Understanding the Causes of Acne Part 2: Air Pollution


In a perfectly working system our lungs oxygenate the blood that our heart pumps all around our body to feed our organs. Our lungs also push out all the carbon dioxide that the blood has as a byproduct from giving everything in our body oxygen. You probably already know that.

If that system isn’t working perfectly, or if there are extra particulates in the air that shouldn’t be there, your skin might take the hit for it. You’re probably thinking: “Wait, the air is causing my skin problems?” And it might be. I know—it gets me too… But it does make sense if you follow me.

How Do I Know If My Acne is Caused by the Air that I Breathe?

It’s hard to know with certainty if the air you breathe or problems with your lungs are causing your acne, but here are a few questions that might get you thinking on the right path:

  • Do your breakouts come and go regardless of the time of the month?
  • Have you recently moved to a new environment?
  • Is there smog in your environment?
  • Do you have sinus issues, chronic congestion, asthma, or other lung-related issues?

How Does Toxicity from the Air Get into the Body?

The air we breathe goes through a series of tubes lined with the body’s natural defenses that pull out toxic elements and clean it. Those tubes (bronchioles) get smaller and smaller until they end in millions of microscopic air sacs (alveoli) that supply the blood with clean air.

If there is something going on with the lungs that decreases their ability to pull toxic agents out of the air or if there are too many in the air, those could get past the body’s defenses into the bloodstream.

The body is absolutely amazing though, right? It has so many fail-safes. When toxicity gets into our bloodstream from the lungs, our bodies use the blood to transport those chemicals to other elimination systems.

What Does This Have To Do with Acne?

As it is with hormones, impurities from the air can get into your skin via the bloodstream. Our bodies don’t want impurities to stay in circulation, so they find a way to get rid of them. Remember that your skin is an auxiliary filtration and elimination system. It can take on pushing out these impurities that get past the lungs and into the bloodstream.

The impurities in our bloodstream make it to the skin via the capillaries (the smallest blood vessels). Capillaries are everywhere in your body and they need a steady supply of blood. They are where the oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange happens, and they supply the nutrients and help carry impurities to the elimination systems. When the impurities make it to the capillary beds, the skin’s mighty immuno-cells swallow them up and take them out. Acne.

Outside of your body the skin is actually touching the air, so if there are impurities in the air that you’re breathing that are heavy enough to cause acne, there are also probably enough environmental elements in the air that are settling on your skin and causing reactions. This means that the skin is doing a lot of work internally and externally to make sure these things don’t cause you any harm. (Thanks, skin!)

How Can I Heal?

Since the impurities are being transported from the air through your system, from the lungs to the blood and then to the skin, your best plan of action is a multi-faceted one.

1—Work on cleaning the air around you

If environmental stressors in the air are contributing to your breakouts, do the best you can to breathe clean air. Spend time in the forest (or whatever natural spot is nearest you), grow plants that clean the air, and use an air filter for the spaces that you’re in all the time, like your bedroom and workspace. One of my favorite ways to clean the air is with purifying steam! Boil water for an afternoon with herbs and/or essential oils in it like eucalyptus, mint, and thyme.

2—Work on cleaning your blood

Blood cleansing happens in your kidneys and your liver, so strengthening those systems is a great way to increase overall health as well as help with your acne. Drink water, replenish your electrolytes, and take bitter herbs to increase your digestive efficiency.

As always, eating a healthy, plant-based diet full of leafy greens and fresh fruit, drinking lots of water, and sleeping 7.5 – 9 hours everyday is the best way to help your body stay balanced.

Understanding Acne: The Series

Acne is really complicated. This is part two of a four part series. Here's where you can find the other articles:

Click Here to Read Part 1: Hormones

Click Here to Read Part 3: Digestion

Click Here to Read Part 4: What We've Learned

Have you dealt with acne caused by pollution? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Paromita Saha says

    I have been suffering from acne due to pollution for quite some time. Tried medication, medicated face wash and acne gel prescribed by doctor. But none of these helped.

  2. Nick says

    Do you think that simply having bad breath or something like that could cause acne because your always breathing almost right onto parts of your skin.

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