Does Living in a City affect your skin?

by Nick Seth July 11, 2015

It’s become a well-known fact that most cities are polluted. The rush to modernize has left our cities with a legacy of pollutants in the air, and it’s not really getting any better. Whether its New York or London or Beijing, our cities rank pretty low in terms of air quality. This of course leads to dozens of problems, whether it be diseases of the heart or the lungs or something else entirely. In the United States alone, it’s estimated that 200,000 early deaths are a consequence of air pollution. But it also affects your skin, and not positively.

According to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, exposure to air pollution can be linked to worsening and earlier signs of ageing- especially to pigment spot development, coarse wrinkles and loss of skin elasticity. Exposure to nanoparticles given out by vehicles is especially detrimental to the skin says Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., a consulting professor of dermatology at the Duke University School of Medicine*.  "[They] poke holes in the skin's collagen, so the skin no longer has the thickness and the structure that it once did.” She also mentions that research has shown that the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) that are bound to the nanoparticles in the air from pollution are converted to quinones. Quinones are part of the process that produces Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)- ROS leads to the kind of skin ageing that is seen as a consequence of prolonged exposure to UV Light. Dr. Draelos recommends that one washes their face regularly, and partakes of anti-oxidants.

It isn’t only pollution however, that leads of premature skin ageing. Are you a smoker? Have smoker friends? Well then, it looks like your skin just might be showing those signs of ageing a little earlier- cigarette smoke is thought to be one of the causes of breakdown of collagen and elastic fibers in the skin, resulting in the untimely advance of wrinkles and sagging skin in individuals*. Since the 1970’s, studies have shown that smoking leads to more skin ageing that exposure to the sun. These studies may not have taken into account the widening ozone hole in our atmosphere, but nonetheless, smoking is a major factor in the development of ‘crow’s feet’ (lines around the edge of eyes) and ‘smoker’s lines’ (multiple horizontal lines around the mouth), and a number of skin diseases, such as psoriasis. Not that this article is implying if you live in a city you smoke, but if you live in a city the chances are higher that you do or that you are surrounded by those who do.

Living in a city definitely has it perks- retail stores, shopping malls, improved transport structures, wider pool of schools and jobs to choose from- but it also has its cons, and it looks like skin ageing is one of them.


Nick Seth
Nick Seth

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