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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan on July 4, 2022

Best Skin Care Tips to Heal Damaged Skin

Without a proper skin care routine, your skin barrier may become damaged due to environmental factors such as air pollution, sun exposure, and even stress. Here's how to keep your skin healthy and youthful against factors that are out of your control.

Skin care min scaled

You’ve probably heard that skin care starts from the inside out. While there is truth to this statement, there are many external factors that may be causing damage to your skin that you have little control over.

Things like climate change, stress, and air pollution may be causing damage to your skin’s barrier. This can lead to dry, cracked, and damaged skin that causes you to look (and feel) aged.

In this guide, we’ll expose some of the most common environmental factors that cause damage to your skin. Our experts also provide their best skin care tips to help stop the damage in its tracks.

Why Is Skin Care Important?

As the topmost layer of the epidermis, the skin barrier is your body’s first line of defense against external pathogens like germs and bacteria. Though it plays a huge role as a strong protector to other layers of the skin such as the dermis and hypodermis, it is also vulnerable.

Since it’s utterly exposed to the environment, the skin barrier is susceptible to irritations. When it’s damaged, your body’s shield weakens and outside factors can harm the health of your skin as a whole. 

6 Factors That Damage Your Skin

Following a study on identical twins, experts have discovered that up to 60% of skin aging is influenced by genetics. In contrast, the remaining 40% is determined by outside factors like smoking and sun exposure. Both genetics and the environment can affect the appearance of your skin. 

Here are six factors that may damage your skin:

Poor diet

Dairy products have been linked to acne. Check with your doctor before removing these foods from your diet.

Some foods may cause various skin problems. For example, research shows that dairy may worsen acne, as well as high glycemic foods such as white bread and white rice.

Sugar and fried foods are also responsible for breaking down the collagen fibers in the skin, which can accelerate aging

Stress

The brain and skin are more connected than you think. When we’re under pressure, stress hormones released by the brain and adrenal glands can negatively impact the skin. 

These hormones can trigger skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, eczema, patchy hair loss, itching, and rashes. It can also slow the wound-healing process and speed up skin aging. 

Allergens in skin care products

Eczema is often treated with over-the-counter topical creams. Ironically, you can be allergic to those products and suffer from more severe conditions. Therefore, it’s a good idea to only use skincare products that are free from parabens and other common allergens.

The allergy can manifest as rashes, hives, itches, peeling skin, and swelling. In more serious cases, these allergens can cause breathing problems. 

A 2020 study has discovered how skincare products and allergies are connected. The skin barrier contains the CD1a protein that can bind itself with certain compounds from the products.

When it interacts with immune system cells called the T cells, it can set off an immune response and, therefore, an allergic reaction.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are five common allergens in skincare: 

  1. Natural rubber or latex 
  2. Fragrances 
  3. Preservatives 
  4. Dyes or color additives (for example, in hair dyes or black henna tattoos) 
  5. Metals such as nickel and gold 

Products made from natural ingredients aren’t always safe. For example, Peru balsam (tree oil) is composed of benzyl benzoate and benzyl cinnamate, and rose essential oil consists of farnesol. Each of these chemicals can stimulate T cells. 

Climate change

Research on women has shown that the more extreme the climate fluctuates, the greater the damage to the skin barrier.

In some areas where the difference between summer and winter is intense, the women in the study have decreased skin hydration. In winter, they also have higher skin pH (water-to-oil balance) and transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Together, these aspects cause dry skin. 

Meanwhile, because the climate difference in other parts of the world is minimal, the amount of sebum secretion in these women is almost the same.

However, the skin naturally produces more sebum in summer, causing oily skin. The result of the study proves that drastic climate changes can induce skin barrier damage. 

Therefore, if you live in an area where the weather changes a lot, you may need to take extra steps to protect your skin.

Air pollution 

Did you know that air pollution can contribute to aging skin?

Pollutants enter our skin either through direct contact or absorption by hair follicles and sweat ducts.

Cigarette smoke and dirt from city traffic have been known to cause signs of premature aging like pigment spots and wrinkles to appear.

Other skin conditions associated with air pollution are acne and eczema. A study has provided evidence that the prevalence of eczema symptoms is in parallel with the increasing levels of outdoor pollutants. 

More recently, a pollutant called cadmium that is usually found in batteries or television sets has been detected in psoriasis patient’s blood. This indicates that cadmium worsens the symptoms of psoriasis.

Sun exposure

There’s probably no bigger threat to our skin barrier than the sun itself. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) brings terrible consequences, causing premature aging, melasma (hyperpigmentation), and skin cancer. 

UVR is divided into three parts based on wavelengths: UVA, UVB, and UVC. While ozone layers and oxygen absorb UVC before they reach Earth, UVA and UVB are able to penetrate the human skin, inducing gene alterations or immunosuppression.

As if this isn’t distressing enough, there’s also global warming to worry about. A study has found that with every 1% decrease in the ozone layer, there will be a 2% increase in UVB irradiance. As a result, there is also a 2% chance of a surge in skin cancer patients.

Skin Care Tips That Protect Your Skin Barrier

There are several things we can do to deal with environmental factors that are hurting our skin.

Eat a healthy diet

The Mediterranean diet includes foods rich in antioxidants that can counter the impacts of pollutants. Additionally, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that seafood, coffee, tea, and cold drinks are bad for the skin; so are raw, spicy, and fried foods.

TCM usually recommends Bird’s Nest, which has been used for centuries to beautify skin. Also, drink plenty of water daily to help dilute the toxin load in the bloodstream. 

Apply sunscreen

Apply sunscreen to help limit UV damage that may lead to wrinkles, dry skin, and dark spots.

Besides sunscreen, applying skin care products with topical antioxidants like vitamins A, B3, C and E may help. Beauty supplements containing green tea, coenzyme Q10, and resveratrol may help, too. 

Try a patch test

If you have sensitive skin or a history of allergies, you might want to get a patch test. This test will indicate the substances that you’re allergic to. It can help you choose the right skin care products. 

Manage stress

Constant contact with high levels of stress will spoil your skin barrier, leaving you at risk of various diseases and conditions. With the addition of well-balanced meals, high-quality skin care products and an active mind, you can obtain a healthy skin barrier that will in turn protect your body.

Follow these steps to ensure you lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle, and your skin will thank you for it. But if you have tried all means to improve your skin and require further advice, seek the assistance of your medical practitioner or TCM specialist so they can recommend the best course of treatment for you. 

This is an adaptation of an article, ”6 Environmental Factors Affecting Skin”, which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website. 

References

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2014. Genetic polymorphisms and skin aging: the identification of population genotypic groups holds potential for personalized treatments 
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2014. Diet and Dermatology 
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2014. Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging 
  4. National Institutes of Health. 2020. Understanding allergic reactions to skincare products
  5. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 2022. Allergens in Cosmetics  
  6. Scientific Research. 2017. The Effects of Regional Climate and Aging on Seasonal Variations in Chinese Women’s Skin Characteristics 
  7. Science Direct. 2020. Air pollution and skin disorders 
  8. Frontiers. 2014. Air pollution and the skin 

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