Stuck in a cab the other day, I read about some research that – talk about ironic – claims that sitting in a traffic jam can age your skin? Yes, that’s right. German researchers believe that traffic pollution causes age spots and even those awful sagging nasal labial lines.

400 women between the ages of 70 and 80 were studied and measurements of the concentration of traffic-related particulate matter in the atmosphere (in rural and urban locations in Germany) were compared with the signs of aging shown by the women’s facial skin including pigment spots, wrinkles and skin laxity.

The conclusion was that the higher the concentration of traffic related airborne particles the higher the number of age spots. In addition, there was also a significant association between levels of air pollution and the nasolabial fold (those pesky puppet lines).

Traffic related particulate matter is mainly carbon particles and the researchers believe that they bind themselves to aryl hydrocarbon receptors (AhR), which are found in both keratinocytes and melanocytes.

The carbon particles themselves, especially when they are in the nano form, can penetrate into the skin and activate an inflammation related signalling cascade.

The researchers haven’t exactly proven this; they just saw a visible correlation between aging skin and high density traffic pollution. And they go on to speculate that when the AhR receptor is stimulated it could be increasing melanin production and this could explain the increase in pigment spots seen in the research.

The head researcher, a Dr Jean Krutmann concluded that targeting this receptor could be a potential way for cosmetics suppliers to try to tackle the problem. And then he sort of casually brought up a German ingredients supplier called Symrise and mentioned that they had already developed a molecule that could be topically applied to act as antagonist to this receptor.

That’s handy. I wondered if it was a complete coincidence and wasn’t surprised to find that Dr Krutmann has conducted research for Symrise in the past. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the study on 400 women isn’t valid – although I have a thousand questions buzzing in my head – such as whether they weighted the results for sun exposure or smoking. But it does seem as if Dr Krutmann is adding two and two together and somehow that seems to add up to Symrise’s molecule.

Anyhow, it gave me something to take my mind off all the New York traffic carbon penetrating my skin.