At this point, we’re all pretty familiar with most of the causes of premature skin ageing - excessive ultraviolet light exposure, not enough sleep, and smoking. However, there’s one more factor that’s becoming more and more common - pollution.
Even if you might not live in a busy city centre, the chances of pollution exposure aren’t completely negated - the most common kind of pollutant is vehicle exhaust, and in the wintertime, fireplace smoke.
Here’s the thing though - this doesn’t mean you need to completely avoid cars and move out to the middle of nowhere! All that you need is a little tweak to your skincare routine to ensure that you’re doing the best you can for your skin. Let’s go a bit deeper into the effects of pollution on skin and what anti-pollution skincare is.
How Pollution Affects Skin
Pollution affects our skin in two ways: landing on our skin and being breathed into our lungs.
The effects mentioned can happen due to a combination of both, but mainly due to the presence of pollutants actually on your skin.
Pollutants are another source of free radicals. They exert oxidative stress onto the skin - which as we know from how ultraviolet light damages skin, can result in pressing fast-forward on the ageing process. Obviously, this is something no one wants - here’s exactly how pollution affects skin.
Dr Irena Eris Tokyo Lift Multi-Pollution Defense SPF30 | $159
This daytime moisturiser with SPF helps to fight off the effects of pollution on skin.
Slows Down Collagen Production
Our collagen levels deplete naturally, but we don’t need any more things slowing down collagen production prematurely! Oxidative stress from pollution empties collagen stores for skin that looks less plump and full - plus, lower levels of collagen mean skin can’t heal itself as quickly from minor breakouts, meaning they could take longer to heal and are more likely to leave dark spots behind.
Collagen makes up the structure of our skin, so it’s important to do as much as possible to ensure that it stays strong and full for younger-looking skin.
Causes Extra Hyperpigmentation
This might be the most noticeable negative effect of pollution, but it’s also something that many people actually don’t realise is linked in the first place. As skin cells come under oxidative stress, they sometimes produce too much melanin, resulting in splotches of darker coloured skin.
This kind of hyperpigmentation is different from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which are the dark spots left behind from acne. Pigmentation from pollution looks similar to skin damage from the sun - irregular patches of darker coloured skin.
La Prairie Pure Gold Cellular Radiance Perfecting Fluide | $804
Formulated with potent antioxidants and pure gold, this serum from La Prairie can help skin fight off free radicals and environmental stressors.
How to Prevent Pollution from Damaging Skin
Minimising the effects of pollution on skin is tricky, but we can still reduce their effects as much as possible. While most pollutant particles are too small to actually do anything about, there are still a couple of strategies that you can take to ensure that pollution doesn’t impact your skin too negatively - here are the two strategies that will help the most!
Deep Cleanse Skin
While some pollution is too small to truly remove from skin, it’s still important to cleanse away as much as possible. Larger soot particles can still negatively impact skin, and it’s crucial to thoroughly rinse away any of these remaining bits to minimise their effects on skin.
Your ideal first line of defense is an oil or balm cleanser to deeply cleanse your skin on a daily basis. A cleanser like this grabs on to everything that’s oil based (aka, the sebum on your skin) and any pollutants that might be stuck to those natural oils. Once you emulsify your cleansing oil, anything that’s not supposed to be on your skin gets rinsed away - including any pesky pollutants.
Another routine staple that can help to deeply cleanse skin is a cleansing brush - specifically, the ultrasonic kind. Depending on your skin type, this isn’t something that you’d use every day. Even used just a few times a week, a cleansing brush ensures that pores are as clean as possible without irritating skin.
SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil | $105
An oil cleanser is an effective, yet gentle way to thoroughly cleanse skin.
Foreo Luna 3 | $299
Designed especially for sensitive skin, this ultrasonic cleansing brush ensures there isn’t a single speck of any pollutant left behind on skin.
Use Anti-Pollution Skincare
You probably already have anti-pollution skincare in your routine and you don’t even know it! Here’s the thing - these ingredients aren’t anything new, and frankly, everyone should already be using them anyway. I’m talking about antioxidants - they’re one of the best skincare ingredient categories to fight off the effects of pollution.
Since the negative effects of pollution on skin are attributed to those pesky free radicals, we need to use ingredients that focus on disarming them - aka antioxidants. Examples of great antioxidants to incorporate into your skincare routine include Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and Coenzyme Q10 - this list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start when it comes to looking for anti-pollution skincare!
Dior Prestige Le Nectar Serum | $520
Packed with antioxidants, this serum from Dior fights off free radicals and oxidative stress.
If you’re still looking for the perfect skincare routine, take our skincare quiz - it gives you a completely unique suggested routine based on your skin type and individual skin concerns to get your beauty affairs in order today!