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THE HIDDEN TRUTH: Urban Pollution and Skin

What is urban pollution? A definition of pollution is the introduction of agents into the environment that cause unfavorable change. This is the introduction of any agent that produces unfavorable change can be seen as a pollutant. Now specifically with the urban pollution we will look at those pollutants that are present in the urban setting. The first urban pollutant we will talk about is air pollution, which living in the bustling city of Toronto, I myself am exposed to daily. Scientific literature and research shows us that urban pollution can put tremendous stress on our biggest organ, our skin. Air pollutants include fine particulate matter size 2.5 microns and smaller, smog, dust and dirt. These may clogs pores, causing acne and dull grey complexion, as well as age spots, disrupt skin’s barrier, and decrease collagen and elastin production. Long-term exposure to urban pollution can cause allergies, inflammation, eczema, asthma, nausea and blood vessel damage. The second urban pollutant is something that most women do not think about but is there and it’s our makeup. Yes, this pollutant is directed at you ladies, the makeup that we put on every day when we get ready in the morning for work is an urban pollutant that negatively impacts the health of our skin. We feel the need to put this second layer of skin which was designed to be waterproof and remain on all day. In order to remove this makeup we require harsh soaps and detergents, which strip our skin of natural oils and waxes, leaving it unprotected and vulnerable. Due to the pressure put on in our urban settings to look good we buy more new fad products that are supposed to enhance our natural beauty, in turn clogging the pores of our skin and not letting it breathe and function as intended. And if we sweat due to warm weather or exercise while wearing makeup, our pores and glands become blocked by a layer of makeup, your skin cannot breathe, and the buildup of oil, makeup, dirt and dead skin cells can become infected with bacteria and lead to breakouts and irritation. The third urban pollutant is a trio or three musketeers and are: the light bulb, coffee and sugar. These three combined directly disrupt our circadian rhythm. In the urban environment we have busy lives. We are expected to wake up early, yet we usually go to sleep late after putting the kids to bed, finishing work from home and wind down from a busy day. This typically involves typing on the laptop or watching TV, with artificial lights on. This reduced exposure to darkness is affecting our circadian rhythm or biological clock which tells us when to sleep and when to wake up. And electronic devices have direct impact on our quality of sleep. Sometimes I go to sleep close to midnight and I am still expected to wake up with the rising sun to get the kids ready for school and start my day. This introduces a lot of stress on my body, which at times shows up on my skin as well. To combat drowsiness we turn to coffee and sugar as a crutch to help us feel alert throughout the day. When we drink coffee and eat sugar, these stimulants enter our bloodstream and stimulate us for hours, causing us to want to repeat this cycle, thus making these substances highly addictive in large doses. Have you noticed without that cup of Joe and a donut in the morning you just feel tired and might even experience headaches and muscle pain? This is your body going through withdrawal. We are not meant to sleep for 4-6 hours a day. Our bodies and our skin need at least 7 hours of sleep to function properly. Circadian rhythms control precise timing of skin cells’ behavior during the 24 hour day period. When the sunlight is at its peak, human stem cells protect themselves against radiation-induced DNA damage by activating the genes involved in UV protection at that time of the day. At night stem cells divide and regenerate, replacing damaged cells with healthy ones. However, if there is a disruption of circadian rhythm, the stem cells accumulate DNA damage, which leads to premature aging and illness. If we continue on this sleep-deprived path, this puts a tremendous stress on our bodies as well as our skin. It turns out our skin has its own stress-response system similar to the central body. This system produces same stress hormones (serotonin and melatonin), as well as cortisol and beta-endorphin that are released when our skin senses stress and are related to skin’s health and risk for disease. When we are stressed, our body over produces stress hormones that weaken our immune system and triggering skin aging.

Wishing you a healthy, glowing skin,


Dr. Brei, PhD NuVsio Founder

Listen to the podcast now: Dr. Brei Explains Urban Pollution & Its Effect on Skin