Anti-Pollution Matrix EN – Pollutants – Pollutant list – Chemical and volatile pollutants

Anti-Pollution Matrix

Chemical and volatile pollutants

Anti-Pollution Matrix > Pollutants > Pollutant list > Chemical and volatile pollutants


The skin, as the primary barrier between the environment and the body, is exposed to pollution on a daily basis. Chemical and volatile pollutants account for a large portion of air pollution. These include gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone or sulfur dioxide. This class of substances also includes semi-volatile organic compounds such as diethyl phthalates, or polycyclic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Many compounds are formed when fossil fuels are burned, as car exhaust, when smoke is produced, or when various chemicals decompose [1]. Chemical and volatile pollutants reach the skin directly. Chemical pollutants often sit on particulate matter. It has been further shown that skin damage caused by volatile pollutants can be enhanced by UV light (especially UVA) [2].


Effects on the skin

Studies have been made on effects on skin metabolism with cigarette smoke, ozone, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). A main effect of pollutants on the skin is the induction of oxidative stress. Thus, skin exposure to ozone can lead to activation of the arylene hydrocarbon receptor, which induced the expression of several cytochrome P450 genes [1]. Similar results were also found with benzo[a]pyrene or cigarette smoke. Ozone-induced oxidative stress includes, for example, lipid peroxidation. Furthermore, the oxidation of squalene in sebum by air pollution is known. Ozone can also affect skin microflora, and nitrogen dioxide has been associated with an increase in skin blemishes. These mentioned effects generally lead to faster skin aging, which can be seen e.g. in the formation of wrinkles and loss of elasticity, as well as dispigmentation (e.g. age spots).



Protection against chemical and volatile pollutants is provided by applications that prevent contact of these substances with the skin, as well as antioxidants such as vitamins or carotenoids. Chemical compounds that reach the skin via particulate matter can sometimes be washed off or their adhesion reduced. Since UV light can enhance the effects of chemical compounds, exposure of the skin to sunlight (especially over midday) should be avoided if possible, or appropriate sunscreen should be used.


Detection methods of the effects

In principle, methods that can be used to document skin aging, such as imaging techniques (e.g., VISIA CR), or methods that can measure skin topography to show wrinkles or loss of elasticity, are suitable. Devices often used for this purpose include Primos, AEVA-HE, and Cutometer. Furthermore, the sebum content on the skin surface can be measured using Sebutape® or Sebumeter®.



[1] E. Araviiskaia et al. The impact of airborne pollution on skin, JEADV (2019) 10.1111/jdv.15583,
[2] Fu et al. Phototoxicity and Environmental Transformation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)—Light-Induced Reactive Oxygen Species, Lipid Peroxidation, and DNA Damage, J Environ Sci Health Part C, Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev 2012; 30:1–41,