Just when you thought you had your anti-ageing skincare regime sorted along comes another battleground – the pollution epidemic.
A study published last week suggested that air pollution may increase the risk of dementia but did you know if affects our skin too? In fact, according to research the sun is no longer the skin’s greatest enemy as scientists uncover the full impact of smog, traffic fumes and dust on our complexions.
From dehydration and increased sensitivities to wrinkles and redness, air pollution isn’t just damaging our health; it’s making us look years older too.
With pollution levels reaching critical heights, it’s no surprise then that this year’s big skincare news is anti pollution skincare – the ‘toxic avengers designed to fight off the irritating and ageing effects of the toxins around us.
Some cosmetics companies like Elizabeth Arden and Clarions are already ahead of the game with cleansers, serums and moisturisers designed to treat and protect polluted skin. This month sees Marks and Spencer jump on the bandwagon with Formula Urban Shield, designed to fight pollution’s effects by forming an invisible shield on the skin while Darphin launch a double pronged attack next month (February) with a pollution detox aimed at sensitive skin – Intral Cleanser and Pollution Shield.
While the hype around pollution-fighting products isn’t new, protecting our skin and health from pollution is definitely something we all need to take seriously. Here’s what you need to know
So how does pollution affect my skin?
Pollution Matter – called PM -is a damaging mix of chemical and dust particles, which are tiny enough, to inhale leading to various health issues and also be small enough to enter the skin. Some particles bind to the fats in your skin, while others slip in through the pores and can penetrate right down to the epidermis. These particles also attack the skin barrier resulting in increased sebum production, dullness, clogged pores, inflammation and allergic reactions. Research shows no particular skin type appears more immune to exposure, either.
But how does pollution make me look older?
New research shows that pollutant particles also cause oxidative stress in the skin by forming free radicals, which in turn cause visible ageing, the same sort of wrinkles and age spots which are also caused by too much sun. Free radicals can also increase inflammation, which makes acne and rosacea worse as well as DNA damage. There are five types of pollution particles that affect the skin, each of a different size. But new research shows that it is PM2.5 that’s causing most havoc, speeding up cellular ageing and accelerating the appearance and depth of lines and wrinkles.
Where does Pollution come from?
Pollution surrounds us around the clock and mainly comes from smoke, traffic and factory fumes. Car emissions and fertilisers mean the country is just as bad for your skin. New research is also looking at indoor sources of air pollution. According to research by the British technology company Dyson, cleaning materials, cooking fumes, pollen and dust can contribute to making the air inside the home up to five times more polluted than the air outside and according to the World Health Organisation, dozens of UK cities—London, Liverpool and Glasgow included—are breaching the EU limits on pollution, with Oxford Street being the most polluted street in the world.
So what is anti pollution skincare?
These are products rich in antioxidants, proven to prevent or reducing free-radical damage which coat the skin with a protective layer, helping to strengthen the epidermis barrier to combat the damage caused by toxins looming in the air. Ideally, anti pollution skincare products should sit on top of the skin so they can effectively shield pollutants without the risk of clogging pores and should be used before applying makeup. The idea is that pollution particles will then fall away or be removed when you cleanse your face. The latest pollution fighting foundations also create a clever barrier that stops the pollutant particles sticking to your skin in the first place, like Bourjois City Radiance £9.99 which has an antioxidant pollution screen and is also combined with an SPF30.
Do I have to buy anti pollution products – can I use my existing products along with an SPF.
If you want to use what you’ve already got, an ideal pollution fighting regime would be an antioxidant-rich serum followed by a moisturiser and sunscreen and a thin layer of mineral make-up. Serums and moisturisers packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid are best as these help to neutralize free-radical damage, which will soften the appearance of pigmentation, wrinkles and sagging – try Murad Essential-C Day Moisture SP30 £55n (johnlewis.com) Niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) is another great ingredient which can restore and strengthen the skin’s protective barrier, while improving skin hydration and promoting skin surface exfoliation. Find it in Olay’s Total Effects Day Moisturiser SPF15 £14.99 (boots.com)
Good quality mineral make up also doubles up as a very good skin shield as the molecules are too large to be absorbed and it won’t clog pores. Mineral make up also has a natural sunscreen of around SPF20. Try BPF Mineral Make up which gives amazing coverage (£20 0207 436 4441) However, an SPF alone will not protect you from pollution, and skipping it will make UV damage worse as UV and pollution causes more damage than the two things individually. In short no matter where you fall on the anti-pollution skincare you should still always use sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
What else can I do to protect my skin?
*Diet is important. Up your intake of pollution-fighting nutrients. These include antioxidants from any fruit and veg, but especially greens, berries, peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots and chilli’s. Nuts and seeds are great too so is live yoghurt, seaweed and flavonoids (red wine, tea, cacao, and red fruits like cherries, currants,). Dress your salads with wheat germ oil for its high vitamin E content. For an extra boost, try taking the supplements alpha lipoic acid and N-acetyl cysteine which help support the liver, which is key in detoxifying pollutants – try Vitabiotics Ultra L-Carnitine & ALA £13.95 from most health shops and chemists.
*Effective cleansing is absolutely vital. This is not only to remove dirt, pollution particles, and make-up, but will help unblock pores and follicles. Be gentle and don’t over scrub. Go old school by using a flannel and a creamy cleanser or use a sonic cleanser like Foreo Luna 2 for Sensitive Skin £169 (lookfantastic.com) which deep cleanses in two minutes flat. Pollution particles attach to dead skin cells and can be very hard to remove with just cleansing so a deep cleansing profession facial once a month will help zap the nasties – try Hydrafacial which combines cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, hydration, red light therapy and antioxidant protection all in one session from £125 (see hydrafacial.co.uk for your nearest clinic)
The New Toxic Avengers
Anti-pollution skincare is one of beauty’s biggest trends so there’s plenty of choice when it comes to building an effective daily skincare regime to protect skin is. Here are some of the latest pollution fighting formulas to try.
*Formula Urban Shield Skin Defence Mist £11.50 (marksandspencer.com)- This fine, active-packed mist instantly forms an invisible barrier on the skin providing a quick, easy and ultra-convenient way to block pollution. Containing an advanced antioxidant complex, use any time of day to top up protection by applying a light spritz over the face whenever needed, even over make-up.
*Darphin Intral Evironmental Lightweight Shield SPF50 – £35 (Available February-darphin.co.uk) A sheer, nude toned fluid with wheat protein which disappears on skin and helps protect skin from pollution, ideal for the delicate eye area, too.
*Rosina’s Kale and Pomegranate Exfoliating Mask £20 (rosinaslotionspotions.com) a multi-tasker and an all in one cleanser, mask and a facial designed for daily use to remove pollution and dead skin cell build up leaving skin radiantly clean and glowing.
*Harley Street 24-7 Daily Cleanser £20 (harleystskin.com) gently deep cleanses the skin and helps to remove dead skin build up and calms sensitive skin. The botanical ingredients provide anti-ageing properties and skin restorative properties.