Skin pollution: prevention and repair

In partnership with SA’s top medical aesthetic companies

Pollution is all around and in the air we breathe. Is it possible to avoid it and protect ourselves? We can’t avoid it entirely, sadly, but there is a lot we can do to protect ourselves.

As we discussed in our previous feature, it is clear that there are some factors over which we have more control than others. Things like tobacco smoke and poor nutrition can either be avoided, or we can do research to make better choices. Factors such a radiation and air pollution can be managed to an extent (plant spekboom in your garden, for starters), but if you’re stuck in traffic, there’s no magic wand that will make it disappear.

Protect and repair our skin

How do we protect ourselves? We need to take all the measures we can to protect ourselves against the external factors.

Dr. Maureen Allem, founder and medical director of Skin Renewal, says her number one skincare tip is to apply sunscreen every day, rain or shine; summer or winter. Sure, summer with its harsh sunshine, but why winter?

She explains, ‘The sun only seems less damaging during the winter months, but the sun’s rays are equally damaging all year round. The second reason is because the skin is also affected by external environmental factors that we may not even be aware of.’

We recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects the skin against UVA and UVB, as well as infra-red and visible light, with anti-oxidant protection, every day of the year.

The next step is to ensure we give our bodies a healthy dose of anti-oxidants. Taking a good anti-oxidant supplement helps our bodies getting rid of free-radicals that build up through exposure to pollution.

Our skin is the last to receive these, though, and as it is at the frontline of our body’s defences, we need to give it all the help we can get.

Luckily, we have excellent skin creams and treatments with anti-oxidants that prevent cell oxidation and inflammation, as well as ingredients that strengthen our skin’s protective phospholipid barrier. If you need assistance in choosing the right product, our professional skin care consultants are on standby to help.

Preventative protection is always first prize, but what do we do if we haven’t protected our skin? Is it too late to repair the damage?

Fortunately not! At Skin Renewal, we have numerous treatments to help counter the damaged and dehydrated appearance of skin. By stimulating collagen and elastin production, skin elasticity will be restored and it will regain its plump, healthy look.

A case for sunscreen

In recent years, sunscreen has been getting a bad rap for various reasons:

Firstly, it has been implicated in vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is vital for numerous vital functions in our bodies. These studies were conducted in the Northern Hemisphere, where people have much less sun exposure than we do. Secondly, many people simply do not get enough sun because they simply don’t spend any time outdoors.

In a sunny country like South Africa, you need 10 minutes twice a week on exposed skin to get sufficient exposure to stimulate vitamin D production (and you can always supplement with vitamin D-rich food or oral supplements). For the rest of the time, you really need to protect yourself from UV damage and pollution, which are very harmful to our bodies, and using sunscreen is an important part of this.

Secondly, a number of studies have suggested that the use of certain sun filters could pose a threat to coral reefs. The question of which filters are coral friendly and which are not is currently the subject of much debate. The only official actions that have been taken are with respect to oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been banned in a number of countries, initially in Hawaii and subsequently in others.

Manufacturers of sunscreens are making a concerted effort to remove these ingredients from their formulations. Cantabria Labs, manufacturers of Heliocare, have not included any of these filters in their new formulations since 2014.

It’s always a good idea to read your labels to ensure the sunscreen you buy has ingredients you are happy to use. And make sure they say ‘broadspectrum’ or ‘UVA/UVB protection’ at the very least to be sure you are getting good protection.

A bonus would be if a sunscreen also protects us against infrared and visible light. Medical sunscreens such as Heliocare 360 now contain ingredients that protect us against all these elements.

To find out more about the impact of external factors and how to protect yourself against it, visit Skin Renewal at

Take the quick Beyond Beauty Survey and you could win a R2 000 Skin Renewal voucher to spend in our online store, with free delivery within South Africa. T&Cs apply.

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