How to Fight Back Against Environmental Threats
It’s no secret that our skin faces an onslaught of stressors — daily. From environmental, or extrinsic, factors like sun exposure to the ongoing intrinsic (internal) processes that age our skin, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the everyday factors that are known to do serious damage.
“Identifying existing and potential environmental threats is an ongoing process that we often forget is an evolutionary one,” says Dr. George Gavrila, a cosmetic dermatologist and the owner of ProMD Health in Baltimore, Annapolis, MD and Arlington, VA. “It wasn’t too long ago that physicians were smoking in operating rooms. I always ask my patients to be mindful of what may be that modern-day cigarette equivalent.”
Here, Dr. Gavrila helps us navigate the skin’s numerous threats—and how we can fight back.
“The ultraviolet spectrum has been studied for a long time,” says Dr. Gavrila, and it’s important to understand just how UV rays damage the skin.
UVA rays are responsible for signs of premature aging, like wrinkles, sagging skin and sunspots. UVB rays, on the other hand, inflict damage to the outermost layer of the skin, resulting in sunburn or sun poisoning; they’re also the number-one cause of skin cancer. Today’s broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both types of UV rays and are more sophisticated, making regular application easier.
Dermatologists are also starting to examine the effects of IRA rays, which penetrate deeper into the dermis than both types of UV rays. IRA rays generate free radicals that break down collagen and elastin. “Be mindful of where IRA-emitting devices may hide,” cautions Dr. Gavrila, who names the heating devices used in cold dining areas, yoga studios and dry saunas as culprits. “Try to monitor and minimize the time spent under these devices.”
Arm Your Skin With Antioxidants
Free radicals, or reactive oxygen species (ROS), are present in pollution, cigarette smoke and other elements and react with protective proteins in the skin to cause oxidative damage. Dr. Gavrila likens this process to rusting: “Just like humid air rusts metal and ultimately destroys it, ROS tend to damage the integrity of all tissue and especially the skin, leading to brown spots, wrinkles and premature aging.”
Antioxidant skincare provides an extra layer of protection against free radicals. Says Dr. Gavrila, “Antioxidants help to maintain the integrity of collagen and elastin in the skin so that the aging process is a bit less dramatic and more successful—and who doesn’t want to age successfully?”
Look for products with a potent combination of antioxidants, like ORMEDIC balancing antioxidant serum. It features organic plant extracts and kakadu plum, a super source of vitamin C (even more than an orange!). Or try VITAL C hydrating antioxidant ACE serum, which features a power blend of green tea extract, red rose wine complex and vitamins A, C and E.
Put Down the Devices
Or at least minimize their use. Blue light (high-energy visible light, or HEV for short) comes from the sun, yes, but also digital devices, tablets, LED bulbs and even televisions. It causes skin damage and may disrupt the formation of collagen and elastin over time.
“We have only scratched the surface of how technology and devices pose threats to our wellbeing,” Dr. Gavrila shares. “Many are becoming aware of the potential harm this light can have on our eyes, the dermis and our overall health.”