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Caring for your skin before and after exposure to wildfire smoke

As wildfires rage across the West Coast, your skin health may not be the first thing on your mind. In fact, skincare might be the last thing you think about. But as the smoke clears and the skies return to their natural blue hues, you may be wondering, did the fires affect my skin? 

The short answer is yes. Dr. Shanthi Colaço of Skinstyle Dermatology in West Los Angeles explains the harsh reality of environmental pollutants and how they affect your skin. 

“When fires burn, they release a wide variety of air pollutants and gases that can be extremely harmful to the skin like particulate matter, heavy metals, ozone, and more” she says. 

Research studies have shown that environmental pollutants, like wildfire smoke, are linked to several harmful conditions of the skin like: 

These long-term effects can be harmful if we don't take proper precautions, Dr. Colaço says. The wildfires cause clogged pores and lead to breakouts. The fires also dry out the skin causing itchiness, dryness, or dullness of the skin. A few of the short-term effects include: 

Additionally, pre-existing skin conditions like rosacea, psoriasis, and/or eczema may also be exacerbated by the wildfires.

So how can you avoid these damaging effects? Experts like Dr. Colaço agree that the best way to protect your skin is to avoid smoky areas. Stay indoors as much as possible, wear clothing that covers your body as much as possible, and wear a face covering (your COVID-19 facemask is on double duty!). Avoiding the smoke is the best way to protect yourself. But, sometimes being in the smoke is unavoidable, as we’ve seen here in California. 

What if you’ve already been exposed? If you were exposed, try these tips to keep your skin healthy and hydrated. 

First, take a shower and change your clothes — even once you’re indoors, the harmful smoke particles may still be all over your clothes and body. Make sure to wash those off as soon as you can. Next, make sure your recovery routine includes some of the following:

The wildfires may have many of us feeling helpless, but even in the midst of these trying times, we can take care of ourselves and our loved ones with a little extra self-care and TLC! 

To book an appointment at our practice, visit our practice website at to consult with Dr. Colaço and our amazing dermatology team in West Los Angeles.

For more skincare articles, visit our new dermatology magazine, Skinstyle Magazine.

Medha Vallurupalli

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