Girl, wash your face!

By Natalie Ledbetter, CRNA

OK, I’ll admit it- I’ve done it.  My guess is that we have all done it, at least once. What am I talking about? Going to bed at night without washing your face first. 


What is the big deal you might ask? Well as we go about our day, whether we wear makeup or sunscreen or nothing on our face, our skin is exposed to pollutants, pollen, dust, dirt, and germs in the air. Germs settle on our skin and dust and dirt collect and can work their way into in our pores. If we wear makeup it gets in our pores. If we live in an area with a lot of smog or pollution, chemicals from the air settle on our skin and can speed up the aging process. 

Skin aging is characterized by the appearance of lines and wrinkles, the loss of elasticity, delayed repair of wounds, age spots, and the loss of skin tone. The increase in air pollution has harmful effects on skin and speeds up the skin aging process. 

Our skin is exposed to environmental air pollutants such polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter (PM), and ozone (O3 ). which help produce Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), or free radicals. These strip the skin of necessary fats which are needed to help the skin retain moisture and keep out dirt and other impurities. A compromised skin barrier can lead to increased skin sensitivity, infection, discomfort or itching, and premature signs of skin aging, especially pigmentation issues such as age spots and melasma. Air pollution works together with rays from the sun to increase damage to the skin making the damage worse than it would be with sun exposure alone.

Although our skin acts as a biological barrier against pro-oxidative air pollutants, prolonged exposure can cause changes in skin structure and function and has been associated with aging as well as inflammatory skin conditions and cancer. This is one reason it is important to wash your face twice a day, especially at night.


Wash your face

Cleansing your skin helps your anti-aging products work properly because they have better access to the skin. Twice a day cleaning helps maintain pore size by preventing excess oil accumulation. It removes dirt, oil, sweat, pollutants, viruses and bacteria, and dead skin that clog the pores and prevent your skin care products from entering the skin. When you don’t wash your face, this can lead to clogged pores, oily skin, breakouts, and more rapid aging by allowing the pollutants, oil, dirt, and germs to remain on your skin longer.

In the morning, a quick wash with lukewarm water and a bit of gentle cleanser removes any excess oil or sweat that accumulated overnight. At night, a good cleanse is even more important to remove sunscreen, makeup, and everything you were exposed to during the day. This also helps your retinoid and other product absorption.

Products you need to protect your skin

You need a good cleanser that is not too harsh for your skin. Do not use bar soap. Harsh cleansers including bar soap can cause irritation and excess dryness by stripping too much of the natural oils from your skin. To keep skin healthy and help to combat the effects of pollution on aging I recommend you use: 

A good cleanser that meets your skin’s specific needs (I like ZO Gentle Cleanser or Skin Medica AHA-BHA Exfoliating Cleanser)

A good antioxidant serum or cream that includes at least vitamins C and E and peptides

A high-quality retinoid (such as Skin Better’s Alpha Ret)

A mineral sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 or above (I like Elta UV Physical and SkinMedica Total Defense and Repair)

A gentle exfoliation product that will not scratch the skin. (I recommend ZO exfoliating Polish).

As a bonus, I recommend Skin Medica TNS Advanced Serum with growth factors, peptides, and botanicals.

In summary

Pollution weakens and ages your skin. Leaving pollutants, dirt, oil, and germs on your skin overnight can lead to increased signs of aging as well as breakouts, clogged pores, and rough texture. Antioxidants, along with peptides and vitamins help strengthen the skin and neutralize the primary triggers of skin aging. Look for products that contain antioxidants such as botanicals, and vitamins A, C and E. Wash you face morning and night and wear a quality sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. There are many other things you can do to encourage healthy glowing skin, but if you do these steps discussed above, it will be a great start. 

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