JDD Highlights

Can Pollution Cause Melasma and Facial Hyperpigmentation?

By April 21, 2020April 21st, 2021No Comments

Can Pollution Cause Melasma and Facial Hyperpigmentation? ‑ Is There a Case to Be Made?


Yes, pollution may be a risk factor for melasma, facial hyperpigmentation and other pigmentary dyschromias. There is growing scientific evidence that air pollution plays a significant role in aging.  Air pollution can enter the skin through nanoparticles and trigger a chemical process that leads to skin aging.

Pollution may also work along side other factors like genetics, ultraviolet and visible light exposure to stimulate melasma. Air pollution may be an important puzzle piece in the management of melasma and hyperpigmentation.  Current treatment recommendations include sun avoidance, sun protection, the use of physical sunscreens and antioxidants.

Incorporating cleansing and neutralization of environmental pollutants from the skin may complement existing treatment recommendations.

A PubMed search was performed using keywords: Pollution, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Oxidative stress, Extrinsic Aging and Melasma.  This JDD article by Wendy Roberts, MD explores the role of pollution in skin aging through:

  1. Particulate matter: consisting of airborne particles in solid or liquid form, i.e. aerosols, smoke, fumes, dust, ash and pollen.
  2. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: originating from things like vehicles, wood burning, combustion of organic material including vegetative combustion, charred meats, coal burning and cigarette smoke.

Reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation and melasma can be achieved by:

  1. Limited exposure to environmental pollutants
  2. Sun protection including physical sunscreens to protect from UV and visible light
  3. Oral and topical antioxidant usage
  4. Daily facial cleansing, neutralization and removal of facial particulate matter found aerosols, smoke, fumes, dust, ash, etc.

For the full article, visit https://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961615P0337X