Air pollution causes skin pigmentation due to oxidative stress defence mechanism find Henkel, L’Oréal funded study


Writing in the British Journal of Dermatology​, ​researchers from Germany investigated the effects of exposure to urban and industrial pollution on human skin, looking at whether skin darkened after exposure – proven to be the case already in several animal species like pigeons, moths and sea snakes.

Using a combination of ex vivo​ research, with human skin tissue taken during operations, and in vivo​ experiments conducted on healthy volunteers, the team looked at the impact of diesel exhaust particles on the skin. They also then investigated whether certain topical cosmetic products offered any protection.

The research was funded by an unrestricted grant from German-headquartered personal care major Henkel, with one of the researchers an employee at Henkel Beauty Care and another serving as an advisor for Henkel. The study was also partially funded by a grant from L’Oréal-owned SkinCeuticals Inc.

Protective response? ‘Compelling mechanistic evidence’ of melanogenesis

Findings from the ex vivo​ and in vivo​ experiments showed evidence of increased oxidative stress, a recognised damage mechanism, after diesel exhaust particle (DEP) exposure along with subsequent darkening of the skin.

“This work shows that urban pollution, similar to sunlight, can increase skin pigmentation in humans, which may be a protective response, and this work also suggests a mechanism for this response,” ​the researchers wrote.

Writing in a linked study​, published in May 2021 a few months ahead of this latest paper, the researchers said: “Repetitive topical application of noncytotoxic concentrations of ambient relevant diesel exhaust particles [DEP] cause a tanning response in human skin (…) This study thus identified traffic-related air pollution as a previously unrecognised environmental factor which, similar to natural sunlight, is capable of increasing melanogenesis in human skin.”



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