Here’s what happens when your skin’s been exposed to smoke

Here’s what happens when your skin’s been exposed to smoke

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. This is true and most of the time, we’re too busy focusing (rightfully so) on the fire. Wildfire season happens every year without fail. Keith Bein, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Davis explains how wildfires are a growing concern saying, “people were once exposed once or twice in a lifetime. Now it’s happening every summer and for longer” (per National Geographic). The destruction from the flames are highly visible and widely publicized. But we’re curious about the damage from the smoke. More specifically, what the smoke can do to our skin.

Dermatologist Y. Claire Chang from Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York explains, “wildfires produce a large range of harmful air pollutants and noxious gases, including particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals and ozone (O3), that can hurt the skin” (via Allure). Noxious gases and heavy metals do not sound like a perfect pairing with our skin. What are the effects?

There are both long and short term effects

Unfortunately, after the fire has died out and the smoke disappears, the effects on the skin are lasting. Chang shares that DNA damage, increased pigmentation, and collagen degradation are some of the possible long-term effects to the skin. “Research has also shown that environmental pollutants cause significant harm to skin health, accelerating skin aging and skin cancers,” she told Allure. There is also potential short term damage. Jason Emer, a West Hollywood-based dermatologist claims, “in the short term, the smoke can clog your pores due to soot and ash particles [which can lead] to acne outbreaks, blemishes, blackheads and increased oil production” (via Allure).

The possible long and short term effects wildfire smoke has on the skin is very concerning. How can we best avoid this? Irva Hertz-Picciotto, director of Environmental Health Sciences Core Center at the University of California, Davis shares, “if you have a room you can keep cool, close the windows, doors, then run a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter ” (per National Geographic). We will definitely keep this in mind next time the smoke and flames appear.

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