Marine Science and Anti-Pollution Skincare- A Deep Connection
An Evidence Based Essay
Dr. Ansul Noor
MD/MBBS, DDSc (Dermatology, UK), MSc (Dermatological Sciences, UK), Anti-Aging (Paris)
Planet Earth- the dazzling blue gem of our solar system is as fragile as it is resilient. As caretakers of our life-sustaining planet, we are responsible for maintaining the health and condition of the troposphere (the lowest layer of the earth’s atmosphere) and all that lies beneath. Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, we, as a collective human race are facing a dilemma of growing proportions. An invisible stressor exists with visibly harmful consequences to general health, specifically skin health. The skin being the largest organ of our body is particularly vulnerable to these invisible aggressors.
This invisible stressor as many of you might have guessed is air pollution. In our essay we will explore the various sources of air pollution with an emphasis on man-made chemical air pollution and the toll it can take on skin health. We will also outline an evidence-based protocol on how to combat the effects of air pollution on our skin through the topical application of products containing vital compounds harnessed from the ocean. We hope that through this guided essay, you will understand the importance of skincare as it relates to you individually and to our current global situation as it relates to air pollution.
So let’s find the deeper connection between air pollution and the ocean and discover ways to attain optimal skin health through informed analysis and deduction.
The major sources of air pollution can be broadly divided into four groups.
Fossil fuel combustion
Exhaust emitted from vehicles
Airborne pollution is a combination of particles of various sizes, composition, and toxicity. These particles are capable of negatively impacting the integrity of the cutaneous barrier by interacting with various cells and enzymatic pathways in our skin, releasing DNA damaging free radicals. The biochemical reactions are discussed in more detail below. There are thousands of known airborne pollutants but the one that warrants scientific concern is airborne particulate matter or PM. PM is the most notorious of the lot and is released from all the four major sources mentioned above. Airborne PM ranges from coarse to fine to ultrafine particles. These rather dangerous particles act as carriers, latching on to other kinds of toxic pollutants (nitrates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and sulfates) delivering them literally into our backyards, onto our skin and into our lungs. PM tends to concentrate in densely populated cities of the world and follows seasonal fluctuations. The World Health Organization known as WHO outlines recommended or acceptable levels of PM, but due to the rise in air pollution these levels are increasing at alarming rates.
So how does this relate to skin-health?
The skin is the largest organ of our body covering 1.6 m2-1.8 m2 of our body surface area. Even though it is our first line of defense from environmental aggressors, it also makes it the prime target for toxins that can enter through the dermal route and cause damage. Anything less than 500 Daltons (measure of molecular weight or molecular mass) is capable of passing through the skin via intercellular, intracellular and transappendageal routes. Many airborne pollutants will fall into this category, especially gases and vapors, compromising not only skin health but general health as well. This fact is quite disconcerting and necessitates the need for active intervention.
Scientists have examined the toxicological profiles and compositions of various air pollutants and have concluded that these particles are a direct threat to the health of our skin. They are also involved in the development of certain cutaneous pathologies. Airborne pollution can worsen existing skin disease, cause premature aging, hasten photo-aging, disrupt skin immunity, lead to alternations in pigmentation, lead to acne, eczema and atopic dermatitis.
The pollutants of main concern are PM and ozone. So now let’s have a look at what happens at the biochemical level when the skin comes in contact with these and other kinds of airborne pollutants. We’ll start by examining particulate matter, and then move on to ozone in the next section.
Skin Interactions with Particulate Matter
Airborne Pollution and Skin Tissue Interactions & Anti-Pollution Ingredients
Adapted by Cuticonscious from publication:(Juliano, C.; Magrini, G.A. Cosmetic Functional Ingredients from Botanical Sources for Anti-Pollution Skincare Products. Cosmetics 2018, 5, 19).
These aero-dynamic amorphous particles that are heavily coated with various toxins are capable of inducing a series of scientifically validated biochemical processes within our skin that are a precursor to serious and more damaging pathologies.
Release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) - highly damaging oxygen free radicals.
Release of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-1α, IL-8.
Generation of high levels of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) that play a key role in
dermal collagen degradation.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and quinones are a by-product of fuel
combustion but quinones can also be produced when PAHs in the air hit the skin and are biotransformed through complex dermal enzymes. Both PAHs and quinones cause heavy oxidative stress.
PM with a high concentration of PAHs can induce direct damage to keratinocytes and melanocytes.
Activation of various genes that encode xenobiotic enzymes (substances capable of fighting off foreign particles in the skin). This process is exhausting and causes the skin cells to undergo severe oxidative stress.
Disruption of the cell cycle and interruption of the junctions that keep the skin cells tightly bound together leading to a fragile barrier with impaired water retaining properties and increased trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). This will result in dry, itchy and highly irritated skin.
Might interfere with sebum secretion and alter surface lipids such as squalene.
May alter the microbiome of the epidermis.
Disrupt immune functions within the skin, making the skin more prone to infections
and possibly lead to autoimmune disease.
Simply put, natural and manmade airborne pollutants are everywhere and are slowly wreaking havoc on your skin without you realizing it is even happening. That’s what I was alluding to in the first section- the invisible aggressors.
Skin Interactions with Ozone
Even though ozone is found in low levels beneath the troposphere, it is however the main element in photochemical smog that is found in many heavily populated urban cities.
However, ozone can be formed by UV radiation interacting with certain air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds and leak into the urban environment causing damage to the cutaneous barrier.
Ozone is capable of initiating toxic biochemical chain reactions within the human epidermis.
1. 2. 3.
The human epidermis is a direct target for ozone particles and once in contact with ozone, living skin cells will undergo severe oxidative damage.
Ozone particles will deplete levels of vitamin E, vitamin C, glutathione, and other vital antioxidants present naturally in the skin.
Release of heat shock proteins (HPSs) that warn the body that cells are entering the stress mode. Although release of HSPs is a natural warning mechanism, high levels indicate extreme cellular distress. Under normal conditions levels of HSPs in the epidermis are low.
Oxidative Stress & Skin Dysfunction
In a nutshell, airborne pollution results in severe oxidative stress and causes rapid depletion of natural anti-oxidants found in our skin and body. Cells are unable to
replicate or renew themselves normally and skin dysfunction occurs.
What can we do?
Now that we know a little bit more about the various side effects of air pollution on our skin, what can we do to alleviate the situation?
Anti-pollution skincare has a scientifically valid background that involves a multitiered approach.
To understand how we can manage pollution induced skin damage we must understand the pathophysiology of the process itself and identify the root cause.
We must care for our planet and try our best to reduce the sources of air pollution to begin with. This is a collective effort that will require years of legislation and a global change in outlook in the way we live our lives and manage our industries.
But what role does skincare play in managing the immediate and long term after effects of air- pollution?
First let us establish a sound methodology that will equip the skin with compounds that are able to fight oxidative damage and enable/empower the skin to cope with various airborne pollutants.
Aim to introduce stabilized anti-oxidants into the skin via topical means.
Aim to rehabilitate the skin surface.
Harmonize and balance lipid production.
Balance and stabilize the microflora of the skin.
Fortify skin protective abilities.
Hydrate the skin.
Introduce multivitamins and micronutrients into the skin.
Strengthen the immune functions of the skin.
Promote natural processes that lead to optimal skin health.
Introduce substances that reduce inflammation, calm the skin, reduce irritation and help
the healing processes of the skin.
Skin Rehabilitation – A Topical Solution to Air Pollution
A three-step methodology will allow us to isolate and treat the root cause of pollution induced skin damage based on scientific rationale. Our aim is to restore skin functions by topically introducing compounds that will aid in the healing process. Each step, including scientific rationale, will be discussed in detail as we proceed.
Deep cleansing. This step helps purge the skin of toxic particles and detoxify and unclog the epidermis, allowing it to breathe.
Protecting the skin by allowing botanical and marine based ingredients to form a thin protective barrier or ‘second skin’ so to speak, making it resistant to toxic particles and preventing dehydration.
3. Equipping the skin with anti-pollution substances enabling the skin to rejuvenate, replenish and renew itself three dimensionally across all layers. This step will empower and support the cells through targeted applications of scientifically backed formulations. This is the restoration phase.
Let’s delve deeper and scan the Ocean Rescue archives for topical solutions that will meet the skin rehab protocol outlined above.
Anti-Pollution Skincare Step 1 - The Importance of Deep Cleansing
Our aim is to remove surface chemical deposits from the epidermis, along with decongestion, deactivating toxins, reducing sensitivity and inflammation, unclogging pores and balancing protective surface lipids without stripping them.
• Botanical Balancing Cleanser contains multiple ingredients of interest that are backed by science. Laminaria (brown algae) produces bioactive molecules that exert photo-protective and anti-pollution actions. In fact, it has been shown that brown algae have the highest toxic metal chelating effect as compared to other antioxidants found in nature. Squalane, a biomimetic (like the oil found in our skin) oil is capable of rapid absorption through the epidermis (2mm/sec) thanks to its small molecular weight, deeply moisturizing it and preventing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). Furthermore, studies indicate that squalane deactivates toxins upon contact, hence the anti-pollution action. It also eats up harmful free oxygen species that are released every time our skin is exposed to air pollution. Ethnopharmacological reports show Calendula extracts to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-tumor and antioxidant actions, hence promoting skin healing. Extensive studies have demonstrated the powerful antioxidant capacity of Vitamin E, an amphiphilic lipid. High ROS scavenging activity, with anti-aging and anti-tumor potential, UVB-induced lipid peroxidation inhibition, the Vitamin E family is one the most potent of all anti- oxidants.
Product in Focus (PIF): The Botanical Balancing Cleanser can be safely included as a topical deep cleansing solution for pollution ravaged skin.
• The ReFresh Marine Cleanser is a marine algae-rich organic essential oil based deep cleanser that exhibits potent free radical scavenging and deep cleansing activity along with soothing, balancing and nourishing properties. Laminaria (brown algae) and Spirulina maxima (blue-green algae) both have superior anti-oxidant and anti- inflammatory actions making them ideal candidates for an anti-pollution skincare regime. The essential oils in the cleanser lift toxic particles, calm and heal irritated skin and can lead to a relaxation effect on the mind. Shea butter deeply moisturizers and protects the top layer of the epidermis as it contains biomimetic fatty acids that will nourish and protect the cells of the stratum corneum topically. Including the Refresh Marine Cleanser in your daily skincare ritual will definitely negate the harmful effects of toxic particles that might have accumulated on the skin surface during the day and provide deep hydration at the same time.
Product in Focus (PIF): The Refresh Marine Cleanser passes the anti-pollution skincare evaluation.
• After evaluating the All Day Hydrating Mist I discovered that it can potentially provide multifold benefits to pollution damaged skin. PM and other airborne particles accumulate on the epidermal surface throughout the day. Mixed with dust, sweat, sebum and pathogens, the barrier is compromised on multiple levels, leading to unhealthy keratinocytes (skin cells), lowered immunity, and clogged pores. Doses of isotonic sea water infused with high percentages of antioxidants Laminaria (brown algae), Spirulina maxima (blue-green algae), Camellia sinensis (green tea extracts are teeming with regenerative polyphenols) and Tocopherol (Vitamin E) will rehydrate, detoxify, rejuvenate and cleanse the barrier.
Product in Focus (PIF): I suggest using this as a cleanser/toner/skin tonic and antioxidant loaded mist when on the go. It can make for an ingenious all-in-one anti-pollution skincare travel companion when you’re in a hurry yet need to cleanse, tone, nourish and moisturize your skin.
Anti-Pollution Skincare Step 2 - Recovery and Protection
Our aim here is protect and strengthen the barrier, infuse life giving oxygen to revitalize and renew the cells and finally equip cells with vital compounds that can potentially reverse pollution induced skin damage. A thin layer of healing products that are fortified by scientifically backed compounds and have shown protective and healing abilities as evidenced by numerous clinical studies will allow the skin to recover from oxidative stress. This thin layer will prevent entry of toxic particles through physical occlusion and toxin deactivation.
• In order to battle oxidative stress, the skin manufactures its own network of anti-oxidants. With age, cumulative sun damage, pollution and stress, the ability to make innate anti- oxidants diminishes. Air pollution does not help this situation as miniscule toxic particles are continuously passing through the epidermis at various rates with seasonal fluctuations. Hydra-boost Recovery Cream contains a host of peptides, complex sugars, marine extracts and vitamins that act as powerful external network anti-oxidants working in a cascading fashion. When one anti-oxidant is deactivated by scavenging a toxic particle, the next takes over and the cycle continues. Fucus, Laminaria and Porphyra hold extremely potent free radical scavenging abilities. Bioactive compounds from these types of algae have demonstrated remarkable scavenging ability on hydroxyl and superoxide radicals (capable of causing DNA damage). Apart from these actions, marine algae extracts have shown high levels of photo-protective compounds that shield the skin from UVA and UBA rays. The polyphenols identified in marine algae extracts have eight phenol rings in their chemical structure, which means they are one of the most superior anti- oxidants found in nature. With aging and external pollution, our innate ability to retain oxygen declines. Oxygen is the fuel for our cellular powerhouse; the mitochondria. Poorly functioning mitochondria will lead to sluggish cell functions and eventually cell death. Therefore, introduction of liquid oxygen topically will provide an instant drink of life to poorly functioning cells; revitalizing them and allowing them to manufacture internal anti- oxidants. Hydra-boost Recovery Cream also contains phytosterols, vitamin E and omega fatty acids that form an invisible layer on the barrier and reinforces the brick and mortar arrangement in between the keratinocytes due to their bioidentical chemical properties. Resveratrol is a natural phenol and phytoalexin with true anti-pollution actions. Based on studies on skin and other model systems, it has been concluded that resveratrol possesses remarkable cell protective abilities, especially in the case of pollution and sun damaged skin. Furthermore, resveratrol supports the cascading anti-oxidant system in the Hydra- boost Recovery Cream and promotes skin radiance. Shea butter extracts and hyaluronic acid (both biomimetic compounds) will deeply moisturize the barrier by forming a thin protective film that fortresses pollution damaged skin.
Product in Focus (PIF): This is an all-in-one complete solution for an intensive anti-pollution skincare regime as each and every ingredient within the Hydra-boost Recovery Cream is working on multiple levels to protect and revitalize the cutaneous barrier.
Anti-Pollution Skincare Step 3- Empowering Your Skin
The aim here is to empower the skin, enabling it to regain lost functions and allowing it to heal through natural processes, whilst giving it a much-needed push by infusing it with vital life- giving compounds. Highly concentrated intensive formulations with healing phyto-compounds, marine extracts, anti-oxidants, vitamins, peptides and oxygen all work synchronically to reverse the damage caused by pollution. This will be the most concentrated portion of the skincare regime and when used regularly, will strengthen, invigorate, heal and detoxify the barrier. It’s important to note that a lot of the anti-pollution compounds are designed to protect the vital organelles and intracellular structures such as the mitochondria, cell membranes and the nucleus that harbors DNA/RNA.
Oxygen will instantly revitalize and nourish aging and pollution damaged cells. Oxygen is vital for cellular respiration, without which living cells would perish. But how can we successfully deliver this life-giving gas in large quantities to cells so that it produces optimal benefits? Oxygenated Marine Complex contains perfluorodecalin, a novel compound that acts as an efficient transporter of oxygen molecules into the skin. Liquid oxygen exists as a high density layer within the serum (different specific gravity as the rest of the formula) and delivers a concentrated infusion of precious oxygen to all four layers of the skin (stratum corneum, epidermis, dermis and hypodermis) immediately improving metabolism, boosting collagen and fibroblast multiplication and ‘aerating’ the skin, allowing it to literally breathe again via topical resuscitation. Oxygen found in the Oxygenated Marine Complex will displace carbon dioxide molecules (CO2) that have collected on the skin due to air pollution and will deep cleanse and revitalize your skin.
Astaxanthin, one the most powerful anti-oxidants found in nature can stimulate hyaluronic acid synthesis and promoting cellular turnover, leading to healthy new cells and a plump dermis. Astaxanthin is an excellent non-toxic substitute for retinoic acid and is known as a non-provitamin A carotenoid with skin regenerative actions. Astaxanthin has a score of 2,822,200 on ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale, which in simple terms means that astaxanthin extracts derived specifically from haematococcus pluvialis microalgae have 6000 times more free radical scavenging capacity than other antioxidants found terrestrially. An important study examined the effects of topical astaxanthin on human subjects. Topical applications of 2 ml (78.9 μM solution) astaxanthin were applied regularly to the skin in human volunteers for 8 weeks. Results showed a significant improvement in moisture content, skin elasticity and improvement in barrier functions.
Vitamin C esters have potent anti-oxidant activity as evidenced through numerous clinical studies. Esters of vitamin C mimic the vitamin C found in the human skin, making it highly bioavailable with rapid absorption rates. Vitamin C is one of the most important natural anti- oxidant found in skin cells. It donates electrons, protects against ROS, stabilizes collagen crosslinking, increases collagen production by fibroblasts, inactivates free radicals induced by ultraviolet rays, and regenerates vitamin E. With age and air pollution induced stress, the natural capacity of our body to retain and manufacture Vitamin C diminishes. Studies indicate that markers of oxidative stress such as reactive oxygen species (ROS), total glutathione (GSH), and cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) were significantly diminished after 4 weeks of application of topical vitamin C formulations and skin moisture levels were increased by 83% within 6 hours of application of a serum containing ascorbates with an overall 95% patient satisfaction noticed in all skin parameters. It has been proved that ascorbates promote collagen synthesis in human skin fibroblasts in vitro up to eightfold.
Resveratrol is one of most well studied botanical phyto-compound. It exhibits multi- mechanistic properties. It protects skin cells from extreme environmental conditions by upregulating MMP (skin matrix metalloproteinases) gene expression, chelation of toxic metals, reduction of biomarkers of inflammation and oxidation. An added benefit is that resveratrol has shown anti-tumor activity and cell protective abilities, making it the ingredient of choice in an anti-pollution skincare regime.
Chlorella vulgaris is an interesting alga that is rich in marine peptides, fatty acids and a host of multivitamins, minerals and trace elements. Fucus and Laminaria are loaded with sulfated polysaccharides that have shown anti-oxidant, anti-allergic, anti-pollution and anti- inflammatory abilities. Nannochloropsis algae are high in omega 7 and 3 fatty acids that are once again bioidentical fats found in human sebum (oil) and will provide rapid and deep moisturization and reduce markers of inflammation. The complex mixture of algae found in
the Oxygenated Marine Complex is unique in that it addresses the various pathogenic causative factors of cellular aging, sun-damaged and pollution damaged skin.
Product in Focus (PIF): The Oxygenated Marine Complex is an evidence backed formulation that can be included in an intensive anti-pollution skincare system.
Future of Anti-Pollution Marine Skincare
In this essay we have dissected some of the Ocean Rescue formulations and evaluated each and every ingredient under the microscope so to speak. What we have discovered is highly promising in terms of anti-pollution skincare backed by hundreds of clinical and scientific studies and years of research. In this time and age where air pollution is on the rise, the skin takes the worst hit yet continues to defend us silently from invisible chemical aggressors.
But for how long?
A healthy lifestyle, positive thoughts and good deeds, a clean diet and regular physical activity form the cornerstone of attaining inner and outer harmony and overall well-being, but what about topical reinforcements to boost dermal health?
This is where a regular and high-quality skincare regime backed by science steps in. Each system in our body is interconnected; we cannot isolate one from the other. Therefore, in order to maintain this intricate system-network, we must fortify our skin both internally and topically with substances that support optimal dermal functions making sure not to compromise on quality.
Air pollution induced skin damage is a harsh reality and anti-pollution botanicals are not a ‘fad’ or a ‘trend’ but serious compounds that aim to rehabilitate skin from the adverse effects of these floating aero-toxins.
We are just beginning to explore the vast resources of the ocean through biotechnological processes. Marine science can provide the answer to our skin-health issues and to the condition of our planet.
Awareness of the impact that the environment has on our skin-health is growing. Awareness ushers in the need for education, exploration and innovation.
I hope that my essay will shed light on the importance of this critical issue so that we, as an enlightened and responsible race can work together in reducing air pollution and preserve the dazzling blue gem we call home.
About Dr. Noor
Dr. Ansul Noor has always believed in public health education and the age-old philosophy that ’prevention is better than the cure.’ These beliefs have left an acute mark upon her conscience since her early days of training as a medical physician. After completing her formal education as a medical doctor, she completed her Post Graduate Degree (MSc) in Dermatological Sciences successfully from the prestigious Welsh Institute of Dermatology (UK), known for their pioneering work in the science of Dermatology and Genetic Dermatology. Her research work also includes the history and evolution of Pox Viruses and the Clinical Applications of IPL – A Comparative Study.
Her main interests are Laser Dermatology, non-invasive IPL systems and holistic skin care. She has lectured at various medical institutions and her thesis has received wide acclaim for its bold new look at the future of non-invasive light-based technology in the treatment of skin diseases, cosmetic defects and other novel
applications. Her book, Skin Sensibility - A New Approach to Skincare has received rave reviews and is a simple and practical guide to maintaining your skin health proactively.
Please visit her website at http://cuticonscious.com.
About Ocean Rescue Spa Products
Ocean Rescue’s premium spa products are based on decades of research specifically designed to bring the benefits of the unique properties of seaweed and other marine-based ingredients to individuals and professionals seeking natural solutions to skin care. The sea is an active element in all Ocean Rescue products – not just merely additives to our proprietary formulas.
For more information on all the papers used to research this article, please see the reference section of this paper. For many other ocean and marine-based white papers, including The World of Algae, please visit https://oceanrescuespa.com/research/
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