How Skin Health Affects Your Body

Your skin helps keep your body healthy by protecting you against dehydration, disease and environmental pollution. It also contains sensory nerve endings that help you feel heat, cold and pain.


Your skin is made up of three layers – the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous tissue. Each of these layers has specialized cells that perform various functions.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is a group of harmful gases and particles released from sources such as coal, oil, trash and cigarette smoke that affect your health. It can lead to a number of different illnesses, including asthma, emphysema and heart disease.

Airborne pollutants are a major cause of premature skin aging and other health problems, such as acne, psoriasis and wrinkles. They also increase the chances of developing skin cancer.

The skin is the largest organ in your body and the outermost barrier against environmental pollution. But it’s susceptible to damage from pollutants like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (chemicals emitted when burning coal, oil and other fuels), volatile organic compounds (found in paints, aerosol sprays and car exhaust), oxides, particulate matter and ozone.

Some of these chemicals can actually get into your skin’s pores and trigger inflammation, as well as weaken the barrier against toxins. And they can cause so-called oxidative stress, which weakens collagen and elasticity in your skin.

Other airborne chemicals that can affect your skin include heavy metals, pesticides and phthalates. These can impact a number of factors, from hormones to fertility.

Among the most common ways that air pollution can affect your skin is through its impact on the immune system. The immune system is responsible for keeping your skin healthy and protected from infection, inflammation, and other damage.

When your immune system is damaged, it can no longer protect your skin from the outside world. That’s why you might see symptoms of irritation or sensitivity on your skin, and it can be harder to heal.

It’s important to avoid long periods of time in areas where the air is too polluted. Studies have shown that those living in highly polluted areas have worse skin health than people who live in less polluted regions.

Air pollution can also affect your hair and nails. It can cause breakage and hair loss and can make your nails brittle.

The chemicals and other particles in the air can also penetrate your skin’s layers, where they cause so-called oxidative stress. This can weaken your skin’s barrier, triggering inflammation and causing your skin to age more quickly.


Our skin loses water every day – but when this happens at higher rates than normal, it can lead to dehydration. Not only does this affect your body’s overall health, but it can also make your skin look dull and lackluster, as well as worsen certain skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Thankfully, dehydrated skin isn’t as difficult to fix as dry skin. It’s a simple condition that needs hydration to improve, and it can be reversible with the right products and lifestyle changes.

“A dehydrated complexion usually looks dull and tired, which can make it harder to achieve a natural, glowing skin tone,” explains dermatologist Joanna Vargas. The problem is that the skin doesn’t shed its outer layer of dead cells as frequently as it should, which can result in clogged pores and congestion.

Another sign that you’re dehydrated is if you’ve noticed fine lines around your eyes. This can happen because the thin skin under your eye isn’t getting enough hydration, so it may pull away from the eye socket.

The skin is particularly prone to fine lines on the forehead, where it’s thinner than elsewhere. But fine lines on the rest of the face can be a sign of dehydration as well, so it’s important to check all areas.

Dehydrated skin can also increase sensitivity, which makes it more reactive to irritants like pollution or bacteria. This can cause redness, irritation and itchiness.

This can make your skin more prone to breakouts, too. It can also make your pores enlarge, which can allow acne-causing germs to penetrate deeper into the skin.

But here’s the tricky part: When your skin becomes dehydrated, it can actually produce more oil to compensate for it. As Alicia Yoon, founder of Peach & Lily, points out, “When your skin gets dehydrated, it releases a hormone called CRH that tells the sebaceous glands to produce more oil.” This can make the skin appear slick and oily–and those clogged pores and breakouts aren’t too far behind.

To see if you’re dehydrated, try this quick test: Gently pinch the skin on your cheek. If it squishes back slowly, that’s a sign of mild to moderate dehydration. If it’s tight and seems to stick together, that’s a more serious situation and should be checked out by your doctor.

Sun Damage

Sunlight is essential to our health, but it can cause serious damage to our skin if we don’t protect it. It triggers premature aging and may lead to skin cancer if it’s not properly treated.

Our skin produces antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, vitamins and ceramides to help maintain its health. Exposure to UV rays from the sun causes these essential components to be depleted, leaving us with dry, rough and aging skin.

Fair-skinned people are more vulnerable to sun damage, but anyone can develop signs of photoaging as the years go by. These include fine and coarse wrinkles, irregular pigmentation, large frecklelike spots called lentigines, a yellowish complexion and a leathery, rough skin texture.

These changes are often accompanied by visible fine blood vessels (spider veins) on the nose, cheeks and neck, a condition called telangiectasias. The loss of elasticity in the skin caused by sun damage also leads to blackheads, enlarged pores and a drier, thinner appearance.

Pigmentation issues such as freckles, melasma and dark or diffuse spots can also be caused by excessive sun exposure. These marks are caused by excess production of the brown pigment, melanin.

The sun’s ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB, can damage the DNA in your skin cells. These damages accumulate over time and can lead to early signs of aging or precancerous skin growths, such as actinic keratosis, which may need to be removed by a dermatologist.

You can prevent a lot of these effects by taking steps to protect your skin. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and apply it generously to all areas of exposed skin, including your face, arms, hands and legs. Reapply it regularly, especially after you swim or sweat.

Your doctor can diagnose sun damage by looking at your skin, reviewing your medical history and asking questions about how much time you spend outside and if you have any family members who have had skin cancer or had skin damage. If you do have sun damage, your doctor can recommend a treatment to reduce the appearance of spots, improve the tone and quality of your skin and boost collagen production — steps that can help slow down or prevent premature aging.


Stress is the body’s natural response to new and challenging situations. It can be positive when it motivates you to achieve goals or overcome challenges, but if it is chronic it can cause negative effects on your mental and physical health.

When you’re stressed, your body releases a number of hormones that help your system cope with the situation. These include adrenaline and cortisol, which can make you feel more alert and ready for action.

But your skin can also be affected by stress. This is especially true for people with inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.

A prolonged period of stress can lead to dry skin, itchiness and redness. It can also cause rashes and hives.

The inflammatory molecules produced by your stress can be absorbed through the skin and into your bloodstream, where they can trigger a variety of illnesses and conditions. These can be aggravated by conditions such as depression, which is linked to chronic inflammation.

It can also damage the epidermal barrier of your skin, which helps to protect it from microbes and keep it hydrated. Studies show that a disrupted epidermal barrier can lead to irritated skin, as well as conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Another way that stress can affect your skin is through the release of cytokines, inflammatory compounds that can cause rashes and itchiness. Luckily, marine microalgae is clinically proven to reduce the levels of cytokines in your skin.

For example, Loum’s Pure Serenity Golden Vitamin C Serum contains a powerful combination of antioxidants, phytonutrients and algae that can help reduce the inflammatory process in your skin.

Other at-home self-care tips that can ease the impact of stress on your skin include meditation, deep breathing and quiet alone time. You can also use an oil-free moisturizer or sunscreen to help hydrate your skin without adding oils to the equation.

While there is no one answer to preventing or treating stress-related skin conditions, taking steps to manage it can make a big difference in your complexion and self-esteem. Keeping a journal and identifying your triggers can help you get to the root of the problem and find a solution that works for you.