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The Types of Air Pollutants

The Types of Air Pollutants

Unfortunately, for right now, being citizens of this planet means that our bodies will come in contact with pollutants, some of which can be harmful and dangerous to our health. Worldwide governments have made efforts over the past few decades to reduce the output of harmful pollutants, pollution continues to rise and disrupt our cities, forests, and oceans. There may not be much that we can personally do to reduce pollution on a large scale, but we can educate ourselves and protect our bodies from harmful pollution.

Let’s take a look at some common questions about pollution: what are the different types of air pollutants, what is particulate matter, and how does air pollution affect humans. We’ll also discuss how to protect skin from pollution.

The 6 Types of Air Pollutants

Sulfur Oxides

These tiny molecules (SO2) are created when sulfur products are burned in industrial settings. Sulfur oxides themselves can cause individuals with asthma and allergies to have trouble breathing, but there is a more concerning factor: sulfur oxides react with other compounds in the atmosphere to create particulate matter (more on that below).

Carbon Monoxide

Most people know of carbon monoxide’s ability to strangle the body from the inside out, but few know how prevalent this little molecule is in our atmosphere already. While a low concentration doesn’t pose much risk to our lungs, it can be a problem for those with heart disease and those who already have trouble breathing and getting the oxygen they need.

Ground-Level Ozone

Ozone, also known as O3, is supposed to stay high up in the atmosphere where it protects us from the onslaught of ultraviolet radiation from space that barrages our planet each day. However, ozone is not supposed to hover above our cities - this is called ground-level ozone. When humans interact with ozone on a daily basis, it can cause some serious issues: difficulty breathing, inflammation and damage to the airways, and an increased risk of lung infection.


It might seem odd that such a heavy metal can hang, suspended in the air; however, it is a very real threat - one that has been reduced considerably since 2010. The only vehicles that still use leaded fuels are some airplanes, which is a good thing since lead can cause very serious damage to the human body: negative neurological symptoms, decreased kidney function, reproductive harm, developmental harm, and damage to the cardiovascular system.

Nitrogen Oxides

Also known as NO2 and nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides are a type of pollution that gets released from the burning of fossil fuels within “cars, trucks and buses, power plants, and off-road equipment.” These little molecules pose a similar risk to sulfur oxides in that they can pose a threat to asthmatics and react with particles in the air to form particulate matter.

Particulate Matter

Perhaps the hottest topic for pollution and skincare, what is particulate matter? We’ve mentioned above how this type of pollution gets created - usually from the reaction of nitrogen and sulfur oxides with tiny particles in the air. But, why is particulate matter such a huge concern? The true threat of particulate matter is that the particles are so small that they can enter your bloodstream through inhalation. Particulate matter can cause issues like “premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.”

When looking directly at pollution’s effects on the skin, effects may vary from person to person. For example, someone with sensitive skin will be much more likely to develop one of these effects of particulate matter on skin: eczema, acne, skin cancer, aging, age spots, and psoriasis.

How Does Air Pollution Affect Humans?

As mentioned throughout the explanations above, air pollution can adversely affect human health; for these reasons, governments have tried to regulate the sources of pollution and have encouraged research that furthers low-pollution technology and pollution removal technology. However, in the meantime, being a resident of planet Earth means that our bodies will be exposed to varying levels of pollutants. This may leave you wondering how to protect yourself.

How to Protect Skin from Pollution

Stay Inside (To An Extent)

Stay inside on high-pollution days– keep an eye on your weather forecast. If the air quality level looks questionable, take the day to stay indoors, watch a movie, play some board games, work from home, and cook a nice meal. Avoidance is the best strategy when it comes to poor air quality days.

Cleanse Well

The next best thing you can do to protect yourself is to clean your skin well after being out in the city. Normal cleansers may not reach deep enough into your skin to remove harmful particulate matter, so you’ll want to find a cleanser that targets those particles. 

Here at Rejuvaskin, we’ve developed our Anti-Pollution Facial Cleanser to do just that. Soothing botanicals like lemongrass and aloe make up this gentle cleanser; treat your skin while clearing it of harmful particulate matter– order today.