According to a study by King’s College London, London’s Oxford Street has the worst pollution in the world, with levels of nitrogen dioxide up to ten times beyond the legal limit. Health experts have long stressed the effect and impact that pollution has on our overall health but now, with an even greater priority, they are imploring us all to look at its ability to damage our skin and the major role it plays in premature ageing.
"Pollution particles, sometimes twenty times smaller than pores, can infiltrate deeper layers of the epidermis, causing not only inflammation and dehydration, but also a cellular-level reaction that leads to lost elasticity and firmness," says Dr Sarah Shah. When pollution gets into your skin, it creates free radicals, highly unstable molecules that have unpaired electrons. These molecules act like ping-pong balls, bouncing around in your skin injuring healthy cells.
How can air quality affect your skin?
"Women all over the world are exposed to environmental conditions that readily challenge the quality of their skin on a daily basis," advises Armelle Sourand, Scientific Communication Director for Chanel. "Urban life makes it impossible to avoid both indoor and outdoor pollutants that create a harmful environment for your skin every day. When in contact with skin, millions of polluting particles create oxidative stress, which leads to severe cell damage which can result in the same type of skin ageing that is seen with chronic exposure to UV light," says Sourand.
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.” According to a study conducted by Mintel in 2017, British women spent a beautiful £1.15 billion on facial skincare, with sales set to increase by 3% to reach £1.18 billion by the end of this year. So 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.
“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". Mintel also reports, that when it comes to external factors perceived to impact the appearance of skin, 41% of facial skincare users believe pollution to have the greatest impact.
How can we protect our skin from sun and pollution?
In order to combat this skin concern it's essential to introduce an anti-pollutant step (as well as wearing SPF), into your beauty regime. Here are Amelle Sourand's anti-pollution beauty regime rules:
Double cleanse - a regime that encompasses both an oil and a foam cleanse will deeply and efficiently remove all pollutants and impurities that accumulate on the surface of the skin and make it fresh, luminous and comfortable.
Use an anti-oxidant rich moisturiser - opt for a moisturiser that is rich in anti-oxidants to help protect against free-radical damage.
Use targeted skincare - anti pollution shields or mists will instantly block out harmful pollutants from your skin without having to apply or layer lots of products or SPF.
Cleansers, face masks and SPF-based products have seen the strongest spike in sales in the anti-pollution category. But what works best? 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 defense 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, an SPF and one anti-pollution shield or mist that you can apply under or on top of make-up wherever you are.
The best skincare products to protect against pollution
The best face mist
This non-occlusive film made up of two natural gums, derived from a red algae and a South American fava bean, acts like a shield against dust and pollution micro-particles.
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.