As the smog from Canadian wildfires in the United States begins to clear, experts warn that the pollution is not only affecting your lungs, but also your skin.
Nearly 120 million Americans are exposed to potentially life-shortening air pollution in their lifetime report according to the American Lung Association.
Medical researchers have found that exposure to air pollution is a risk factor for skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis.
The ‘toxic’ smog has also been linked to hyperpigmentation and wrinkle formation.
Last week, wildfire smoke from Canada caused air quality to skyrocket to “dangerous” levels.
Online calculators suggested that breathing the air for 24 hours in New York City was equivalent to smoking 22 cigarettes at the height of the crisis.
Heavy smoke filled the sky obscuring the view to the northeast of One Vanderbilt and the Chrysler Building from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building on June 7, 2023 in New York City
Dermatologist Dr Doris Day said it’s ‘critical’ to wash pollutants off your face as soon as possible
Dr. Christine Ko, a professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, told DailyMail.com, “Wildfire smoke can contain small particles that can be inhaled into the lungs; the particles are often too large for the skin to really penetrate healthy skin.’
She recommended keeping the skin healthy by “keeping the outer layer strong (no picking or excessive rubbing) and washing gently but thoroughly.”
Dr. Ko said: ‘If the skin isn’t healthy, meaning the skin barrier isn’t fully protective – like with eczema or acne or psoriasis, more care needs to be taken to protect the skin from pollutants by, for example, covering the skin . ‘
Dr. Shari Lipner, dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, told DailyMail.com, “The impact of wildfire smoke on skin needs to be studied more closely, but it’s probably one of the first places you can see signs of pollution damage.”
“Since a study showed that there was an increase in medical visits for eczema and psoriasis during the California wildfires, wildfires are likely to cause flare-ups in people with eczema and psoriasis.”
That’s what dermatologist Dr. Doris Day told me FOX weather the wildfire smoke can have a “powerful effect on your skin.”
She said, “You could think of it as dry skin, dull skin, acne, minor breakouts, uneven skin tone, and then with continued long-term exposure.” We see accelerated skin aging and even skin cancer.’
Protecting skin from pollutants is “so important,” she said, and get rid of them by washing your face as soon as possible is critical.’
She said, “Washing off makeup and washing your face when you get home is really helpful because sleeping with those pollutants and makeup on your skin accelerates that toxicity and increases it over time.”
The smoke filled the air with tiny particles called PM2.5, which were about 2.5 microns in size.
In comparison, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a single human hair is about 70 micrometers in size, and the human eye cannot see anything smaller than 25 micrometers.
The health impact of a particle concentration of 22 μg/m3 per 24 hours corresponds to approximately one cigarette.
Inhaling these particles can cause inflammation in the heart and lungs, which can lead to chronic diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The particles can also penetrate the skin and trigger an immune response that causes inflammation.
This, in turn, can damage skin cells and cause them to lose their structure, increasing the risk of wrinkles.
It can also lead to other skin conditions.
A 2021 study in JAMA dermatologyfound, for example, that short-term exposure to this smoke can trigger flare-ups of skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. These can appear even weeks later.
In addition, a study published last year linked short-term exposure to pollution from California wildfires with an increase in eczema and itchy skin in adults over age 65.