POLLUTION versus UV – which is worse?

With so many 'anti-pollution' and high SPF rating products out there, ever wonder what is the difference, what impact pollution vs UV has to your skin, and which is worse? Let’s go through both as well as the best solution for cosmetic products.



Air pollution is a big concern, especially in Western Pacific and South East Asian regions. The World Health Organisation reported that some 3.7 million premature deaths occurred in 2012 worldwide due to air pollution caused illness (refer: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/)

The air quickly becomes contaminated from particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide resulting from emissions from power generation, household heating/cooling, vehicle emissions, chemicals from factories and industrial smoke stacks and agricultural waste incineration. The rise in black carbon particles and methane production can also contribute to climate change. So, what effect does this have on the skin? Very small particulate matter, known as PM10 and PM2.5, (representing Particulate Matter with dimensions of 10microns or less or 2.5microns or less, respectively) can adhere to the skin. These particulates are a source of free radicals and can ‘clog’ the skin, leaving it asphyxiated due to accumulation of carbon particles, intensifying irritation in sensitive skin and free radical damage. It also alters skin hydration and skin integrity, leaving the skin drier, more dehydrated and with micro-damage. The end result is very visible: dull, tired looking skin with a devitalised complexion, premature ageing and skin damage. The other significant impact of air pollution is it is not just restricted to effects of outdoors – unlike UV damage, air pollution even occurs inside, where internal combustion is used for heating and/or cooking is done using biomass fuels and coal.

The solution? Well if you are in a high pollutant area, you can’t avoid exposure; but you can protect your skin using one of the new actives providing ‘biomimetic shielding’ – these actives work by preventing adhesion of particulate matter to the skin, typically chelate heavy metals and definitely limit free radical activity. These actives purify the skin, prevent pollution induced irritation and premature ageing and restore the natural vitality to the skin.


How one active, Exossine Exo-P from Lucas Meyer, protects the skin:


UV light

In 2010, 11,405 melanomas (skin cancers) were diagnosed in Australia, which has the world’s highest incidence of skin cancer. While this represents the extreme of sun damage to the skin, the truth is, all sun exposure poses risks to the DNA of skin cells. Once DNA is damaged either directly (through UVB) or indirectly (through the free radicals created by UVA) it leads to the creation of free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS include superoxide radicals, hydroperoxide radicals and hydroxyl radicals.


Exposure to UV light leads to dehydration of the skin as well as lipid peroxidation, DNA damage, inactivation of enzymes via protein oxidation and degradation, premature ‘photo’-aging and cell death. The results are dramatically visible, from even short and regular exposures to the sun. Undoubtedly, UV light is more detrimental to the skin both in terms of ageing and potential for chronic disease.

Avoiding UV light is the simplest solution, but then you won’t get your required daily dose of vitamin D! An alternative solution? Small exposures to the sun but use products that incorporate actives that not only provide UV protection, but also protection against free radicals and ROS, and potentially also promote cell regeneration to fix the damage caused by daily UV exposure.

The Best Solution

Using a Daily Defence (DD) product is a great solution, particularly if you are in a high-pollution area. Create products that incorporate broad spectrum UV SPF protection as well as high levels of active antioxidants that also protect against ROS. Also look to incorporate an anti-pollution shield to ensure your products provide a comprehensive skin protection approach against UV and pollution. Consumers normally exposed to these elements and witnessing resultant degradation and loss of vitality in their skin, will see the results of a product using this combination visibly, and fast!

Have you checked our YouTube channel? We have three great videos on sunscreen formulation:



Want to learn how to formulate products that incorporate broad spectrum UV SPF protection? Products with UV SPF protection have a very important regulatory restrictions and safety requirements, so it is essential to have proper training.

Our Diploma of Personal Care Formulation (course code 10788NAT) is a professional level program and will give you an Internationally Recognised Cosmetic Chemist qualification recognised by International Federation of Society of Cosmetic Chemists, the US Society of Cosmetic Scientists and manufacturers and suppliers around the world. Learn more here.

Our Certificate in Advanced Cosmetic Science is a professional level program taking 6 full units and 4 half units from the Diploma. It still teaches sunscreens and advanced cosmeceuticals but is much faster to complete than the full Diploma. It is ideal for brands where they want fast but professional level training. Learn more here.

Don’t need the qualification but still want to learn on a professional level? Our courses are all available as “study only”, where you can study independently.

Contact us for more information to get the learning and answers you are searching for no matter where you are located in the world! info@personalcarescience.com.au