Age spots, also known as liver spots or sunspots, are those unsightly areas of discolouration on the skin. The result of concentrated areas of high pigmentation, they have the appearance of very large freckles and tend to be more apparent in those with fairer complexions.
These various names have been coined due to the a) frequency of appearance in those over fifty years of age, b) similarity to liver spots found on animals and c) occurrence as a result of overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Officially called Lentigines, their appearance on exposed areas of the body led to the belief they were caused by repeated exposure to sunlight. However, the term ‘sunspots’ is actually misleading. While damage from overexposure to UV rays can cause these areas of hyperpigmentation, recent research has revealed the role pollution plays in their development.
A 2016 study showed a specific link between traffic-related pollution and the development of age spots on the face. Women aged 50+ from different continents were evaluated based on their exposure to the elements as well as various toxins ranging from cigarette smoke to particulate matter from soot and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions.
The study concluded that even in those who regularly wore sunscreen, exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions over time resulted in areas of discolouration on the face. Interestingly, the same was not found to be the case when it came to the hands and arms.
What this demonstrated was that the skin on the face was more vulnerable to developing these age spots and that pollution was a key factor in their development.
It has long been established that NO2 gas emissions are harmful to the environment contributing to, amongst others, air and sea pollution and damage to delicate ecosystems. In addition, many studies have established the damaging effects of pollution on the human body.
Even with governments committing to emissions reductions, pollution is an inevitable part of modern life. With it comes the free radical damage that is so damaging to our skin and a major factor in the ageing process.
While some free radical damage is down to oxidation processes in the body, the majority of it comes from pollutants and toxins. Antioxidants have been shown to counter the effect of free radical damage both internally and externally.
Foods high in antioxidants are recommended to help keep the body healthy by promoting cell regeneration and the same is true of skin care products containing the same constituent ingredients.
Cleansers and moisturisers that are high in antioxidants work to counteract the negative effects of free radicals by ensuring any oxidative damage is minimised on a daily basis.
Natural botanical oils, such as those found in griffin+row’s products, tend to be high in antioxidants and can be found in concentrated form in centess+complex, a proprietary blend of essential oils.
There are other measures that can help reduce the effects of pollution on the skin:
- Investing in a good air purifier for your home or workplace can cut down on a number of pollutants you are exposed to while indoors.
- Wearing a good foundation over a moisturiser such as griffin+row’s Nourish or Enrich, which both contain high levels of antioxidants, can create a barrier to protect the skin from air borne pollutants, particularly when outdoors.
- Ensure skin is adequately hydrated from the inside out. The body requires water to ensure its internal processes work efficiently. Dehydration affects every area of the body from blood flow to cell renewal.
- Gently exfoliating on a regular basis using a cloth like griffin+row’s Exfoliate will help increase circulation and promote healthy cell renewal which helps to counteract free radical damage.
- Remember to always wear a broad spectrum sunscreen or foundation containing an SPF of at least 15 on the face. While this doesn’t protect against pollution, it does protect against damage caused by photo ageing another cause of age spots.