Utah’s elevation, climate, and environment can be hard on the skin. Several factors contribute to accelerated skin aging, requiring a little more effort to avoid or deal with them.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the biggest factor in premature and visible skin aging. UV penetrates the skin, damaging the epidermis and reducing the skin’s elasticity. This gives rise to wrinkles or sagging in parts of the face. If UV penetrates deeper, it can damage even damage fat cells and collagen. Enough UV damage can also change your skin’s DNA, giving rise to melanoma and other types of skin cancer. Utah’s elevation further makes residents more vulnerable to the adverse effects of UV radiation. UV gets more concentrated the higher the elevation is, around 7 percent for every thousand feet.
Salt Lake City residents are exposed to 28 percent more UV, with Park City residents bearing the brunt with 49 percent higher concentrations. UV puts Utah at the top when it comes to the rate of skin cancer and melanomas in the US, but avoiding it is fairly easy.
Avoiding the sun is a clear solution, although an implausible one. Wear protective clothing like hats, pants, long-sleeved shirts, or any articles of clothing that limit your skin’s exposure to direct sunlight. Umbrellas are particularly effective for staying out of direct sunlight — and you can dress how you want and still be protected. Sunscreen works, but it requires constant applications, and only the most diligent people ever use it regularly and properly.
Utah has one of the worst air pollution problems in the US, particularly during winter inversions. Particulates from exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, or wood furnaces can stay in the air for weeks at a time, exposing residents to higher levels of pollution. The pores on your skin, most notably the ones on your face, can easily get clogged by particulates in the air, which can cause acne breakouts, skin irritation, and eczema. Particulates can also penetrate your skin, damaging collagen and reducing the flexibility and firmness of your skin.
While there’s little you can do about air pollution, except for avoiding going outside, you can make sure you wash it all off once you get home. A quick shower might not be enough to deal with the grime and pollution during winter inversions, and you might need to use a facial wash to make sure your face is free of deep-seated dirt. Opt for mild exfoliants as stronger ones can dry your skin. Try to avoid going out when the air quality index (AQI) is particularly high, or take a long shower after doing so.
Elevation comes with thinner and drier air. Utah has an arid environment, making skin more likely to wrinkle and crack. You’re also more likely to lose water (through breathing) without noticing it. Elevation can numb or repress normal feelings of thirst, increasing your chances of dehydration, especially during colder months. Consciously drink water throughout the day; buy a fancy water container with a timer if you have to. Avoid coffee and soda as much as possible, as caffeine can lower your body’s water retention.
A moisturizing skincare regimen is essential if you want to keep looking young. Use cream-based moisturizers because they last longer on your skin. Use a mist spray on sweltering and dry days and opt for a humidifier instead of air conditioning to keep you cool at night.
Utah water can be particularly hard, especially in Salt Lake City. Water hardness in the city can go up to 13 grains or more per gallon, making it one of the hardest in the US. Calcium and magnesium levels in water are significantly high. This makes it harder to shower, and the water itself can leave your skin dry and your hair in a mess. Impurities in the water can also form free radicals that can damage the skin’s collagen and diminish its firmness.
Washing your face often now becomes more damaging than not. Water softeners are the only viable solution. You can opt for an ion exchange system (that uses salt) or a salt-free system (also called a water conditioner). A water softener installation is fairly inexpensive, costing around $2,000 to cover your entire house.
A convergence of factors makes Utah one of the worst places for your skin. However, certain guidelines, changes, and a good skincare regimen can protect your skin from even the worst conditions the state can muster. Take the necessary steps to ensure that you don’t let other factors age you too soon.