“Pollution” has long been a dirty word, but it’s just recently started to raise alarm in the world of skincare. There is a growing anxiety, among both skincare experts and enthusiasts, regarding the potential effects of pollution and urban aggressors on the skin. Studies have shown a link between air pollution and skin aging, and there is some evidence suggesting that pollution can also worsen skin conditions such as atopic eczema, psoriasis, and even acne. This has prompted beauty brands to develop a wealth of anti-pollution skincare products–but how do they work? Keep reading, and we’ll help you figure it out.
On this post:
- How does pollution affect your skin?
- How to protect your skin from pollution
- What does anti-pollution mean in skincare?
- The best anti-pollution skincare products
How does pollution affect your skin?
Many studies have shown growing evidence of the interaction between pollution and the skin. According to a scientific review, high levels of pollution have been found to contribute to skin aging, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and acne. Pollution may also heighten the risk of skin cancer.
Let’s start with skin aging. As we know, skin aging is caused by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. According to the review we’re mentioned, “intrinsic factors are mainly attributable to time, while the extrinsic ones are due to the environmental factors, most of which are preventable. Ambient air pollution, sun exposure, and cigarette smoking are among the most prevalent environmental factors.”
Studies suggest that air pollutants can trigger oxidative stress and inflammation, which in turn can lead to loss of elasticity and firmness, and the formation of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.
As for atopic dermatitis, there is some evidence that exposure to air pollutants may be able to both induce childhood atopic dermatitis and exacerbate pre-existing lesions in people who already have the condition. Studies have proposed multiple mechanisms for this association, including the idea that pollution may trigger oxidative stress and skin barrier dysfunction, which in turn may trigger atopic dermatitis. Pollution may also increase the severity of psoriasis.
Similarly, it is suggested that pollution may trigger acne, as studies suggest that elevated levels of pollution are associated with increased sebum secretion and a higher number of acne lesions. The exact mechanism is yet to be clarified.
How to protect your skin from pollution
Now that you know that pollution affects your skin, you might want to know how you can protect yourself. First, it’s important to keep in mind that you can’t completely protect your skin from the effects of pollution–you’ll always have some exposure. However, there are some things you can do:
- Cleanse your skin regularly, using a gentle cleanser. This should help you remove any accumulated impurities and pollutants. In the evening, consider double cleansing;
- Moisturize. To maintain your skin’s barrier function, make sure to hydrate and moisturize your skin, at least once a day. Opt for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or ceramides;
- Opt for skincare products with antioxidants. As you know, antioxidants like vitamins C or E help neutralize free radical damage;
- Wear sunscreen every day. Sunscreen protects your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation, and may also bring additional antioxidant benefits;
- Make use of gentle exfoliants. AHAs, when used in moderation, can help you remove dead skin cells and counteract some of the dullness associated with a busy lifestyle and environmental exposure.
What does “anti-pollution” mean in skincare?
This is a tricky question. Like so many claims in skincare, “anti-pollution” is not a regulated claim. In short: it can mean a whole lot of things–or nothing at all–depending on each brand and product.
In our understanding, here at Care to Beauty, anti-pollution products should offer some sort of preventive or corrective function. We’ll generally accept an antioxidant serum as an “anti-pollution” product, and we feel the same way about multi-purpose sunscreens that offer broad spectrum protection against multiple forms of sun radiation, such as UVB, UVA, IR, and HEV.
The ranks of “anti-pollution” skincare may also include products that will help you repair environmental damage: think barrier repair creams chock-full of prebiotics, or ceramide serums that will help you bring your skin back to health. The most important thing to keep in mind is that “anti-pollution” will never mean just one thing: it’s up to you to figure out whether a specific product matches your needs.
The best anti-pollution skincare products
Now that we’ve talked a little about the effects of pollution on the skin and what you can do to prevent them, we want to show you some examples of anti-pollution products we like:
The best anti-pollution serums
When we think about anti-pollution skincare, it’s common to think of antioxidant serums–like vitamin C serums, for example–that help protect the skin from external aggressions. Instead of showing you any old serum, however, we want to show you two options that are explicitly presented as being “anti-pollution”:
The Endocare Radiance C Ferulic Edafence Serum is an anti-aging serum for those who live in urban areas and need to protect the skin from the effects of pollution. The fluid formula promotes cell regeneration, granting a brighter complexion while protecting the skin.
Spanish brand Sensilis has recently released the Sensilis Supreme [Booster FeCE] Antioxidant & Antipollution Serum, a powerful antioxidant and anti-pollution serum that protects and revitalizes sensitive, stressed, and tired skin. Every product in this range contributes to prevent signs of aging while protecting and invigorating the skin.
The best anti pollution sunscreens
In the skin’s fight against external aggressions, sunscreen is an essential product. A good sunscreen must meet the minimum requirements and offer protection against UVB and UVA radiation, but nowadays there are sunscreens that offer a series of other benefits. Some include antioxidants in the formula, others promise to protect against the blue light emitted by screens and artificial lights, and so much more:
The Avène Sun Very High Protection B-Protect Enhanceur SPF50+ is a 3-in-1 sunscreen that provides anti-UV and anti-pollution protection, as well as a subtle beautifying effect. With a delicate fragrance and a silky cream texture, this product is the perfect all-in-one for city-dwellers.
The YOUTH LAB City Guard Anti-Pollution Day Cream SPF50+ is a multipurpose urban “warrior” that protects the skin from HEV light using 100% mineral filters that suits even the delicate under-eye area. It should be applied as the last step of the skincare routine, to create a “shield” over the skin.
The best anti pollution moisturizers
We can’t talk about anti-pollution skincare without talking about the most basic product in every skincare routine: the good old moisturizer. Nowadays, it is possible to find moisturizers created for skin exposed to the urban hustle and bustle. Infused with antioxidants and anti-fatigue active ingredients, these moisturizers help keep skin healthy and radiant, ready to survive the urban grime:
The Mádara Smart Anti-Fatigue Urban Moisture Cream is a daily moisturizer enriched with plumping hyaluronic acid, energizing caffeine, and radiance-boosting antioxidants. Not only does it help minimize signs of fatigue, it also helps prevent the first signs of “urban” aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.
Caudalie Vinergetic C+ is a luxurious collection of smart products that strengthen the skin’s capacity for self-defense against external aggressions. The standout product is the Caudalie Vinergetic C+ 3-In-1 Vitamin C Energy Moisturizer, an illuminating cream that hydrates the skin and provides up to eight hours of anti-pollution protection.
The best anti-pollution mists
It may seem unlikely, but face mists are quite popular in the world of anti-pollution skincare. It makes some sense: maybe people love the concept of spraying themselves with a “face shield” before stepping out into the hostile urban environment! If you are looking for an anti-pollution mist, we have two good options for you:
The Galénic Aqua Urban collection includes sunscreens and the Urban Pollution Defense Mist, an express skincare product that combines the anti-pollution benefits of dandelion extract with moisturizing agents to soothe the skin and help minimizing fine lines.
The Clarins Hydra-Essentiel Hydrating Multi-Protection Mist is a light, refreshing spray made with plant extracts and hyaluronic acid. In addition to boosting skin hydration, this mist also helps prevent damage caused by various environmental aggressions, thanks to the antioxidant properties of its Anti-Pollution Complex. By combining succory dock-cress, furcellaria, and white horehound, this natural complex helps protects the skin from pollution, blue light, and free radical damage.
We’ve talked about the effects of pollution on the skin and what you can do to prevent them–both in terms of skincare habits and in terms of specific products you can purchase. If pollution is one of your top skincare concerns, try these tips: focus on cleansing and sun protection above all things, use a few antioxidants (like vitamin C!), and you should be good to go!
Beauty Writer & Editor