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The environmental factors that affect our skin health

Whilst genetic predisposition certainly plays a part in the health and appearance of our skin, environmental factors are just as responsible. Dr Holly Cole-Hawkins, Aesthetic Doctor at Waterhouse Young says: “Understanding the balance between our genes and the outside factors that affect our skin is the key to healthy skin, which means we can manage our skin condition with the right action.”

In this blog post, we address some of the most important environmental factors to consider in your skin care regime.

The sun

The harmful effects of the sun are one of the number one causes of skin damage, even if you don’t burn or tan. Up to 90 percent of visible skin changes commonly attributed to ageing are in fact caused by sun exposure. Unprotected exposure to the sun’s rays causes damage to the DNA in our skin cells, producing genetic defects and mutations that can lead to skin cancer, as well as premature ageing and pigmentation. We recommend using a mineral sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, every day, all year round. You can read more about sun damage and see our advice here.


Particulate matter is made up of microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air, composed of soot, smoke, chemicals and other pollutants. More than ten times smaller than our pore size, they are able penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, increasing inflammation, which in turn can trigger eczema, acne, rosacea, and cause skin pigmentation. Furthermore, free radicals generated by environmental pollution are also capable of breaking down collagen and elastin, which leads to skin sagging and wrinkles. If you live in an urban area it’s especially important to double cleanse every evening to remove these particles, and also consider an antioxidant serum to protect against daytime free radical damage.


Our skin thrives on consistency, so when factors like weather change, our skin can suffer. As the weather shifts from summer to autumn, temperature and humidity will likely drop quickly, meaning our skin can struggle to maintain adequate hydration. Conversely, increased heat is often accompanied by increased humidity, which can lead to oily skin and clogged pores. Choose a cleanser carefully during the warmer months of the year, to clear any build-up from your pores and prevent breakouts. Meanwhile, ensure you’re providing adequate hydration year round with a moisturiser suited to your skin type, and by drinking plenty of water.

Water quality

If you live in a hard water area this could have a negative impact on your skin. Hard water has a high mineral content, and leaves alkaline minerals on the skin, causing dryness and irritation. The minerals are difficult to remove and can remain on the skin and hair after washing, leaving the skin sensitive and reactive, and causing flare-ups of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea. We recommend using a hydrating cleanser to remove the minerals and to soothe, hydrate and protect your skin from damage caused by these minerals.


What we eat plays a huge part in our overall health, and as the largest organ in the body, our skin certainly benefits from a healthy diet. Foods that raise your blood sugar quickly cause the body to release the hormone insulin, which in excess can lead to the over production of oil, increasing your risk of acne and clogged pores. Eating foods rich in antioxidants such as yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, tomatoes, berries, legumes, nuts and seeds can help to protect the skin, as well as fruits rich in vitamin C. Meanwhile, try to avoid processed food, refined sugars and unhealthy fats, which research suggests  promote premature skin ageing.

Skin products

Choosing the wrong skincare for your skin type can exacerbate any skin condition, especially if your skin is particularly sensitive. In fact, used improperly, skincare products can actually do more harm than good. Products containing alcohol, parabens, artificial colourants and fragrances, and sodium laurel sulphate, for example, are all potential allergens, and can cause a negative reaction to anyone with a sensitivity to them. It’s important to learn about your skin type and to avoid any products or ingredients that are not suited to you.

As a medical aesthetic skin clinic, our team of cosmetic doctors, nurses and practitioners treat all types of skin, of all ages and gender, subject to all manner of environmental factors. Whether your skin is dry, dehydrated, sensitive, oily, acne-prone or ‘normal’, we will assess what it needs so you appear refreshed, rejuvenated and the best version of you.

The first step is to chat to our friendly, expert team, by phone or in person. We’ll discuss any relevant medical and lifestyle factors and in-clinic, will carry out a Visia computerised skin analysis and assess your skin ourselves, before recommending the best skincare or treatment options to give the results you are looking for.