Our beauty therapist, Silvia Bonino, has some advice on how to protect our skin from the effects of digital ageing and pollution in our homes.

Digital ageing, and how to protect our skin from pollution in our own homes The Clinic by Dr Mayoni
Silvia Bonino, Beauty Therapist

We all know that our environment has a massive influence on our skin and how it ages. By being in lockdown, at least we know we are less exposed to the traffic air pollution! But did you know that our own homes can also be sources of pollution? It pays to be aware of these so that we can try to minimise our exposure.

Pollution is bad for our skin because it induces oxidative stress which results in free radical production. Free radicals are small unstable molecules that can cause damage to our skin’s DNA and speed up the ageing process. They are found in every cell of our body and increase in number when our body is exposed to particular environments.

The environmental pollutants that we are exposed to at home include:

  • blue light
  • volatile organic compounds
  • ozone
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • cigarette smoke

Blue light, or high-energy visible light (HEV light) is high-frequency light. Sunlight is the main source of blue light, but there are also many indoor sources of blue light including smartphones, flat-screen TVs, computers, and so on. Eight hours of screen exposure four times a week has been shown to create the same amount of damage as 20 minutes of midday sun. Blue light disrupts the Circadian rhythm, which governs our sleeping patterns – and this is why we are advised to limit screen time in the hours before bed. But did you know it also creates damage in skin cells? Circadian rhythm provides the precise timing mechanism for energising different pathways to keep skin healthy. ‘Clock genes’ are present in all skin cells, and during the day the skin cells will focus on protection while at night, skin activity is aimed at repair and healing any daytime damage. But exposure to blue light disrupts this rhythm. Clinical research has shown that blue light on epidermal skin cells can alter their own clock gene expression. This results in free radical production with resultant DNA damage and further inflammatory mediators that cause further local damage. Research has shown that this causes similar amounts of damage as UV light. The electromagnetic waves overheat the skin in the dermal layer destroying collagen fibres and reducing water in the tissue. These effects can potentially increase overall skin damage and accelerate ageing.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are compounds that easily become vapours or gases, such as benzene, ethanol, and so on. In the home these can be found in the vapour from burning candles, cigarettes, glass cleaning products, dishwasher and laundry detergents, and so on. VOCs have been associated with atopic dermatitis of the skin.

Ozone is found in the environment and interacts with UV light to create increased oxidative stress. This manifests in the skin as premature ageing, seen as pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil and gasoline. PAHs are released when coal, oil, wood, rubbish and tobacco are burned. PAHs are associated with extrinsic skin ageing, pigmentation and acne eruptions.

Cigarette smoke is implicated in many health-related chronic conditions included respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease and many cancers, and it also results in premature skin ageing and increased risk of psoriasis, acne, skin cancer, dermatitis and eczema.

Other airborne pollutants include biological molecules or other harmful materials that exist in the atmosphere, such as sulphur dioxide (found in bleach and food preservatives) and carbon monoxide (emitted by fuel burning appliances such as gas central heating boilers and log burners). These pollutants can interact with UV radiation or human skin microbiota and impact on skin health. They destroy the skin’s natural barrier, which protects the skin from harmful particles and keeps the skin moisturised.

How can we address Digital Ageing?

As well as taking steps to ensure we get enough sleep, quitting smoking and eating a varied diet (supplementing where necessary) there are lots of things we can do to address digital ageing:

  • Using skincare rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin C can help tackle free radicals. Vitamin C, vitamin E and peptides also reduce inflammatory effects and protect the skin – I would recommend the Obagi Pro-C serum, Pro-C SunProtection, and our at-home peel Peel2Glow Beauty+Boost
  • Various products help to recreate and boost the skin’s natural barrier, such as ceramides, flavonoids, resveratrol, lycopene and phospholipids. I recommend Skintech’s RRS Injectables.
  • Supplements to stimulate collagen such as ANP Collagen Boost may also be helpful, and Hyaluronic acid helps to rehydrate the skin
  • The use of plant stem cells to address skin damage is also showing promise
  • And hopefully it goes without saying that regular use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen including HEV and IR filters is a must!

Plenty of ideas to help keep our skin healthy and glowing while we are on lockdown. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with The Clinic team if you need further advice.


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