Sleep and Pollution – How They affect Your Skin

There are two important factors that affect the health of our skin; sleep and pollution. They are particularly relevant issues, as many people are affected by sleep deprivation and the effects of pollution on a daily basis. The national average number of hours of sleep has declined over recent years and it is estimated that around one in three people suffers with sleep problems. At the same time, pollution levels are increasing. When we combine these two factors together, in a typical busy, urban lifestyle, it can wreak havoc with our skin.

Pollution Is Damaging For Your Skin

It has been estimated that 90% of visible signs of ageing can be attributed to the effects of pollution and UV rays combined. One German study found that city dwelling women have 20% more hyperpigmentation of the skin compared to those living in the countryside.

Our skin is the largest and outermost organ of the body and is therefore in direct contact with airborne pollutants. One of skin’s major functions is to act as a protective barrier against harmful environmental factors including pollution. However, prolonged and repeated exposure can overwhelm the skin’s ability to defend and protect us. This can compromise the skin’s protective barrier, leaving it fragile and more vulnerable to damage.

Microscopic particles present in polluted air can be absorbed directly by the skin, or can enter via hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous glands, penetrating into the deeper layers. Here they can cause various problems such as oxidative damage and inflammatory reactions. Oxidative damage is one of the major routes through which pollution harms our skin and causes premature ageing. Pollution leads to free radical formation and these volatile molecules cause damage to the skin, changes in the way it functions and collagen breakdown.  

Beauty Sleep Is A Key Factor in Skin Health

Sleep deprivation is an all too common feature of today’s lifestyle. Many of us are not getting enough hours and the sleep we do get is often not of the best quality. Factors such as artificial lighting and overuse of backlit screens, stress, stimulants such as caffeine, overly busy schedules and ignoring our internal body-clocks are all contributing to the problem.

This is a problem for our skin because the majority of healing and repair of the skin takes place while we sleep and this includes the production of new collagen. Collagen keeps skin strong, supple and plump, helping to prevent wrinkles and other signs of ageing. In addition, lack of sleep can lead to dehydration of the skin and reduced blood flow to the skin, which means impaired delivery of vital nutrients. Both of these factors can cause dull-looking skin.

Good sleep depends on the hormones melatonin and adrenalin. Melatonin is released by the brain, as it gets dark to induce sleep, it is made from the amino acid tryptophan, naturally occurring in protein foods. The second hormone is adrenalin, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, which needs to be switched off so we feel relaxed enough to sleep. Lack of sleep can also result in increased production of a third hormone, cortisol, a stress hormone. Elevated cortisol promotes inflammation in the body, which is involved in ageing of the skin. 

The Solution For Great Skin

Antioxidants are the antidote to free radicals; they work by neutralising the harmful molecules and rendering them harmless. Balancing free radical production from pollution and other sources with adequate antioxidants is therefore necessary for good health. This means trying to keep a check on the sources of free radicals, while also maximising our intake of antioxidants.

Always wearing SPF is a good start and there are many anti-pollution beauty products, such as day creams and serums available for further protection. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, green tea and other plant foods will maximise your dietary antioxidant intake and a daily Beauty & Go Skin Shot can give you an extra boost.

Increasing your intake of tryptophan rich foods such as eggs, spirulina, fish, soya, seeds, turkey, chicken, oats, chickpeas, nuts, cottage cheese and yoghurt is beneficial for good sleep and you could also try a sleep supplement. Following good sleep hygiene and a regular sleep-wake routine should help you sleep better. This means early to bed and early to rise and limiting exposure to artificial light and screens at night, while getting some natural daylight in the mornings. Building in relaxation is also helpful such as meditation, yoga, relaxing music or even a soak in the bath. Finally, avoid stimulating foods such as sugar and caffeine and activities such as TV, video games, social media, work or stressful conversations before bed.

Collagen supplementation can help reduce the effects of collagen breakdown and losses caused by both pollution and sleep deprivation. In addition, include vitamin C rich foods such as berries, peppers, guava, broccoli, kiwi, tomatoes, citrus fruits, peas and leafy greens, as vitamin C is required for collagen production in the body.