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Is your commute ageing your skin?


From pollution to travel stress, getting from A to B could be harming your skin’s health! Here’s how to protect yourself

We’re all familiar with the dangers of when it comes to fine lines and wrinkles, but have you ever considered what your daily journey to work might be doing to your skin?

A pioneering study on skin ageing and pollution, from the Journal for Investigative Dermatology, shows that air pollution is significantly linked to skin ageing. In particular, an increase in soot and particles from traffic was associated with 20 per cent more pigment spots on forehead and cheeks. ‘A daily journey to work, whether it’s by bus, tube, train, bike or by foot, exposes our skin to environmental stressors which put a strain on the skin’s protective barrier that protects us against the perils of the environment from UV, pollution, and infection to toxic chemicals,’ explains Jill Zander Founder of the Jill Zander Skin Rejuvenation Clinic.

So how do you know if your skin being affected by your commute? ‘When the skin’s protective outer barrier is working efficiently, it retains water well, has good hydration levels and looks healthy, radiant and it will be more resilient to the effects of pollution, whereas if skin is fragile, it will look dry, dull and possibly scaly,’ says Zander, ‘This means chemicals can penetrate more easily and cause inflammation, and skin sensitivity.’

To minimise any ageing and to keep your journey to work, and your complexion, as smooth as possible, we’ve spoken to the experts in the know. Here’s how to do it…



It’s Monday morning, you’ve spilt coffee on your shirt and you’ve not got a seat on the train – feeling stressed out? If the answer’s yes, you’re not alone. A University of Montreal study discovered that just 20 minutes of commuting could leave you liable to chronic stress. ‘Studies have found that stress has a damaging effect on critical DNA in the cells in the body and the more stressed you are, the more likely you are to have short telomeres, and be less able to protect DNA and, as a result, skin aging can occur,’ explains Zander, ‘Furthermore, when you get stressed, your sebaceous glands also produce more oil and this can result in adult acne.’


To deal with commuter stress, Zander advises listening to relaxing music while you travel and, if you can, get off a stop early and take a de-stressing walk as the final part of your journey. To combat the signs of a tense commute, why not try The Danielle Collins Face Yoga Method,a 20-minute programme designed to relax tension in the face and prevent deep-set lines and wrinkles caused by stress. Try the ‘V’ exercise to reduce lines and wrinkles around your eyes. Put both your middle fingers together between your eyebrows then apply pressure to the outer corners of your eyes with your index fingers. Look up and start to move the lower eyelids upwards, making a strong squint. Then relax and repeat 6 more times. To finish squeeze your eyes shut for 10 seconds then relax.



It might come as little surprise that public transport is a hotbed for germs; the London underground is said to be home to 70 types of bacteria including tuberculosis, cold and flu viruses*. ‘Touching handrails or seats, then touching your face can transport bacteria on to the skin causing possible infections,’ says Zander. Germs aside, stuffy train carriages and buses can lead to sweating and, therefore, oily skin.

TRY THIS: To beat the bacteria, Zander recommends keeping a hand sanitiser gel in your bag to help curb the spread of spot-causing germs. Go one step further and ensure your post-work routine involves deep cleansing; ‘cleaning your skin after a grimy commute is very important and I recommend cleansing and exfoliating to get rid of dead surface skin and dirt,’ explains Dr Jules Nabet .



If your eyes are glued to your mobile device or e-book when you’re commuting, you could be putting yourself at risk of developing ‘tech neck.’ ‘The constant neck bending to look at the screen on your digital device is leading to sagging skin, drooping jowls and a distinct ‘tech-neck’ crease,’ says Zander. ‘Passing time on your journey to work constantly looking down at your phone, not only contributes towards bad posture, but accelerates the impact of gravity and natural loss of the skin’s elasticity!’

TRY THIS: When it comes to beating the effects of tech-neck, remember to include your Y-Zone, the area beneath the chin to the bottom of the neck, in your skin routine, says Zander. ‘Consider your neck as an extension of the face when it comes to skincare. The skin on the neck is similar to the skin around the eyes – it’s twice as thin than the rest of the face, so give it the TLC it deserves.’ Also try keeping the time you spend on your mobile to a minimum or the way you hold and look at devices, where possible.



Pollution is becoming the new SPF when it comes to skincare, claims Mintel, and for good reason. ‘Pollution is the second most harmful aggressor to the skin after the sun,’ says Zander, ‘External stresses such as environmental pollution, car exhaust fumes, UVA and UVB and cigarette smoke, all create free radicals and can wreak havoc with our complexions.’ Nano particles, from pollution, touch your skin and cause oxidative stress, damaging the tissue and contributing to premature ageing. ‘Pollution damages the collagen that helps skin to stay elastic and prevents wrinkles and ageing,’ says Dr Jules Nabet.

TRY THIS: Protect against pollution by first building up your skin’s barrier by wearing a daily SPF. ‘I love Heliocare GelCream Colour SPF 50 (£28; outlineskincare.co.uk), as it is lightly tinted so can even be worn in place of foundation,’ says Zander. This combination will help defend skin against the sun’s damaging rays and give protection from free radical damage and other environmental stressors. Anti-oxidant serums work brilliantly as a tag team with your sunscreen to fight free radicals emitted from sunlight that speed up skin ageing and DNA damage. They’re the main culprits behind fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, discolouration and even skin cancer. ‘But it’s not only about building the barrier up – you also need the ingredients that will minimise any incoming stressors to look after the skin in the longer term,’ explains Zander. She recommends looking for products with antioxidants, such as Skinceuticals Phloretin CF (£150; my-dermacenter.com) which contains high levels of antioxidant Vitamin C.

Use a sunscreen of at least SPF 50. ‘Try one with a light weight formula which sits nicely under your make-up and becomes a seamless part of your routine and try adding foods such as ginger, pomegranate, and colourful fruit and veg to help reinforce the skin’s barrier,’ she adds.

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