The west coast is on fire, and the air quality from Seattle to San Diego is suffering as plumes of smoke waft out to sea, affecting tens of millions of residents. The fires have displaced tens of thousands and killed over 35, with many people missing. If you are lucky enough not to be in the direct path of the blazes, you may still be struggling with the effects of the poor air quality from wildfire smoke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified multiple health problems that can be caused by smoky air:
- Respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath
- Stinging eyes
- Greater susceptibility to lung diseases
- Faster heartbeat or palpitations
- Chest pain
Based in Los Angeles, Electrolysis by Alison knows that there are millions of people in the area concerned about how the additional air pollution will affect their health. We want to help in the small ways that we can, so we put together this advice for how to protect your skin in these conditions.
Is Wildfire Smoke Damaging Your Skin?
Sad to say, if you are living on the west coast, the answer is probably yes. In high concentrations, soot, ash, and smoke can definitely damage your skin. However, that damage can be prevented, or if not, relatively easily treated. To the extent that it’s possible, we recommend following public health advisories from LA County regarding the wildfires: staying out of direct, prolonged contact with fire and smoke. Breathe indoor air that has gone through an air filter or air conditioner, and keep windows and doors closed. This is particularly true of at-risk groups such as older adults, or those with lung or heart disease, Of course, there are limits to how plausible this is. People can’t stay indoors indefinitely. N95 masks are recommended in these circumstances, and while they do a good job at protecting the mouth and nose, masks will not protect other areas such as around the eyes. When in contact with smoke, your skin will experience clogs to its pores, caused by fine particles in the air: soot and ash. The clogging caused by this smoke can lead to acne, blackheads, and potentially full-on breakouts. Another issue that can arise from air pollution is damaged collagen (the protein that makes the skin strong, firm, and tight). With collagen diminished, the skin will naturally begin to form wrinkles. Luckily there are means of tackling these issues.
How to Protect Your Skin from the Effects of High Temperatures and Wildfire Smoke
Looking for skin care advice to protect your skin during the wildfires? They following tips can keep you from experiencing the worst of the air pollution.
- Consider investing in an air purifier to prevent indoor pollution from affecting your skin.
- When you come inside, clean your skin to rid your pores of soot and ash. A gentle, creamy cleanser will be effective in avoiding drying out the skin. A clay mask or other mask can also help, by drawing out impurities.
- Pay attention to your exfoliation regimen. If your skin is suffering, you may need to step it up. Harsh scrubs can increase inflammation, but gentle fruit acids and a soft skin brush can help you slough off particles on your skin.
- With higher levels of smoke in the air, you may need to upgrade your moisturizer. Smoke saps moisture more quickly than typical. A hydrating mask is one option, but skin balms can be used on areas such as chapped lips, dry cuticles, and areas known for dryness such as elbows and knees.
- Clothes can prevent smoke from becoming as much of a problem for your skin in the first place. Hats, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks can all prevent skin contact.
- Body hair removal can be beneficial in situations of heightened smoke pollution. Hair is porous and traps toxins, and can make exfoliation and cleansing more difficult. Electrolysis by Alison offers the only form of hair removal assessed to be permanent by both the FDA and the AMA.