What is an environmental toxin? The word "chemical" gets thrown around a lot. You may have heard or read that trying to avoid chemicals doesn't make much sense as literally everything is a chemical, water, air, everything. This sentiment has become a big talking point for those who want to disregard people seeking a natural, holistic, and organic lifestyle as being naive and uneducated. I think this comes down to semantics and vocabulary. It is more important to focus on the reality of toxic and antigenic substances that we ingest, affecting our toxic load. A toxin is a harmful disease-causing substance. This can either be a synthetic or a natural substance. Toxic load refers to the accumulation of these substances in the body. It is impossible to escape harmful toxins in our modern world completely, but we can make lifestyle changes to reduce toxic load, leading to a healthier body which translates to healthier skin.
Because we can't see environmental toxins, for the most part, it makes it difficult to identify as a source for skin issues. But if you have tried EVERYTHING and still have stubborn skin issues, taking a look at the list below may provide you with some help!
Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution
Air pollution directly affects the skin as it breaks down the uttermost layer of our skin called the acid mantle. This outer layer is responsible for protecting the skin, keeping foreign invaders out, and also acting as a type of seal to prevent water from evaporating from the skin. When this layer is compromised, skin can become dull, dehydrated, irritated, red, and may cause breakouts. Air pollutants that can affect the skin include auto exhaust, combustion of organic material such as burning wood (forest fire) or volcanic activity, cigarette smoke, paint varnishes, and industrial facilities emissions. But also indoor air pollution. You may be surprised at how new furniture, carpet, mattresses, new clothes, building materials, and plastics compromise the air quality in your home. These types of pollution have been associated with skin cancer (even in the absence of solar rays), hyperpigmentation (again even in the absence of solar radiation), eczema, acne, wrinkles, and increased loss of collagen. In addition to the topical airways or be absorbed by the lungs into the bloodstream
What can you do?
- Cleanse your skin morning and evening with a cleanser that works to remove impurities while supporting the skin's integrity. My favorite is the Green Envee Purify Oil Cleanser. Oil cleansers are magic because they work like a magnet to pick up unwanted debris on the surface of the skin, but unlike traditional foaming cleansers, they do not have ingredients that break down the protective barrier.
- Use a high-quality air purifier. I use the Molekule air purifier. I have no affiliation with Molekule and do not benefit in any way from recommending their products; I just like them and saw the difference in air quality in my home first had during the forest fires last year. For larger rooms, I have heard excellent things about the Air Doctor air purifier. They are a splurge but trust me if you are in a position to do so, it is well worth the investment.
- Use antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, including those from air pollution that damage the skin. Ingesting a rainbow of (organic when possible) produce is a fantastic way to get antioxidants internally! It's even better if you can grow it yourself! Topically ingredients like Vitamin C and CoQ10 are hugely beneficial. I love both the Herbal Skin Solutions Vitamin C Serum, and the Apoterra Night Regenerative Balm for this.
- Seek refugee from air pollution whenever possible by reducing and eliminating indoor pollutants and reducing time in heavily trafficked areas.
Most water that we come into contact with has been treated with chlorine. Over time, consistent exposure to small quantities of chlorine can take a toll. Chlorine breaks down the skin's surface barrier, dries the skin, may cause atopic dermatitis, can disrupt the sensitive microbiome of the skin, cause premature aging, and more! For this reason, you may want to limit your time in a chlorinated pool, shower or bath, and get a filter for your home if possible.
Federal safety standards for drinking water don't quite cut it, tap water toxicity is a thing, and it's common. Tap water contaminants include heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, and lead- each of which is toxic to almost every organ in the body, including the skin. Arsenic has even been linked to skin cancer. Fluoride is highly controversial and can be found in all tap water, because tap water is treated with fluoride. Fluoride has been linked to lower IQ in children, associated with cancer risk, brain and central nervous system disorders, and more. As I said, this is a controversial topic, and there are two sides to every story. Water is treated with fluoride because it may lead to a decrease in cavities. I invite you to research this topic and decide for yourself based on evidence. Herbicides and pesticide which are tied to everything from obesity, endocrine disruption, and cancer. Additionally, small quantities of pharmaceuticals including anti-depressants and hormonal birth control, are commonly found in tap water. Anytime we affect health of a body system, we are affecting the health of the skin. Don't forget, the skin is not an isolated organ but is intertwined with all other body systems.
What can you do?
- Get a water filter for your shower-head that filters out chlorine and heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, petroleum contaminants, and BPA.
- Get a water filter that filters your drinking water. I have been eyeing the Berkey water filter, which I like because it is a great quality filter and comes at a fraction of the cost of most water filter systems.
- Ditch bottled water. Before you go out and buy a bunch of bottled water to avoid tap water, think again. Bottled water is not safer than tap water, and actually can be worse as when you drink bottled water, you are basically drinking plastic tea.
- Check Out the Environmental Working Groups grade for the water in your area here https://www.ewg.org/tapwater
I could probably dedicate an entire career to discussing environmental toxins, and luckily, some people have, check out the Heal Thy Self Podcast to dive way deeper. I hope this post can serve as a starting point to your research!