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Acne in the city: why sun, stress & pollution are your new beauty enemies?


Overstretched, sleep-deprived and multi-tasking to the max, urbanites are used to seeing tired features and a dull complexion in the mirror. But did you know that a city environment can also aggravate your acne? Here's how sun, smog and stress form a "tag-team" that's no friend to your complexion, plus some tips on how to fight back and stop city acne!

Urban pollution particles can penetrate skin

One of skin's major city stresses is pollution. Tiny dust particles known as PM 2.5 can squeeze through the skin's protective barrier and wreak havoc. They trigger a chain reaction that starts with oxidation of sebum at skin's surface, followed by increased oil production and hyperkeratinisation - more dead cells at the surface.

The bottom line? Blackheads look worse and new spots can crop up.

Everyone seems to be talking about the dangers of pollution, but what type of daily care helps skin defend itself? Anti-adhesion textures which work to stop pollution particles from sticking to skin and doing their worst are a good place to start.

Sun exposure can worsen acne - even if you've always thought the opposite!

UV light is another beauty enemy (yes, a sunny day can have its downside!). In fact, one myth about spots that just won't die is that sunlight is acne-prone skin's saviour. Wrong! In the very short term, a tan can make your complexion look more even, but the sun's drying effect causes skin to rebound into "oil overdrive" after your holiday. The oil combined with a thickening of skin's top layer clogs pores and prevents sebum from escaping properly.

The bottom line? Sun modifies skin's behaviour, making it more spot-prone.

Skin is in need of specific protection to shield it from UV rays. The first step? Broad-spectrum UV protection covering both UVA and UVB. Opt for fluid, oil-free and non-comedogenic textures.

Stress aggravates blemish-prone complexions

Long hours, exams or deadlines, a crazily competitive landscape... Ever noticed your complexion tends to suffer when the going gets tough? You're not alone: scientific research has proven a link between high stress levels and acne severity. (1) The truth is that doctors still haven't worked out the exact nuts and bolts of the stress effect, but it's thought to involve stress hormones which trigger the sebaceous gland to manufacture extra oil, turning skin into a breeding ground for blemishes.

The bottom line? It's not your imagination: stress is a genuine acne trigger. When it comes to stress in the city, each person needs to find their own way of staying zen: going out with friends, hitting the gym or simply stepping away from the screen - make sure you set aside some me-time... your skin might just thank you for it!

(1) Acta Derm Venereol. 2007;87(2):135-9. Study of psychological stress, sebum production and acne vulgaris in adolescents. Yosipovitch G, Tang M, Dawn AG, Chen M, Goh CL, Huak Y, Seng LF.