A New Study Shows These Are the Best and Worst U.S. Cities for Your Skin


SkinStore has just released the results of a study analyzing the exposure to pollution and UV levels across the country to determine the best and worst U.S. cities for skin health. Researchers combined these two factors to create an overall “skin score” to not only identify how “good” the city is for the skin, but also bring attention to those cities where residents should be taking extra steps to protect their skin.

In an article we reported in 2017, New York dermatologist Doris Day, MD said the major way pollution damages skin is through the generation of what is called oxidative stress, an important contributor to skin aging. “Particles in the nano-size range, especially those from traffic, are considered among the most harmful components of pollution. They cause oxidative stress and are also highly reactive toward biological surfaces and structures, such as the skin, hair and eyes. These particles can serve as carriers for organic chemicals and metals that are capable of localizing in areas such as mitochondria in the cells, which can be destructive and accelerate aging of the skin. There’s more than just UV rays that cause damage to skin cells.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it has been estimated that more than 90 percent of the urban population live with pollutant levels in excess of World Health Organization standard limits. In this particular study, we were surprised to see New York ranking on the better end, and dramatically better than LA. It even received a better “skin score” than cities in much less populated states like the Dakotas and Wyoming. This appears to be due to the averaging of the two factors: In New York, pollution levels are higher, but UV levels are lower (SkinStore credits the City and State’s recent efforts to lower emissions from regional and local sources). And vice versa in North Dakota, for example.

West Palm Beach, FL, dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD says the effects of pollution on skin and the aging process are not always so straight-forward, meaning there are other ways contaminated air can be harmful, rather than just by penetrating your skin. “One study was conducted with bike riders in New York to determine the degree to which particulate pollution (fine particles in the air) get into the lungs. Not surprisingly, the higher the particulates in the air, the worse the damage to the lungs. This type of damage and pollution decreases oxygen in the blood, and this is bad for the skin. As with smoking, this will likely result in more wrinkles and collagen damage.”

When it comes to fighting the effects of pollution on the skin, antioxidants are the best option because they protect against damaging free radicals. Vitamin C, vitamin E, resveratrol and green tea are some of the best ones to look for. Below, see the entire list, with number one being the best city for skin, and number 50 being the worst.

Rank State City Pollution Value UV Rays Index Skin Score (UV + Pollution)
1 New Hampshire Manchester 4.1 1 5.1
2 Vermont Burlington 4.8 1 5.8
3 New York New York 6.4 0 6.4
4 Alaska Anchorage 6.9 0 6.9
5 North Dakota Fargo 5 2 7.0
6 South Dakota Sioux Falls 5.2 2 7.2
7 Maine Portland 5.3 2 7.3
8 Massachusetts Boston 6.4 1 7.4
9 Wyoming Cheyenne 4.5 3 7.5
10 Virginia Virginia Falls 6.9 1 7.9
41 Nevada Las Vegas 8.3 3 11.3
42 Illinois Chicago 9.5 2 11.5
44 Indiana Indianapolis 8.7 3 11.7
45 Hawaii Honolulu 4.8 7 11.8
46 Utah Salt Lake City 7.8 4 11.8
46 Georgia Atlanta 7.9 4 11.9
47 Texas Houston 8.4 4 12.4
48 Arizona Phoenix 8.6 4 12.6
49 Mississippi Jackson 7.8 5 12.8
50 California Los Angeles 12.6 4 16.6

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