Truth or myth: can pollution cause acne?

Truth or myth: can pollution cause acne?

We all know that acne can be caused by a multitude of factors, but could pollution be one of them? City dwellers are becoming increasingly worried that one of the unfortunate by-products of exhaust fumes, smoke, and debris, is poor skin health. So is it a myth that fresh air and open country spaces do wonders for your skin; or does pollution really cause acne?

Dr Daisy Bennett confirms that acne is a ‘multi-factorial issue’ and it is therefore difficult to pinpoint what exactly causes each case of acne. There are however, studies to suggest that polluting effects can worsen or even cause spots. Dr Daisy says that polluting effects include things like ‘dust, dirt, and debris.’ When these polluting effects ‘collect on your face it can block pores, and of course that can result in new spots forming.’  Living in a city you are more exposed to pollution than someone who lives in the country, in fresh open spaces.

The biggest danger pollution poses to our skin is an overload of free radical damage. Living in a city means you will be exposed to air pollution which harbours free radicals. Our skin is our first line of defence against free radical damage and inevitably suffers the brunt of this onslaught, which results in cells functioning poorly. Suffering from free radical damage everyday leads to compromised skin health as the free radicals interfere with cells and cause inflammation. As well as air pollution, ozone pollution also attacks our skin by breaking down the natural oils which protect us; this leaves us susceptible to redness and irritation.

Dr Daisy Bennett

Dr Daisy does however remind us that ‘of course there are people living outside of the city with acne, and people living in the city without it.’ So relocation isn’t necessary if you do live in a city and suffer from acne! Simply ensure that you are cleansing your skin twice a day to keep bacteria from clogging pores and forming spots. Address free radical damage by using a cleanser, a sunscreen which protects from UVA and UVB rays, and lookout for antioxidants in your skincare. Like all factors that contribute to acne, some people find their skin affected by pollution and others do not.

Whilst it is widely believed that pollution does not cause acne, there is some truth that in the idea that it could be contributing to new spots forming.       

This article reflects the opinion of Dr Daisy Bennett and is intended as general information only. You should seek advice from a professional before starting any new regime or course of conduct.