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Protecting the skin from external pollutants – effective ingredients and products

Are the environment and skin far from the pollution protection factor?
Indoor and outdoor air pollutants are changing the environment and pose a growing threat to the health of people around the world. Pollutants are considered to be any agents of a physical, chemical or biological nature, contained in the environment in quantities that exceed their background values ​​and lead to negative consequences for nature and man.

What are pollutants? Indoor & outdoor
Pollutants can be both natural and man-made (created by human activities).

The main air pollutants identified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA):

gaseous compounds (nitrogen dioxide [NO2], sulfur dioxide [SO2], carbon monoxide [CO]).
particulate matter or particular matters (PM) are small solid or liquid particles (a mixture of dust, ash, soot, smoke, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfates, nitrates and other substances).
The smaller the size of these particles, the longer they are “suspended” in the air, and may never settle at all.

PM10 – particles with a size of 10 microns or less

PM2.5 – particles with a size of 2.5 microns or less

Ultrafine particles with a diameter of less than 0.1 microns

Besides the fact that they themselves can cause negative reactions, they also carry other pollutants, such as PAHs, VOCs, heavy metals.

Heavy metals – especially those present in PM, are largely responsible for oxidative stress. Mercury, nickel, chromium and cobalt can cause contact dermatitis. Organic salts represent the greatest danger, since they easily penetrate the lipid barrier (Sartorelli P, Montomoni L, Sisinni A.G 2012).
Volatile organic compounds of VOCs are organic substances that easily evaporate even at room temperature – benzene, toluene, ethanol, styrene, formaldehyde, etc. These are mainly solvents – glues, varnishes, paints. They are especially dangerous inside buildings, cause symptoms of general intoxication, some of them are carcinogenic. They are dangerous for the skin by provoking cytokines and, accordingly, increasing the symptoms of atopic dermatitis and eczema (Ushio, Nohara, Fujimaki 1999).
Persistent organic compounds (POPs), semi-volatile compounds (SVOC) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are organic compounds whose main source is the burning of fuels, including wood. They are also found in tobacco smoke. Their effects vary greatly, but there is one thing in common – high carcinogenicity. For the skin, this is all dangerous primarily due to pigmentation, high risks of skin cancer and premature aging. Pigmentation is formed by stimulating the proliferation of melanocytes (Krutmann J, Jux B, Luecke S 2008).
Solar radiation in combination with nitric oxide (NOx) and VOCs create the so-called tropospheric (or surface) ozone. According to epidemiological studies, more than 97% of the urban population of the EU are exposed to surface tropospheric (harmful) ozone in excess of permissible norms.
Despite the fact that the skin is not a target organ for harmful environmental factors (unlike the respiratory system), the effects of ozone, ultraviolet and infrared radiation on the skin are serious and are as follows:

The supply of vitamins C and E is depleted (Thiele, J. 1997). Vitamin E levels in residents of large metropolitan areas are 90% lower than in residents of neighboring less polluted cities.
Cellular proteins and membranes are oxidized and destroyed: lipid oxidation + 230%, protein oxidation + 44% (Cotovio, J. 2001, Tavakkol A, Wietecha K, 2006).
The manifestations of hyperpigmentation and wrinkles increase (Vierkotter, A. Airborne 2010).
Inflammatory processes are activated.
Collagen degradation occurs + 59%.
anti-pollution cosmetics
Can cosmetics protect?
Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the production of anti-pollution skin care products and cosmetics due to the deterioration of air quality worldwide, as well as increased awareness and concern about the adverse effects of various environmental pollutants on the skin.

A growing understanding of pollution mechanisms is helping companies develop various products and establish in vitro efficiencies and conduct in vivo tests.

Most products currently available on the market counteract the effects of contamination in one or more of the following ways:

reduce the load of particles on the skin by cleansing or exfoliating;
prevent the deposition and penetration of contaminants into the skin;
restore and strengthen the protective barrier structures and functions of the skin;
reduce transepidermal water loss and, thus, improve skin hydration;
replenish antioxidant stores;
reduce inflammation;
control melanogenesis;
promote the synthesis of collagen / elastin;
protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays, which enhance the effects of other environmental pollutants.

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