We often don't realise how small changes in our environment affect our skin's health and needs— the changing of seasons, stress, sun exposure...
In this post, we'll shed some light on the environmental factors that affect our skin. Through understanding its impact are we then able to tackle them.
Let's start with the first— seasonal changes.
Shifting Seasons: Humid vs. Dry
With a change in weather comes a change in temperatures, humidity levels and so on. For example: A cloudy day (with no chance of meatballs, sorry) reduces your UV exposure and as a result, a lowered amount of Vitamin D that your body creates.
Winter, the epitome of dry air. Whether you're freezing in the cold temperature outdoors or cozied up in the heater-induced comforts of your home, one thing remains constant— the air is dry and lacking in moisture. Adding to it are slowed-down skin cell renewal and a weakened metabolism. Yikes!
This is why many find themselves dealing with dry, scratchy, chapped skin during winter.
We all love spring, don’t we? Well, so does your skin. The much-needed return of warm air restores moisture levels in the environment, relieving the skin from tightness and dehydration. Time for your heavier-bodied face creams and moisturisers to take a backseat.
Say hello to regular trips to the beach and sipping on martinis! Depending on where you live, the weather of the summer months could be of two types:
Hot and Humid – Countries near the equator mostly experience such a climate (think: Singapore, or the Philippines), leading the skin to feel more oily than it normally does. This is because heat stimulates the skin to produce more sebum, a naturally occurring oil, thereby creating an extra barrier over your skin. Pores open up and you also end up sweating more.
In a hot and humid climate, opt for lightweight gel or lotion moisturisers over thick moisturisers and creams.
Hot and Dry – Think Sahara Desert or Arizona, home to the mighty Grand Canyon! These locations experience hot and dry summers that strip the skin off moisture and dehydrates it to the core.
In a hot and dry climate, the goal is to keep your skin hydrated at all times. Opt for products with Hyaluronic Acid (HA). A naturally occurring bodily compound and a humectant, HA reduces the loss of moisture and instead retains it in your skin. In other words— a magnet for moisture.
It might get complicated when there's a little bit of both. Whatever the case may be, it is important to notice when the weather shifts affect your skin and adjust your skincare routine accordingly.
As summer comes to an end, it might be time for your heavy moisturisers to see the light of the day. Dry skin makes a comeback, and sometimes, the skin might respond with an overproduction of oil. To avoid the latter, make sure you keep the skin hydrated and happy.
No surprises there, changes in seasons affect humidity levels in the air, which in turn affect our skin needs. Adding on to this are a bunch of other environmental stressors that might not have been top of mind.
Let's take a closer look.
Environmental Skin Stressors
Stress, stress, stress
Ever noticed that your skin suddenly breaks out when you're nearing an exam or a tight deadline? High-stress environments are rather sneaky stressors for the skin.
Here are a few reasons why your skin begins to misbehave when you’re stressed:
- Hormonal imbalance: The body responds to stress by producing more cortisol, which signals glands to produce more oil. The result? The very dreaded pimple breakout.
- Insufficient sleep: Stress often runs your brain into overdrive, keeping you up at night instead of letting you get the rest you need
- Neglected skincare: Amidst a busy schedule, your self-care and skincare routine might have gotten side-lined.
- Lifestyle changes: Knowingly or unknowingly, you might be gulping down more coffee or beers. 🤷♀️Guess how your skin feels? Dehydrated.
TL;DR - Stress not only upsets your body but also your skin.
Exposure to Air-Conditioning
Offices, cars, shopping malls, homes... You name it. A large chunk of the population spends more than half their day in an air-conditioned environment.
We'll let science do the talking: AC’s work by drawing out heat from the air inside the room and blowing it outside. Unable to differentiate, it also ends up also sucking up a fair deal of moisture from the air and from your skin.
As a result, spending long periods of time in air-conditioned environments will make your skin dry, dehydrated, and tight.
Tip: Use a humidifier to help restore moisture levels in an air-conditioned room. What's more, choose a humidifier with the right capacity based on the size of the room— aim for humidity levels between 35-50%.
High Sun Exposure Environments
Boarding a flight for the much-awaited vacation makes everyone happy as a clam. But flying also means we're much closer to the ozone layer, where the sun's rays are more powerful.
While we won't get sunburned by UVB radiation, UVA rays can still penetrate your skin's deeper layers which will cause photoaging (sunspots and wrinkling)... and worse still, skin cancer. 😧
Similarly, divers, farmers, and manual labourers are also subjected to the sun for prolonged time periods and are susceptible to these harmful rays.
Tip: There is no such thing as too much sunscreen! Wear a broad-spectrum SPF 30++ sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection and minimise sun exposure whenever possible... even on rainy days!
Coming in the form of traffic fumes, industrial pollution, cigarette smoke, and even haze from burning down of forests to clear the land, the impacts of pollution are profound.
In a polluted environment, your skin feels irritated and the complexion becomes more susceptible to rashes, eczema, and breakouts. Free radicals, which are highly unstable molecules start to damage the skin's natural protective barrier. It doesn't sound good, we know.
Tip: A proper skincare routine is essential in such cases as it helps create multiple protective layers for the skin, defending it against free radicals and pollutants that cause skin irritation.
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The most important step to tackling environmental stressors is to first be aware of them. Next is going for skincare that actually takes your environment and lifestyle into consideration.