The health of our skin is becoming one of our biggest investments. It’s our body’s largest organ, and as such, we regularly pour hundreds, if not thousands of dollars into treatments and products to keep our skin in its prime. But all that time and effort could be wasted if we don’t protect our skin from environmental stressors likepollution.
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The latestskincare trends have been focusing on SPF and the damage that UV rays have on collagen production and overall skin health. But more and more, we’re noticing the word anti-pollution popping up along the skincare aisles.
It’s well known that prolonged exposure to air pollution could have detrimental effects on our health. But, until recently,the impacts of pollutants on the skin weren’t well known. Unsurprisingly, the news wasn’t good, and pollution has been connected to skin allergies, slow recovery from damage and even ageing.
How does pollution affect the skin?
Aside from clogging our pores and leaving our skin feeling dirty, exposure to particulate matter and ozone from dust, exhaust fumes and smoke can cause our skin to suffer from the effects of oxidative stress. This can weaken the skin’s moisture barrier, trigger inflammatory responses and cause a reduction and breakdown of collagen.
As a result of this damage, pollution can cause wrinkles, pigmentation, dry skin, excess sebum production and increase the chances of skin diseases such as eczema and dermatitis. German physician Dr Barbara Sturm explained to GOOP: ‘Pollution breaks down collagen and oxidises the lipid layer in the skin, which impairs skin-barrier function.’
Smog particles are generally too large to penetrate the skin, but they can disturb the barrier, resulting in dehydration, sensitivity, uneven skin tone, dullness, acne, and premature ageing.
How can we protect our skin against pollution?
You don’t have to isolate yourself in the countryside to protect your skin from pollution. Still, it will require a multi-pronged approach of antioxidants, barrier protection and your most trusted cleanser.
Antioxidants: Antioxidants such as vitamins E, C, and green tea extract help protect the skin from the effects of oxidative stress by halting the production of free radicals. Antioxidants also further boost the function of SPF, giving your skin the utmost environmental protection.
Barrier protection: Strengthening and protecting the skin’s lipid layer will help reduce and prevent dehydration, sebum production and irritation caused by pollution exposure. To boost the performance of your skin’s moisture barrier, look for moisturisers with ceramides, glycerin or hyaluronic acid. If thick moisturisers aren’t your thing, barrier enhancing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and squalane can also be readily found as serums.
Cleanser: Cleansing your skin at the end of every day will help dislodge any pollutants that could be clogging up your pores. Make sure to use a gentle but thorough cleanser as harsh cleansers can actually strip the skin’s natural oils and leave it more vulnerable to environmental stressors.