The skincare industry offers a wide variety of products to combat the effects of aging. Lotions or gels that claim to rejuvenate the skin, eliminate wrinkles, and erase puffiness or discolorations are widely marketed, often with very little scientific proof of their effectiveness.  However, there is one scientifically-proven way to improve your skin that is often overlooked: improving your indoor air quality.

What’s in your indoor air?

Many of the things that make modern life more convenient also bring in pollutants.  The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission lists these as common sources of indoor pollutants:

  • combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and tobacco products
  • building materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated, asbestos-containing insulation
  • wet or damp carpet
  • cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products
  • products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies
  • central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
  • outdoor sources such as radon, pesticides, and outdoor air pollution.

In fact, indoor air contains up to five times more pollutants than outdoor air. Because most Americans spend nearly 90% of their time indoors, these pollutants can have a devastating effect on both your health and appearance.

What do these pollutants do to your skin?

Emerging research shows that pollutants in the air can speed up the aging process. In recent studies in Germany and China, Prof Jean Krutmann, director at the Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Germany, discovered that age spots on people’s cheeks increased by 25% with a relatively small increase in pollution.

Krutman clarified that this issue is much more widespread than just the two countries in his study.

“It is not a problem that is limited to China or India – we have it in Paris, in London, wherever you have larger urban agglomerations you have it,” he said. “In Europe everywhere is so densely populated and the particles are being distributed by the wind, so it is very difficult to escape from the problem.”

And discoloration is not the only skincare issue exacerbated by pollutants. Dr Mervyn Patterson, a cosmetic doctor at Woodford Medical clinics in the UK noted the link between pollutants and wrinkles:

“If you damage skin, it goes into repair mode and excites enzymes which re-adsorb damaged collagen. When you have too much chronic inflammation, these enzymes remove more collagen than your skin can create. This produces skin laxity and that’s where fine lines and wrinkles come in.” Patterson said.

Krutman and Patterson are not alone in their view. Multiple studies have drawn similar conclusions about the link between pollutants and premature aging.

How can we protect our skin?

Researchers are working on producing medicine-like compounds that block the damage from air pollution from occurring.  But, perhaps the best thing we can do for our skin is to improve the air quality in our homes. Some of the most effective ways to reduce indoor pollutants are to:

  • Ensure that gas stoves are well ventilated
  • Reduce the use of harsh cleaners and scented products
  • Keep windows and doors open as much as possible

While all of these measures can help reduce pollutants in indoor air, the most important step we can take to improving our indoor air quality is to purchase an air purifier.  A high-quality air purifier will remove dangerous pollutants in your home, which will both improve your overall health and help to minimize the effects of premature aging.