Air pollution and skin diseases: Adverse effects of airborne particulate matter on various skin diseases

Life Sci. 2016 May 1;152:126-34. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2016.03.039. Epub 2016 Mar 25.


Environmental air pollution encompasses various particulate matters (PMs). The increased ambient PM from industrialization and urbanization is highly associated with morbidity and mortality worldwide, presenting one of the most severe environmental pollution problems. This article focuses on the correlation between PM and skin diseases, along with related immunological mechanisms. Recent epidemiological studies on the cutaneous impacts of PM showed that PM affects the development and exacerbation of skin diseases. PM induces oxidative stress via production of reactive oxygen species and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-1α, and IL-8. In addition, the increased production of ROS such as superoxide and hydroxyl radical by PM exposure increases MMPs including MMP-1, MMP-2, and MMP-9, resulting in the degradation of collagen. These processes lead to the increased inflammatory skin diseases and skin aging. In addition, environmental cigarette smoke, which is well known as an oxidizing agent, is closely related with androgenetic alopecia (AGA). Also, ultrafine particles (UFPs) including black carbon and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) enhance the incidence of skin cancer. Overall, increased PM levels are highly associated with the development of various skin diseases via the regulation of oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory drugs may be useful for treating PM-induced skin diseases.

Keywords: Aging; Alopecia; Inflammatory skin diseases; Oxidative stress; Particulate matter; Pro-inflammatory cytokine; Skin cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Skin Diseases / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter