Nitrogen dioxide causes pigmentation

In the first 2020 edition the BEAUTY professional.

Research shows:


The newspapers are full of it and we hear it in the news: there is currently a nitrogen crisis. According to the government, emissions must be reduced to ensure human health. We know that by now. But what many people in the beauty industry don’t know is that nitrogen dioxide, the gas that cars and trucks emit, causes pigment spots. Francis Wu, dermatologist at the Dermatological Center Utrecht, explains it to youit. He bases this on various scientific studies.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is an important indicator for the air pollution caused by traffic. Francis Wu explains that researchers in Germany did research into the effects of nitrogen dioxide on the skin.

The researchers assessed the skin of 400 women in the age group from 70 to 80 years. One group of test subjects came from the Ruhr area, where there is a lot of industry. The other group lived in the countryside surroundings of Borken. The test subjects all lived at least thirty years same location.

The analysis showed that the people from the Ruhr area, who were exposed to a lot of nitrogen dioxide, suffered more from pigment spots than the people from the rural area of ​​Borken. These discolorations were particularly visible on the cheeks. It also turned out that the subjects who were exposed to more (10 µg/m3) nitrogen dioxide had significantly more lentigines. No less than 20% to even 35% more pigment spots were visible with them.

Also done a Chinese study

Chinese scientists followed the German results in Taizhou also research. They assessed the skin of 743 women in the age group from 27 to 89 years. The researchers used the data from Taizhou Environmental Bureau’s monitoring stations every amount of nitrogen dioxide to which the women were exposed. The findings were virtually identical to the German analysis. Deduced from this also said that the research results therefore not only applied to white skin, but also for the Asian.


Francis Wu also refers during the findings to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. This professional journal for dermatologists has reported on both research published an article. This states that exposure to nitrogen dioxide is associated with the appearance of more pigment spots on the cheeks. It strongest association between NO2 and lentigines was seen in women above fifty years. More pigment spots can be distinguished on their faces, than on the skin of younger women, who are in the same conditions and in live in the same area.


Francis Wu explains how nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from the air, can cause pigmentation. “In the skin there are receptors, organs of touch. This receptors are also called AHR receptors. Dioxin compounds can enter the skin as they couple to these AHR receptors. In de huid they penetrate the nucleus of the cell and stimulate its production melanin. The process is disrupted and hyperpigmentation becomes visible.”


Consumers can take little action to prevent pigment spots on their skin are caused by nitrogen dioxide. Francis Wu: “It is important that they cleanse their skin properly morning and night. So that nitrogen dioxide cannot attach to the receptors. In addition, they can make it best to choose skin care products that contain antioxidants such as flavonoids, contain the coenzyme Q10 or vitamin E. Nowadays, more and more products on the market that protect the skin from air pollution. These are also well advised against the impact of nitrogen dioxide on the skin.”

city area

There is less nitrogen dioxide(NO2) in the air. While the percentage in the Randstad and in the center of the Netherlands is considerably higher. Concentrations are particularly high during the morning and evening rush hours.

What is nitrogen?

When we talk about nitrogen (N2), we mean we the colorless and odorless gas that you find all around us. The sky that we breathe contains 78 percent nitrogen. That’s not a problem, because Nitrogen is not dangerous to humans and the environment. What did causes problems are the compounds of nitrogen. By this we mean the nitrogen oxides (NOx, a compound of nitrogen and oxygen), which are in the air through industrial emissions and exhaust fumes of traffic. Ammonia (NH3, a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen) in the air is harmful. Ammonia (NH3) is released into the air through animal manure. Farmers use this to make their soil more fertile. Thus, their plants grows better and their crops bring in more money. Some of the manure evaporates, however, namely as ammonia.

Nitrogen crisis

Because nitrogen emissions had to be reduced, the government developed a program in 2015: Program Approach Stikstof (PAS). This showed how much nitrogen could be emitted. Permits were issued on this basis. However, in May 2019, the Council of State ruled that the PAS does not take into account the European rules, which must ensure that the Dutch nature areas (Natura 2000 areas) are preserved. This meant that the PAS can no longer be used to determine whether or not a project will receive a permit. Provinces, water boards, municipalities and the national government have therefore decided to suspend their decisions regarding nitrogen emissions.

Nitrogen Dioxide

While you are here

What are pigment spots? Spots or hyperpigmentation is usually a harmless condition where patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. Hyperpigmentation is caused in the skin by overproduction of a pigment known as melanin.

Read more about pigmentation


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