London broke its annual air pollution limit just five days into 2017 - three days faster than last year. By the end of January, pollution levels in some areas of the capital topped those measured in Beijing and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan declared the filthy air as a ‘health crisis’. Over the past 13 months, Khan has issued seven toxic air alerts. While the impact of pollution on our health is well documented, the effect it has on our skin is still a working progress.
What is known though, is that pollution has the potential to deplete our skin’s moisture stores and exacerbate ageing. “Air pollutants include the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), volatile organic compounds (VOC), oxides, particulate matter (PM), ozone, and cigarette smoke,” says Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson. “Prolonged and repetitive exposure to these agents can have negative effects on the skin.”
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Dr Gary Goldfaden, dermatologist and co founder of Goldfaden MD goes one step further and says, “Pollution can cause uneven skin tone, dehydration, dryness, dark spots, expedited ageing, wrinkles, sagging and a deterioration of collagen.” It's no surprise that beauty brands are falling over themselves to launch creams, masks and sprays that promise to protect our skin against such damage. So much so, the category of ‘anti-pollution’ skincare has been grown by 30 percent over the past six months and is currently valued at £3.1 million, according to NPD.
“The trend for anti-pollution skincare emerged a couple of years ago and has made a significant impact in the prestige beauty market," says June Jensen, director of NPD UK Beauty. "At first, just a few brands launched targeted anti-pollution products, but now, as the market develops we are seeing more brands introducing products that are specifically designed to protect the skin from pollution.”
Cleansers, face masks and SPF-based products have seen the strongest spike in sales in the anti-pollution category. But are these products necessarily worth the investment? While there is plenty of research to show that pollution has a detrimental effect on our skin, science is yet to uncover the best mode of defence against it. Rather than spending a fortune of ‘anti-pollution’, the majority of experts recommend instead, investing in a good quality cleanser, an antioxidant serum and an SPF that you feel comfortable wearing every day.
The best skincare products to protect against pollution
The best cleanser
The best cleanser to counteract pollution is the one that works best for your skin. You want it to thoroughly clean without leaving your skin feeling tight or dry. At this time of year, creams and lotions tend to work for most people as they’re gentler. Skin Laundry Purifying Cream Cleanser makes light work of dirt, grime and make-up without stripping your skin.
If you don’t have super sensitive skin and want to supercharge your cleanse, it’s worth investing in a Clarisonic Facial Cleansing Brush, from £125, too.
The best antioxidant serum
When it comes to your skincare it’s worth spending more on your serum rather than your cream as they are effectively food for your skin and are packed full of active ingredients. Opt for an antioxidant serum in an airtight bottle to ensure maximum potency. Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Ageing Super Antioxidant Serum is one of the best on the market as it contains stabilised vitamin C, but it doesn’t have any fragrance which can cause irritation.
The best SPF moisturiser
This an ideal moisturiser if you live in the city as it has both antioxidants and SPF. Plus, the formula is impressively lightweight and despite the factor 50, it doesn’t clog your pores or leave your skin looking chalky.