In January this year, London’s air pollution levels surpassed those in Beijing, putting the capital on its highest ever air pollution alert. Car emissions aren’t only to blame – UV rays, blue light from our phones, iron particles from train tracks, ozone and cigarette smoke are all damaging our skin, with dermatologists warning our collagen levels slump as soon as we step out the door.
With studies suggesting those living in a polluted urban environment age 10% faster than their country-living counterparts, it’s no wonder sales of anti-pollution skincare products have soared by more than 30% this year alone.
From the ultimate cleansers for city-dwellers, to free radical-fighting serums and moisturisers, this is the anti-pollution skincare to know about...
Those prone to blemishes and blackheads, take note – pollution has the ability to increase inflammation deep within the skin, which can trigger oil production. This can clog pores, leaving skin greasy and more vulnerable to spots. A hard-working cleanser is essential to wash away grime at the end of the day, without stripping the skin. We’re making a beeline for Oskia’s hot-off-the-press cleanser – packed with antioxidants, the clever formula will rebalance the complexion and protect against all manner of oxidative stress. If you don’t have sensitive skin and want to supercharge your cleanse, it’s worth investing in a Clarisonic Facial Cleansing Brush, £155, too.
You’ve heard it before and for good reason – incorporating an acid-based exfoliator into your skincare repertoire will supercharge the effects of your serum and moisturiser. Scientists also believe pollution particles – which can be up to 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair – are lipophilic, meaning they dissolve in oil, which is why they can penetrate our pores and damage skin so easily. Using an acid-based toner alongside your cleanser will ensure your pores are thoroughly clean. We love Trish McEvoy’s Beta Hydroxy Pads, £45, which are suitable for even the most sensitive of skin.
The most efficient way to protect against ‘polluaging’ (the South Korean buzzword for the skin-damaging effects of pollution), a facial mist is a stellar on-the-go solution. REN’s offering is perfect to keep in your bag – it creates a featherweight protective veil between complexion and the elements – while Amly’s Digital Detox Facial Mist, £42, is ideal for your desk as it helps combat the glow-zapping effects of digital pollution.
If fine lines, pigmentation, increased sensitivity and collagen loss weren’t bad enough, pollution has also been shown to deplete our skin’s moisture stores, leading to a dry, lacklustre complexion. With research suggesting indoor pollution – triggered by toxins from ovens and fireplaces – can take its toll on the skin too, dermatologists advise we take steps to bolster the skin’s natural barrier with a good moisturiser. We rate Sunday Riley’s C.E.O Antioxidant Moisturiser, £60 – a clever formula packed with vitamin C, half of which stays on the skin’s surface to block nasties while the other 50% is absorbed into deeper layers to repair and brighten.
The Antioxidant Serum
Pollution has been shown to increase harmful free radicals in the air, which in turn decreases the skin’s production of collagen and damages our skin’s DNA. Fortunately, research has also found antioxidants can interact with free radicals to stop them in their tracks before cells are damaged. While it’s worth loading your plate with antioxidants – think plenty of vitamins E, C and A – an antioxidant serum can make a huge difference too.
The ultimate antidote for city life? Chanel’s luxe Blue Serum – made using ingredients from four ‘blue zones’ around the world, where people live longer and better, this new-gen serum is already a hit.
There’s no denying protecting skin against UV damage is a year-round necessity, but soaring levels of pollution are also attacking the delicate ozone layer, meaning more UV radiation can sneak through – even in the depths of winter. Add to this the fact that blue light from our screens can cause as much damage as UVA and UVB rays combined, and it’s no wonder dermatologists stress the importance of an SPF. Make an effort to wear a good-quality SPF daily – even on cloudy days.