Pollution levels have been hitting the headlines recently. Over the past few years, certain areas of London have usually surpassed the legal limit for gas emissions within the first couple of weeks of a new year. In 2017, the capital breached EU limits at nearly 50 sites with Brixton Road in Lambeth reaching 94 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air (the maximum is 40ug/m3). While most of us are aware of the harmful impact excessive pollution has on our health, especially our lungs, experts are still exploring the ways it impacts our skin.
With a handful of studies highlighting that pollution can damage our skin and exacerbate the ageing process, it’s no surprise that a new genre of anti-pollution skincare has developed, and it’s proving popular. So much so, between January and June last year sales of anti-pollution products grew by 30 percent and the category was valued at £3.1 million, according to NPD.
But with scientists still looking into the best ways to tackle toxic emissions, should we be investing in specific anti-pollution skincare so readily?
How does pollution affect your skin?
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and particulate matter (PM) are the most common air pollutants. Several studies have shown that these can have a negative impact on our skin. In 2014, one study found that skin integrity is compromised by air pollution when 400 caucasian women were exposed to excessive traffic fumes and developed facial lentigines.
As well as age spots, pollution is also thought to increase lines and wrinkles, dehydration, dullness and breakdown collagen in our skin, causing sagging.
How can you protect skin against pollution?
As mentioned above, scientists are yet to study specific ingredients, but experts widely recommend a straightforward routine:
Cleanser: Washing the pollution particles off your skin every evening is imperative. However, that doesn’t mean you should swap your usual cleanser for a more stringent formula, as you don’t want to strip your skin or damage its barrier. Lixirskin’s Electrogel Cleanser is worth exploring as it works as a traditional cleanser, as well as a detoxifying mask when you leave it on for a few minutes.
If you’re pressed for time, try de Mamiel Pure Calm Cleansing Dew, which comes with a muslin cloth to cleanse and gently exfoliate skin, ensuring any pollution particles are rinsed away.
For those who aren’t a fan of muslin cloths or flannels, This Works Evening Detox Spray-On Exfoliant will do a similar job while you sleep, but you will have to cleanse first.
Antioxidants: Whether you’re concerned about pollution or not, every skincare routine should include antioxidants. Whether it’s adding a vitamin C serum overnight or incorporating Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% by The Ordinary into your morning regimen, you’ll notice a difference over time.
Antioxidants benefit the skin by protecting it from free radical damage caused by environmental aggressors, including pollution and UV rays. While antioxidants won’t replace the protection provided by an SPF, a well formulated serum will help boost your sunscreen.
SPF: Unsurprisingly, most experts recommend daily use of sunscreen to help defend against pollution damage. It’s worth investing in a formula that combines between sunscreen factors and antioxidants, such as Skinesis Dynamic Defence Concentrate SPF 15, to ensure you get maximum protection.