Environmental aging of the skin: new insights

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The appearance of aging is determined primarily by extrinsic factors through exposure to environmental sunlight and airborne pollution. That solar ultraviolet B (λ = 290-320 nm) directly causes photoaging (with wrinkles, dryness, and mottled pigmentation) and skin cancer has been recognized for decades; the contribution by ultraviolet A (λ = 320-400 nm) was only more recently understood. New research further implicates visible light (λ = 400-700 nm) as well as the heat rays of infrared radiation (λ > 800 nm). Particularly in urban environments, airborne pollutants such as ozone (O3), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, particulate matter (PM) in smog, and tobacco smoke contribute to photoaging and skin cancer. Furthermore, exposure simultaneously to both solar ultraviolet (UV) and these pollutants results in even greater synergistic damage. The volatile pollutants generate reactive oxygen species which oxidize surface lipids leading to deeper damaging inflammatory reactions. PM carries high concentrations of environmental organic compounds and trace metals. These pollutant-laden particles deliver toxins to the skin transcutaneously through hair follicles and through the blood after respiratory inhalation. The predominant natural mechanism of clearing these xenobiotic chemicals is through the ligand-activated transcription factor the arylhydrocarbon receptor (AHR) found on all skin cells. AHR activity regulates keratinocyte differentiation and proliferation, maintenance of epidermal barrier function, melanogenesis, and immunity. With chronic activation by UV exposure and pollutants, AHR signaling contributes to both extrinsic aging and carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number59
JournalPlastic and Aesthetic Research
StatePublished - 2020


  • Ultraviolet-induced aging
  • aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • ozone
  • particulate matter
  • pollution
  • skin cancer
  • smoking


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