Though there are tons of benefits to living in a city, metropolitan life can wreak havoc with our bodies. In Europe alone, pollution contributes to more than 800,000 deaths a year. From car exhaust fumes to cigarette smoke, those pesky particles can also make you look older than you are. In fact, according to one report, living in a polluted area can make your skin look a year older by the time you hit 40. That’s because of the microscopic specs of smoke, acid and soot we come into contact with on our morning commute, sitting on our skin all day.
It’s those tiny particles that are dangerous. Because they’re up to twenty times smaller than pores, they easily penetrate our skin. This can result in inflammation in deeper layers of our face, forming wrinkles and other signs of ageing prematurely. Over time, free radical damage makes it harder for our skin to regenerate, leading to a loss of elasticity and suppleness.
Other than steering clear of busy roads and travelling outside of rush hour, what can you do to reduce your exposure to pollution? One technique is to develop an anti-pollution skincare routine. Globally, the anti-pollution skincare market is worth $9 billion and growing. The good news, though, is that you don’t need to spend a fortune. Below, we’ve rounded up some tips.
Perhaps the most obvious anti-pollution skincare technique is to cleanse your face regularly.
As you travel across the city, you’ll come into contact with pollution particles, which will build upon the surface of your skin. Cleansing your face in the morning and on an evening is a must.
To really combat pollution, cleansing after spending time in heavily-polluted areas is also a good idea. However, you should be careful not to over-cleanse and dry out your skin.
We recommend opting for a foamy facial cleanser that can dig out those impurities. They’re ideal for those prone to oily skin, but you should use them carefully if you suffer from dryness or irritation. Look out for sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) and find a foaming cleanser without it.
For those on a budget, Garnier Micellar Gel Face Wash Sensitive Skin is a great option. You could also consider the all-natural Pacifica Beauty Coconut Milk Cream to Foam Face Wash. The Aveeno Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser and La Roche Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel are two other options to consider. Gently massage them into your face in circular motions to cover every part of your face, including your forehead and neck, and rinse thoroughly. Pat your face dry to avoid redness and irritation, and then follow with a serum…
Wear an antioxidant serum
Next up, consider applying a serum with antioxidants to your face. These can protect the surface of your skin against some pollutants. Although they can’t “shield” your face from all harmful chemicals, they’re scientifically proven to stop free radical damage.
That’s because they offer the electrons needed to neutralise free radicals. They both prevent future damage and repair existing free radical damage over time, like fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.
There are dozens of serums on the market, but you should look for one with key vitamins. Vitamin A (retinol) is ideal for anti-ageing, whilst Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) boosts collagen production. Vitamin E (tocopherol) can brighten your skin, whilst Vitamin B3 (niacinamide) is an anti-inflammatory. Serums with green tea and resveratrol should also be considered.
Apply a hydrating moisturiser
So, you’ve cleansed your face and applied a serum with antioxidants. What next? A good moisturiser, of course! For those with normal and oily skin, pollution can damage your skin’s natural moisture barrier.
This can cause excess moisture and increase your oil production, which can cause issues like shiny skin and conditions such as acne. A quality moisturiser will prevent your skin from producing too much oil and serve as a pollution-particle barrier.
City-dwellers should consider a cream that’s light and hydrating, like Eve Lom Moisture Cream, which moisturises for 75 hours. SisleYouth Anti-Pollution moisturiser is another contender, as it contains protective active ingredients like buckwheat seed and Ginkgo Biloba, protecting the skin from pollution. If you’re on a budget, Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost City Shield SPF moisturiser protects against free-radicals and harmful UV rays for $13/£10.
Sunscreen is your best friend
It doesn’t matter whether you live in Central London or a busy town centre: sunscreen should be part of your daily skincare routine. Remember that SPF creams only block UVB rays, which can cause sunburn, but don’t protect against UVA rays, which penetrate into the skin’s thickest layer and speed up the ageing process.
Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that you can wear in the summer and winter months to protect your skin from sun damage.
Remember that cities are often warmer than their neighbouring rural areas. In London, it’s often up to 10 degrees warmer, because the sun’s rays are absorbed by hard surfaces. To combat this, steer clear of the sun during its peak hours (10 am to 2 pm) and cover up where possible. Long sleeves, UV-blocking sunglasses and a hat can be both stylish and practical.
Some moisturisers offer SPF protection as standard, but you should still reapply a cream during the day if you sweat or are exposed to the sun. Avene Anti-Ageing Sunscreen, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Comfort Dry Skin Suncream, and Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen are three of our favourites, but most supermarket alternatives do a decent job.
Try an anti-pollution face mask
If you’ve been on your feet exploring a new city or travelling from the office to home, you should consider indulging in a bit of TLC. Debris can become trapped in your pores and cause a whole host of skin problems, including dryness and irritation. Applying a face mask once per week can “refresh” your skin and help to draw out some of the common impurities.
Whether you opt for a store-bought mask or make your own, you can have lots of fun giving yourself a much-needed boost. To remove unwanted particles, choose a detoxifying face mask containing ingredients like clay and charcoal.
The Borghese Fango Active Mud Mask, for example, is designed to unclog pores, exfoliate, and remove toxins from your face, and it contains avocado oil which avoids drying out your skin. The Boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding Intensive Wash-Off Treatment, on the other hand, has absorbing properties to offers deep clean and help you achieve a brighter, smoother complexion as soon as you wash it off.
There you have it – some top tips on creating an anti-pollution skincare routine. If your skin is already showing signs of ageing because of pollution and you want to “turn back the clock”, consider the Oralift anti-ageing device, our groundbreaking facial rejuvenation solution.