Particulate matter, or PM for short, is the name given to tiny particles, measured in microns (1/1000th of a millimeter), that are suspended in the air. Some particles are large enough to be seen with the naked eye, while others are invisible.
Particulate matter measuring smaller than 10 microns includes PM 2.5, which is a pollutant invisible to the naked eye and the most dangerous to our health. Our noses are unable to filter the particles effectively, meaning it can make its way into our bloodstream via the respiratory system, eventually damaging various organs. According to the World Health Organization, this increases the risk of chronic illnesses and cancer.
The primary chemicals that make up PM 2.5—before it mixes with steam or dust—are nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO), all of which are chemicals that pose significant danger to the body. Such pollutants act as skin irritants that lead to the body producing chemicals called cytokines, which can cause inflammation, allergies and irritation.
Research studies carried out in both Mexico and Shanghai indicate a clear link between air pollution and a reduction in the skin’s antibodies, as well as a weakening of the skin’s immune system. These factors negatively impact skin moisture, and can lead to allergy flare ups and a much greater occurrence of acne than in those who are not exposed to air pollution.