Mounting scientific research is making it hard to deny the detrimental effects of pollution on the skin, as harmful as tobacco or solar radiation. Pollution disrupts collagen production, impair skin barrier function, and amplify free radical damage – all linked to premature skin aging, acne/congestion, psoriasis, dermatitis, inflammation, or hyperpigmentation. Thankfully, mitigating the risks to your skin are possible without having to live in a bubble.
What is Pollution?
A concoction of auto emissions, smoke, soot, pesticides, and chemical compounds, billions of tiny particles make up pollution – 12 times smaller than the average pore (1). Not only are these particles miniscule, but unimaginably sticky (2). Think chimney soot – you can feel it on your skin, even when no longer visible.
Pollutants find their way indoors, although generally at lower concentrations. Before heading for “cleaner pastures”, consider tweaking your beauty routine.
Remember that many pollution particles are small enough to infiltrate the skin, sinking into the deeper layers of the epidermis. Swift removal is key.
The double-cleanse method is amazingly effective in gently removing grime while maintaining overall pore health before absorbed by the skin. A cleansing oil draws out pollutants, along with residual oil-based makeup, sunscreen, and excess sebum. Follow with a gentle, water-based cleanser to loosen and remove any remaining water-based impurities.
Scrubbing harder or repeated washings with a single cleanser will not do the trick. Adding a toner is a poor solution for an inadequate cleansing system. Adopt the double-cleanse method and your pores will show their appreciation.
Strengthen Skin Barrier Function
Pollution weakens existing collagen and slows new production, resulting in an impaired barrier function. (3) The skin’s barrier provides protection from foreign bodies, harmful microorganisms, and irritants - including pollution.
To reduce sensitivities, dryness, and the harmful effects of pollution, look for skincare ingredients that help to strengthen the skin barrier function. Skip harsh cleansers, abrasive exfoliants, and aggressive scrubbing, to avoid further deteriorating the protective barrier. Limit masks to once per week – yes, once per week. Protect your skin's delicate microbiome and it will return the favor.
Reduce Inflammation ASAP
When pollution particles permeates the skin, inflammation is likely to follow. Whether caused by pollutants, other irritants, or skincare, the metabolic response to inflammation is hard to stop and may lead to long-term sensitivities. Certainly not worth risking accelerated aging, prolonged redness, a compromised skin barrier, or hyper-reactivity.
Look for skincare with anti-inflammatory properties. Both the double-cleanse method and skincare that strengthens the barrier function will help to curb inflammation.
Tread lightly with retinol and other retinoids – ramp up slowly. Also true of AHAs/BHAs, which should be limited to once or twice weekly.
Protect and Repair with Antioxidants
Second only to sunscreen, there are few other skincare ingredients that offer more bang for your buck than antioxidants - free radical fighters, anti-inflammatory agents, skin barrier fortification, collagen promoters, complexion protectors, and more.
While we wait for clinical studies to support the skin benefits of newer antioxidants, the superstars include Alpha Lipoic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Ferulic Acid, Retinol (Vitamin A), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), and Ubiquinone (CoQ10) (4).
Marketing Hype or the Real Deal?
Despite clinical data, I maintained a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s no accident that my newest product, resQoil, features the most prominent anti-pollution skincare ingredients (5). With 5% Alpha Lipoic Acid, CoQ10, and Broccoli Seed Oil, it’s formulated to protect facial skin from environmental aggressors – pollution, solar radiation, stress, and too little sleep.
Anti-pollution skincare became a very real when I awoke to diminished pores, smoother skin texture, and brighter skin, after a single use. Yes, it’s made me a believer in anti-pollution skincare and think that it may do the same for you.
An ounce of prevention is so worth a pound of cure, like most other skincare.
Cheers to Better Skin!