urban aging – is there really such a thing?

“Many people will never be bothered by air pollution because they don’t stop talking long enough to take a deep breath.”

-Vikrant Parsai

There is one modern mantra concerning our well-being we should all have introjected by now: aging faster or living longer depends on us!

Or, to define this with a science-based expression, it depends on the equation which includes our genes as well as our lifestyle habits. What and when we eat, sleep, and workout, as well as our attitude towards life in good and bad times, definitely boosts or rapidly dissolves the energy we have at our disposal every day, and chances are it ensures or compromises the many great days ahead of us that we cherish and long for.

Kind of a complex equation of course, but definitely keeping it in mind and possibly solving it by making the right choices means going beyond that scary determinism we all want to escape from. And, most importantly, it empowers us to influence our vitality and our future. Books, guides, blogs, magazines: you just name them.  We buy them, we read them, we evolve. Some days with more focus and success than others, yet always proud to be the ones steering the boat in the vast ocean of life possibilities.

Well, the equation just recently became much more complicated and less under our control than we thought, and it has virtually nothing to do with our choices, at least in the very near future.

One undesired, subtle factor has been found to also trigger our cellular inflammation, putting our mental and physical health at risk. This might sound like a concern with only long-term consequences but if we pay attention, it leaves visible marks on our skin every day: a dull color, the lack of hydration, an overall tired appearance. Of course, it is the many hours we have lived and worked at a frantic, passionate pace, but life stress is not their only cause and sleeping a few more hours might not be enough to recover. The stress we are referring to cannot just be contrasted with a serene mind and a balanced body since it depends on pollution. Outdoor and indoor pollution cause the release of inflammatory mediators, and the oxidation of proteins. And our youthful look becomes inevitably deprived of its immaculate glow.

Buckminster Fuller, the famous inventor, one day said, “Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting.” Well. We wish that could already be true. Of course many researchers are studying ways to see something new, even potentially positive, in air pollution, but it is still a very limited result. Anirudh Sharma and his team, for example, have created a new use for the tiny, harmful particles from our car exhaust pipes, capturing it, diverting it from our lungs and turning it into something artful in the process. Many are working on new energy resources but in the meantime, what we need is a form of help to cope with pollution or at least to protect and detoxify our skin every day to avoid an unbearable accumulation.

Protection is a simple gesture we are all probably accustomed to: the novelty is that now we can find sunscreens enhanced with ingredients, like Dandelion extract for example, which contrasts environmental oxidative stress caused by urban dust and UV rays.

We also have the great opportunity to use the nighttime as a “spa time” to empower a process called autophagy. Recently discovered, it is our skin’s cells ability to remove altered cell components, such as the compromised proteins and lipids, and ensure their healthy longevity. An extraordinary ingredient, derived from yeast, can be found in night masks that definitely give a great support without asking for a big effort. Therefore, why not try?