Pollution is threatening the planet – and it’s ageing our skin, too.
The word anti-pollution is one hell of a buzzword at the moment and you’ve probably spotted it on many of the latest skin launches. There’s now a whole species of product that protects the skin against environmental nasties and prevents the damaging effects – anti-pollution skincare is going nowhere.
With plans to completely pedestrianise London’s Oxford Street after King’s College London found that it was the most polluted street in the world and the new Ultra Low Emission Zone in place in Central London, it’s no wonder that people are more attuned to the damaging effects of pollution. In fact, Liberty London recently saw a sales increase of 166% in anti-pollution beauty, while online searches have gone up by 73% in the past year.
What does pollution do to the skin?
Pollution really is the silent aggressor, because it doesn’t just sit on the surface of your skin, muddying it up like a windscreen, it can seep deep down into your skin speeding up the deterioration of your cells. Which is why it is one of the worst things for premature ageing. Nitrogen dioxide gas from car exhausts and toxic oily molecules measure 2.5 micrometres, that’s one 400th of a millimetre, so 20 times smaller than the diameter of a skin pore. So it’s no wonder that they easily gain entry into your skin.
‘Once inside skin, they cause chronic inflammation,’ says Dr Tom Mammone, vice president of skin physiology and pharmacology at Clinique. ‘This overstimulates melanocytes, giving you skin pigmentation. Your skin’s antioxidant and DNA systems also become overwhelmed so they no longer repair sufficiently, resulting in lines and sagging.’
Not only do they cause inflammation, but also dehydration and can exacerbate existing skin concerns, like eczema.
But can anti-pollution skincare products help, or are they just a marketing ploy? It’s a bit of both. Unlike SPFs, there’s currently no comparable ‘pollution protection factor’. However, the power of antioxidants such as vitamin C to protect against free radicals is backed by science (hence why some of the best hyperpigmentation treatment products contain vitamin C). All that’s happened is the emphasis has shifted from UV rays to pollution and the same chain reaction. So, if you’re using an antioxidant serum daily, you’ve already ticked one box in an urban skincare regime.
Also remember: keep skin’s moisture barrier intact with hydrating ingredients including hyaluronic acid. ‘We’ve been able to prove that pollution tears tiny holes in the skin’s barrier, causing moisture loss,’ explains Dr Mammone.
Ingredients that form a film over the skin’s surface can help, too. ‘Alteromonas ferment, from marine bacteria, is brilliant at preventing pollution particles from adhering to skin,’ says dermatologist Dr Barbara Sturm.
The other more obvious thing to be sure you’re doing is nailing your nighttime cleansing regimen. Ridding your skin of as much of the day’s dirt, grime and surface pollution will help you in the battle against it.
Finally, don’t forget your all year-round SPF moisturiser. ‘Pollution is worse in winter due to surface inversion, where the air directly above the ground cools down much faster than the air above it,’ explains Dr Sturm. ‘The warmth builds a wall and traps pollutants in the cold air we’re exposed to.’
You may not be able to avoid pollution, but these products are like armour against skin-scavenging smog.
Pollution can cause an imbalance of bacteria on the skin’s surface – read acne and sensitivity. Keep everything in check with this probiotic essence.
Your ‘pretox’ starts here: alteromonas ferment binds to pollution particles, then joins forces with the antioxidant herb purslane and cocoa seed to neutralise them and keep the skin’s barrier strong.
Research in Germany links air-traffic pollution with a 25 per cent increase in pigmentation on cheeks. Using clinical expertise, this serum breaks down the enzyme responsible for melanin production.
Like an invisible raincoat for your face. Hyaluronic acid and polymers form a film over skin to keep pollutants out and moisture in. Satisfyingly non-sticky, too.
This is like a magnet to draw out pollution, but charcoal can leave drier skin feeling like paper. Here, wildflower honey stops the problem.
Whilst you might keep a face mist on your desk and in your handbag to refresh your skin, this does just that with the added benefit of Biosaccharide Gum-4. What does that do? It forms a physical, non-sticky barrier to protect skin for pollutants. You can use as your last step, on top of make-up.
An oil-based cleanser is your most important product in your arsenal. This is what removes all make-up AND surface pollutants and impurities. It also been found that the blue micro-algae in the formula protects cells against micro-stress caused by pollution. Huzzah!
Created for modern women living in urban environments, By Terry's Detoxilyn range includes this cream, which can be used day and night. It hydrates and nourishes the skin, as well as strengthening the skin's barrier with it's free-radical fighting actives.
This is a bit of a hybrid product - it has the potency of a mask, but the texture of a day cream. It's packed full of hydrating ingredients, peptides, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which all work in harmony to create a protective shield against pollutants in the air.
I mean, the dream! Not only is this rich in anti-oxidants to help the skin's defences and fatty acids to support the skin's barrier, but it makes you look super duper glowy and tanned. I mean, the dream!
This salon-strength hydrator boosts moisture levels in the skin and creates an invisible shield on the skin's surface to stop as many pollution particles getting through and into the skin's layers.
So much more than a foundation. This matte base is an extension of your skincare routine. It's been created with vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties and it has anti-blue light technology. It's super breathable, with a medium coverage that can be built up. Use it like a moisturiser and work it into skin with your fingers.
This range took the brand six years to develop. This booster is super potent, filled to the brim with free-radical fighting ingredients. Add a few drops to your everyday serum, oil or day cream to create a shield between your skin and the external aggressors.
According to a study by the brand, after using this for four weeks you will see a noticeable change to your skin - smoother, more supple, firmer and stronger defences. No wonder then that since its launch a bottle has been sold every 15 seconds.
It isn't just your face that feels the effects of pollution, it gets into every pore - even the ones on your body. Be sure to really wash the day off with this body wash.
The ideal on-the-go anti-pollution product. Apply just before you head out of the door (it won't smudge your make-up) for pollution and sun protection. It's also super refreshing so will perk up skin throughout the day.