We all know that our genetic makeup plays a key role in determining how many fine lines and wrinkles we’ll see as we age. And anyone who is savvy in skin care is aware of just how damaging the sun’s rays can be to the skin. But you may be shocked to know that the air you’re breathing at this very moment is also prematurely aging your complexion.
If keeping yourself (and your skin) safely inside forever isn’t an option, here is what you can do- incorporate anti-pollution skincare into your daily regimen. We’re breaking down how pollution can wreak daily havoc on our skin, plus our favorite anti-pollution products to protect and defend skin.
What does pollution do to my skin?
Scientists are beginning to understand how pollution is contributing to skin aging. In fact, a 2016 study of people in Germany and China has linked increased environmental pollution derived from combustion with the formation of brown spots on the cheeks. Yikes!
Smog, tiny particles of dust or soot, smoke and combustion exhaust are not only bad to breathe, but are also some of the key culprits in facilitating premature aging of the skin. We checked in with board-certified dermatologist and LovelySkin founder and CEO Dr. Joel Schlessinger on how that happens:
“Pollution from ozone oxidizes (ie - breaks down) the lipids in the outer layer of the skin that help bind cells together and degrade the skin’s protective barrier, making your skin more susceptible to forming dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, one study shows increased pollution exposure can exacerbate skin conditions like eczema and hives.”
How do I protect my skin from pollution?
Don’t be scared by toxic air. Protecting your skin from pollution and environmental damage is as simple as following a few key steps and using products with pollution-fighting ingredients.
Step 1: Cleanse daily with a non-stripping cleanser
The bad news is that that toxic (and often invisible) particles in the air attach themselves to your skin as you go about your day. The good news is that they aren’t immediately harmful and if removed daily, their damage can be reduced. Choose a cleanser that removes these impurities without stripping the skin of essential oils.
La-Roche Posay Effaclar Micellar Water Ultra – This no-rinse, gentle cleanser is formulated with dirt-encapsulating micelles that attract and dissolve makeup, debris and even pollution from the skin. It soothes and defends against free radicals with antioxidant-rich La-Roche Posay Thermal Spring Water and refreshes and purifies skin with zinc.
Replenix Antioxidant Gentle Soothing Cleanser – Formulated specifically to help remove environmental toxins from the skin, this daily cleanser is fortified with green tea polyphenols, embilica (an antioxidant-packed plant extract) and rich botanicals to cleanse and protect the skin.
Step 2: Apply Antioxidants Daily
Antioxidants, in particular vitamins C and E, are perhaps the most important step in neutralizing the free radical damage caused by environmental pollution. Why are free radicals damaging to the skin? These miniscule particles are chemically unstable, so they are always searching for other atoms to connect with and steal electrons from to find a more stable state. They enter through your pores and attach themselves to your skin’s cells, stealing electrons from them. This leads to inflammation and in turn, can accelerate the skin’s aging process.
SkinMedica Lumivive - This day and nighttime treatment is formulated with potent antioxidants like green tea, cocoa, algae and grape seed extract to protect skin from free radical damage that comes from increased exposure to blue light. Blue light is emitted from devices like cell phones, tablets, television and even LED lights that can contribute to signs of aging like wrinkles and dark spots.
HydroPeptide HydroStem: Stress & Pollution Protection – This pollution protection serum is formulated with six antioxidant-rich botanical stem cells to combat free radical damage. It binds moisture to the skin with hyaluronic acid and addresses existing fine lines and wrinkles with amino peptides.
Exuviance Probiotic Lysate Anti-Pollution Essence – This lightweight essence feeds skin’s microbiome with a 10% concentration of probiotics. An 8% level of polyhydroxy acids provides necessary antioxidant protection to neutralize stressors from pollution, as well as toxic metals in the air and water.
PHYTOMER CITYLIFE Face and Eye Contour Sorbet Cream – This luxurious cream has been formulated to de-pollute and re-oxygenate the skin with a blend of three marine sugars. Antioxidant-rich blue and red algae and a seawater concentrate defend and reset skin, while phospholipids give this sorbet cream it’s ultra-lush texture.
VivierSkin CE Peptides – Fight free radical damage and address existing fine lines and wrinkles with this potent anti-aging serum, packed with the most effective pollution fighting antioxidants, vitamins C and E. Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals before they can damage collagen and elastin, while peptides help plump the skin.
Important Tip: Remember that most free radical damage to the skin comes from sun exposure. Don’t replace your sunscreen with antioxidant-based skin care and think you’re 100% protected. You’re not! But if you want a one-two punch against premature signs of aging, choose a multi-tasking sunscreen that also protects against environmental pollution like Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 PA++++. This broad-spectrum sunscreen shields UVA and UVB rays and features an advanced polymer matrix that blocks nearly 96% of common environmental irritants.
Step 3: Use Barrier Protecting Products
The primary purpose of your skin is to provide a protective barrier for your body and keep harmful things out, including pollution. But, if your body’s largest organ’s barrier function is compromised; the likelihood of tiny particles making their way through your pores is increased. Combat this by using a daily moisturizer like SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, which is specifically formulated to restore and maintain a healthy skin barrier.
Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant – This anti-pollution powerhouse features a unique powder formula that instantly activates when mixed with water. It purifies pores with activated charcoal and gently exfoliates impurities with lactic acid. Niacinamide supports the skin’s barrier function while red algae extract fights free radicals.
Emma Hardie Plump & Glow Hydrating Facial Mist – Take your pollution protection on the go with this hydrating facial mist, formulated with technology called Glycofilm to provide cells with a barrier or “second skin” to protect from pollution.
Does environmental pollution affect my hair?
Your hair and scalp are also susceptible to damage from environmental pollution. Increased daily exposure can lead to excessive dryness, breakage and in some cases, an itchy scalp. As with skin, antioxidant-rich hair care products can also help to protect your tresses and if you are experiencing dryness, adding moisture back to strands can help keep them soft and healthy.
Try: IGK Thirsty Girl Coconut Milk Leave-In Conditioner – Borrowing from skin care, this leave-in conditioner uses hyaluronic acid technology to form a moisture barrier on hair strands, protecting it from damaging pollutants. Coconut milk smooths away existing frizz for sleak, hydrated and healthy hair.
For more anti-pollution skin care recommendations, check out this video.