The damaging effects of UVA and UVB have been well-reported for a while, but what about pollution? Cited as a cause of the signs of ageing, it certainly leads us to question how modern life could be affecting our skin. Is this another beauty fad or unnecessary step in our regime, or is this a skincare must-have we need to slot into our regime sooner rather than later?

We know global warming and pollution are on the political agenda, but it’s becoming ever more evident that it’s something we need to be mindful of when it comes to looking after our skin. It’s no wonder – just eleven days into 2018, London had already broken its annual air pollution limit, and Oxford Street was cited as the most polluted street in the world. But whether you’re a city dweller or not, it’s an issue all of us should pay attention to.

No matter where you live, protecting your skin should still be a priority, as wind systems can move pollutants, making them an issue even in rural locations. The good news is that incorporating products that do this into your regime is easier than you may think, as many formulas not specifically aimed at pollution protection already have some key ingredients included.

How exactly does pollution affect the skin?

The big issue is free radicals. These are tiny reactive oxygen molecules, and while we naturally produce some free radicals in our normal skin cell turnover, the majority come from external aggressors such as UVA, UVB and pollution. Over time the effect they have on our skin is wrinkles, sagging, uneven skin tone and texture.

Whenever pollution comes in contact with your skin, it goes beyond just the surface.

Air pollutants include microscopic specks of soot, smoke, acid and even cigarette smoke, and because these particles are 10-20 times smaller than our pores they can easily penetrate into the deeper layers of skin. It’s happening every time you leave the house and though you might not be able to see it immediately, over time the effects will show.

‘Whenever pollution comes in contact with your skin, it goes beyond just the surface,’ confirms Dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD. ‘Tiny particles get into the deeper layers of the epidermis, causing inflammation, dehydration, uneven skin tone, dark spots, and wrinkling. Plus, pollution breaks down collagen and the skin’s lipid layer, which compromises the barrier function.”

Cleansing is key

You might not be able to see these microscopic particles, but once they’ve infiltrated the skin they can cause inflammation, which can lead to dryness and the production of excess sebum. Too much sebum in your pores means one thing – spots.

The ideal formula to remove pollutant particles is acid-based to help slough away dead skin cells, or contains lipids to maintain the barrier function and keep moisture levels constant. Pixi Glow Mud Cleanser contains 5% glycolic acid which is idea for gentle exfoliation while cleansing. In addition, consider cleansing with a specially designed tool – ‘facial cleansing brushes are exceptional at unclogging pores by removing the particulate matter from pollution’ says Cosmetic Dermatologist Rachael Eckel, MD. Magnitone BareFaced2 3D Vibra Sonic Cleansing Brush uses micro-pulse technology to gently dislodge even the deepest dirt and grime.

Get the ingredients right

When looking for air pollution protection in your skincare, antioxidants should be your first port of call. A good antioxidant helps to combat the appearance of ageing, reinforces your skin’s barrier, and helps your skin repair more effectively. New York Dermatology Group’s Dr. Jessica Weiser recommends ingredients like vitamins C and E, argan oil, green tea, and coffeeberry as a good base point. We love The Hero Project Vitamin C-30 Brightening Serum for a serious dose of vitamin C, and Alpha-H Balancing Cleanser, with vitamin C and aloe vera.

Pollution can majorly dehydrate your skin, so a good moisturiser is also essential. Caudalie VineActive 3-in-1 Moisturiser includes a powerhouse of pollutant-fighting ingredients, while Murad Essential C Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30 covers every aggressor you could think of. And while all moisturisers have hydrating properties, key ones to look for are those containing the ultra-hydrating hyaluronic acid – we love Evolve Beauty Hyaluronic Serum. It plays a huge role in retaining moisture, to replace anything lost by pollution damage. Facial oils are also an excellent way to top up the skin’s moisture levels while creating a barrier against the elements.

Shielding your skin from pollution requires very minimal effort, change or deviance from your usual routine. Ensure your products have protective, exfoliating, hydrating and regenerative properties and your skin will be all set – see our edit of the best pollutant-protective skincare below.

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