkle.

Prevention: reduce the time spent in the shower and other chlorinated water. Use a gentle moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated. Consider filtering your drinking water to remove chlorine and other toxins. Try using mineral water to avoid the potentially damaging effects of chlorine in tap water.

Conclusion

Wash your skin daily, exfoliate twice a week. Apply moisturizer. Drinking green tea combats the effects of pollution on your skin. Limit chlorine exposure, as far as possible try to use organic products.

Include lots of fruits and veggies in your diet. Wear sunscreen and take a vitamin C supplement. Stay hydrated because water boosts cell growth and improve your skin’s elasticity. Oxygenate the inside of your house by growing indoor plants that absorb harmful air pollutants.

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