We talked to dermatologists to learn how to reduce the harmful effects of air pollution to our skin.
You can tailor your skin care routines to address any problem, including dry skin, acne, dry skin, or problems caused by air pollution.
This last one may seem odd or silly, but anti-pollution skincare is a rising trend in the beauty industry. Brands like Kiehl’s and Drunk Elephant have released products that claim to protect skin against pollutants in the air.
Air pollution’s effects on our health have been studied for a long time. In terms of skin care, there is research that suggests pollution can lead to things like inflammation and premature aging, so the increasing popularity of anti-pollution beauty and skin care products isn’t a coincidence.
“Our skin has an impact on what we absorb into our bodies,” Natalya Rachkova, an aesthetician and co-founder of The Better Skin Co. said. She said that while we know what to eat, and how to exercise and drink water, we must also protect ourselves from the outside world pollution through skin.
Before we get into the details of anti-pollution skincare, let’s first examine how pollution affects skin.
According to Dr. Anne Chapas, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York, air pollution is a mixture of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
She said that although the exact mechanism for skin aging is unknown, it could involve more oxidative damage or increasing skin inflammation, changing skin microflora, activating acyl hydrocarbon receptor channels, and/or altering skin microflora. “The result seems to be increased pigmentation and wrinkles, regardless of the mechanism.”
According to Devika Icecreamwala, a dermatologist based in Berkeley, California, “We are noticing how pollution is causing the skin’s appearance to look really dull and uneven, even discolored.” Icecreamwala said that prolonged exposure of pollutants in the air can cause collagen to be destroyed.
Anti-pollution skincare is the answer.
Chapas stated that anti-pollution skin care is intended to “counteract particulates in air that can lead to damaged skin.”
Icecreamwala stated that anti-pollution products are meant to remove “micro-particles” from pores, so they don’t clog them anymore, and protect the skin from pollution that can penetrate deeper layers. This is because it can cause collagen loss. She stated that the goal is to create a barrier between your skin, and any pollutants in the atmosphere.
How can we combat pollution using skin care products?
Both Chapas and Icecreamwala believe that antioxidants, especially vitamin C, are important in protecting skin from pollution. They both suggested incorporating a vitamin C serum into your daily skin care routine and recommended the same product: Skinceuticals C E Ferulic. It’s expensive at $180 but our editor swears by it. However, there are much cheaper alternatives available.
Chapas stated that vitamin C and other antioxidants can help prevent the formation of free radicals, unstable atoms that can damage cells. This could potentially lead to premature ageing and even “pigment pathways.”
She said that melanin blockers such as niacinamide are also beneficial. “It is important to maintain a skin barrier intact by using moisturizers with Ceramides and not over-treating it with retinols or acids.”
Icecreamwala stated that topical products should be supplemented with vitamin C and other antioxidants. She said they “protect our skin and bodies against inflammation.” Icecreamwala also recommended exfoliating agents like salicylic acid and lactic acid for removing “the grime” from the skin and unclogging the pores.
Is there a higher risk for skin irritation from pollution?
Chapas stated that the closer you live to pollution, the more it can affect you. She also noted that city dwellers have more skin problems due to pollution than those who live in rural areas.
Icecreamwala agreed and noted that commuters, especially those who are walking to work or who find themselves on hot, dirty subway platforms like New York, might feel the effects of pollution more than those who live in more rural or suburban areas.
Is it possible to reverse the negative effects of pollution?
Icecreamwala stated that prevention is the best way to reduce the pollution effects. However, antioxidants can help stimulate the growth of collagen after it has been broken down. However, no product or ingredient can be considered magic.
According to Chapas, laser treatments are “faster and more effective in combating skin pigmentation and damage [and] give the skin a healthier, younger appearance.”
You should also wear sunscreen to prevent further damage from the sun’s UVA/UVB rays. Icecreamwala says that protecting your skin with sunscreen (she prefers mineral sunscreens) helps to prevent collagen from deteriorating.