Both indoor and outdoor environments can affect your skin or even wreak havoc on your complexion. This is especially true if you’re constantly exposed to UV rays, pollution, and blue light. These environmental factors can generate free radicals, which can then damage your skin cells and contribute to dullness and premature aging. 

How to Protect Your Skin Against Environmental Damage

Continue reading as we tackle the effects of these environmental factors and what you can do to further protect your skin. 

Ultraviolet (UV) rays and your skin

While a moderate amount of sun exposure can bring benefits to the body, too much of it can spell disaster. Prolonged and unprotected sun exposure can damage your skin cells’ DNA and accelerate the breakdown of collagen and elastin. This can result in sunburn, visible signs of aging, and an increased risk of skin cancer. 

Long-term exposure to UV rays can also:

  • Cause or contribute to the formation of fine lines, wrinkles, and sunspots
  • Worsen the looks of lines, creases, dark spots, and other signs of aging
  • Lead to signs of sun damage (leathery skin, wrinkles, liver spots)
  • Can cause eye issues such as general pain, redness, and light sensitivity 

For further reading: Here Comes the Sun: The Pros and Cons of Sunlight

Protecting your skin from the sun 

Fortunately, you can safely enjoy spending time outdoors by protecting your skin from the sun. Start with applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and follow up with a wide-brimmed hat, sun-safe clothing, and UV protective sunglasses. Other things that can help include:

  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Limit sun exposure and avoid the sun when UV rays are the strongest (between 10 am and 4 pm)
  • Seek shade or use an umbrella
  • Avoid standing under the sun for too long; take breaks or stay indoors.
  • Avoid indoor tanning or the use of tanning beds.

Air pollution and your skin

Apart from negatively affecting the quality of the air you breathe, pollution is also a source of free radicals that can trigger cell damage and increase inflammation. This can also accelerate skin aging. Some of the most common air pollutants include:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Dust, dirt, and soot
  • Burning fuel
  • Coal and gasoline
  • Paints, disinfectants, pesticides, and aerosol sprays
  • Smog

When tiny air pollutants enter and linger in your pores, the skin barrier function can be compromised, making you more prone to breakouts and other skin issues. These include:

  • Dullness or uneven skin tone
  • Dark spots or pigmentation
  • Enlarged pores
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Redness and skin sensitivity

Protecting your skin from pollution

This starts with cleansing your face properly, especially before going to bed. This is to remove dirt, pollutants, and other impurities. If you wear makeup during the day, be sure to use a makeup remover first (like micellar water) to remove any traces of cosmetics then follow up with a gentle face cleanser. Other things that can help include:

  • Moisturize your skin regularly to strengthen the skin barrier. Choose products with ceramides or hyaluronic acid. 
  • Use products with antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E. Dr. Sylvia’s 20% Vitamin C, B, E and Ferulic Acid is a topical skincare serum that can help brighten the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for a more youthful complexion. 
  • Consider a skin repair serum like Dr. Sylvia’s Apple Stem Cell Serum. This helps stimulate collagen and elastin, activate skin cell regeneration, and reverse environmental damage. 
  • Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet, especially berries, citrus fruits, and leafy greens. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can also benefit the skin and fight premature aging.
  • Get a chemical peel like the VI Peel to resurface the skin’s damaged layer and improve the tone, texture, and clarity of your skin. This peel can also soften lines and wrinkles, smooth rough skin, brighten dark spots, and reduce the appearance of keratosis pilaris (tiny bumps on the skin)
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen daily to protect your skin from UV rays and environmental damage. 
  • Get enough sleep to help your skin recover and repair daytime damage. 

Blue light and your skin

Sunlight is the largest source of blue light; computers and phones only emit a fraction of that radiation. However, we spend lots of time using electronic devices and even place them close to our eyes and faces. This can still put us at risk of increased blue light exposure daily. 

Research suggests that blue light exposure from electronic devices may generate free radicals, penetrate the skin, and break down collagen. Too much exposure may also darken hyperpigmentation, particularly melanin-rich skin. Numerous studies have also shown that blue light exposure speeds up the aging process and modifies circadian rhythm. 

The overuse of devices can also:

  • Strain your eyes
  • Compromise sleep
  • Lead to “tech neck” or the pain and wrinkles caused by looking down at the screen for a prolonged period

For further reading: Blue Light from Your Phone: How Does it Hurt Your Skin?

Protecting your skin from blue light

One of the best things you can do is to limit your screen time. You can do this by tracking the amount of time you spend on your phone and setting time limits. You can also take regular screen breaks and keep devices (including TVs) out of the bedroom if possible. Other things that can help include: 

  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen even if you stay inside the house to protect or avoid potential damage.
  • Use skincare products (serums and creams) with antioxidants, as well as ingredients that support your skin barrier such as niacinamide, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid.
  • Put your phone/device on night shift more or use a blue light filter to reduce eye strain and other potential effects of blue light. 
  • Use the “20-20-20” rule: for every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Cutis Medical Laser Clinics in Singapore provides skin care products and nonsurgical aesthetic treatments that promote healthy and glowing skin. Contact us today at +65 6801 4000 and schedule a consultation with our aesthetic doctor to find out how we can help you achieve your skincare goals.