Environmental factors on skin
Whilst genetic predispose certainly plays a key role in the health and appearance of our skin. The environment we live in and its factors also have a direct impact on skin health. Even though the skin acts as a biological shield against these factors, prolonged and continuous exposure to said factors can cause negative effects on the skin.
It is important to remember that the skin’s protective ability is limited, and problems start to arise when this biological shield’s exposure to harmful factors exceeds its normal defensive potential. This overexposure can lead to the disruption of the skin barrier function, which may lead to skin diseases, such as edema, skin aging, erythema, hyperplasia, contact/atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and carcinogenesis. Although these skin diseases are not life-threatening, they can affect life quality and present health care costs.
Environmental factors, such as ultraviolet radiation (UV), ozone (O3), and cigarette smoke (CS) can cause considerable harmful effects on the skin by creating oxidative stress, overwhelming the skin’s defence system.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radical and antioxidant activities within the skin when the body’s production of free radicals surpasses its ability to control them with antioxidants.
Although these molecules are a byproduct of cell metabolism and are naturally present in our bodies, UV rays, O3, CS exposure, and pollutants induce further production. An overload of these molecules can cause damage to fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in the body, leading to various diseases.
It is well known that sun exposure can have adverse effects on the skin, causing major destruction.
Due to the damage done by humans to the ozone layer, an increasing amount of UVB radiation can reach the earth (and everyone’s skin). When UVA/B radiation reaches the skin, a molecular response is initiated, and ROS – reactive oxygen species – are generated. This radiation can cause a cascade of oxidative events that can deteriorate cellular structure and function by penetrating through skin cells, being absorbed by proteins, and lipids, and damaging the DNA in our skin cells.
Cigarette smoke (CS) contains a large number of oxidants, that leads to oxidative stress. The toxic chemical substances present in CS can result in facial aging acceleration, wrinkling, and several harmful pathologies. O3 is another gaseous oxidant (like CS) that can induce oxidative stress in cutaneous tissues, this gas has been associated with urticaria, eczema, and contact dermatitis.
Continuous exposure to pollution can cause respiratory distress, but it also has an impact on the skin. The harmful particles and gases that are released into the environment as a result of multiple human activities, come into direct contact with the skin.
Pollutants can damage the surface of the skin’s barrier, which leaves a passageway for nanoparticles to penetrate the skin’s deeper layers. This can contribute to skin aging, atopic dermatitis, skin cancer, psoriasis, and acne.
The harmful effects mentioned previously can be reduced by wearing sunscreen, having a healthy lifestyle, having an intake of anti-oxidants, and washing off the daily buildup of dirt and toxic matter.