The effects of pollution on skin are more far-reaching and damaging than you might think. Signs of ageing, dullness, and hyperpigmentation can be linked back to the insidious toxicity of air pollution. Discover 3 simple skincare steps you can take to protect your skin every day.
What are the effects of pollution on skin?
The effects of pollution on skin can be described in 3 words: free radical damage.
Toxic nanoparticles from smog and traffic related air pollution are able to penetrate the skin. Once inside, they trigger free radical damage - the enemy of healthy skin.
Stay with us for a super quick chemistry lesson on free radicals...
Free radicals are molecules that are missing an electron. In an attempt to make itself ‘whole’ again, a free radical ‘steals’ an electron from a healthy skin cell.
This process causes inflammation, damages the collagen of the healthy cell, and can also lead to hyperpigmentation.
The newly damaged skin cell then goes on its own mission to steal an electron from yet another healthy cell. This triggers a destructive chain reaction of free radical damage to skin cells.
You can’t see free radicals but you can see the results they cause; lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, darkened patches, and dullness.
Pollutants also deplete the skin of hydration and essential vitamins too, leaving it dehydrated and in need of nourishment.
Skincare Solution To Target Pollution In 3 steps
There's not a lot you can do to avoid pollution entirely. Luckily though, with the right anti pollution products and skincare routine, there’s quite a bit you can do to combat its effects.
Double cleanse in the evening
An evening cleanse is crucial for removing pollution particles that have settled on your skin.
We recommend doing it twice to really stop the effects of pollution on skin in their tracks! Especially if you live in a buzzing urban area filled with traffic and smog.
The first cleanse gently removes traces of makeup and SPF. The second cleanse lifts further build-up, including pollutants, from the skin.
Getting into the habit of double cleansing can ward off the free radical damage that accelerates the signs of ageing, dullness, and hyperpigmentation.
The extra few minutes added to your bedtime routine is definitely worth it in the long run.
We recommend: The Uncomplicated Cleanser which you can use for both the first and second cleanse.
If you want to target existing hyperpigmentation or dullness, you could opt for The Uncomplicated Cleanser Plus Brightening for the second cleanse.
Use antioxidants to neutralise free radicals
Prevention is the best step to combating the effects of pollution and antioxidants are the answer to turning off the damage caused by free radicals.
Essentially, an antioxidant ‘gives’ the free radical the electron it’s looking for - so it doesn’t need to steal it from a healthy cell! This puts a stop to the chain reaction of free radical damage.
It gets better too. Not only can antioxidants neutralise free radicals, but they can also help skin repair itself from any damage already caused and target specific skin concerns. This includes smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, brightening a dull complexion, and improving the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
It’s clear why antioxidants should play a key role in your anti pollution skincare regime and these are the big hitters we recommend;
An antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and collagen stimulator, Vitamin C wards off free-radical damage and can help stimulate collagen production for firmer looking skin. It’s also a potent skin brightener, improving the appearance of dull skin and hyperpigmentation.
There are a lot of vitamin C derivatives but the pure form of Vitamin C is known as L-Ascorbic Acid (LAA).
While helping protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, Vitamin E is also highly moisturising for skin. Plumps fine lines and wrinkles.
Green tea is brimming with catechins and polyphenols which are natural antioxidants and free radical scavengers. It also has the added benefit of helping regulate sebum production to help balance oily and acne prone skin.
A potent antioxidant that neutralises free radicals damage, ferulic acid helps shield against the development of fine lines, spots, and wrinkles.
Many antioxidants work synergistically, meaning they become even more beneficial when teamed with other antioxidants. For the best results, look for anti pollution skincare products with multiple antioxidants.
A few antioxidant combinations that work well together include:
- Vitamin C and Vitamin E
- Vitamin C, Vitamin E and ferulic acid (even better than Vit C and E)
Choosing a broad spectrum SPF enriched with antioxidant protection is an easy way to guard your skin against sun and pollution related damage.
Strengthen the skin barrier for protection
The outer layer of your skin (your skin barrier or lipid barrier) is like a hard working security guard preventing environmental irritants, including pollution, from entering in.
The lipid barrier consists of layers of dead skin cells and lipids - the skin's natural fats.
When the barrier is weak or damaged, it’s more susceptible to the entry of toxic pollution particles and their damaging effects.
Pollution protection skin care should include ingredients to help strengthen and condition the lipid barrier
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
Boosts ceramide production (ceramide is an epidermal lipid) thereby improving the skin’s barrier function.
Works by attracting water to the deeper layers of skin and rehydrating cells from the inside out. In turn, this promotes a strong skin barrier with cells in a healthy, hydrated state.
We recommend: Hyaluronic Hydrating Serum
Essential Fatty acids - Omega 3 and Omega 6
These essential acids replenish the lipid structure of the skin, helping to reinforce the surface keep it moisturised and buffer it from the effects of pollution on skin.
Essential fatty acids to consider including your line up of anti pollution products are:
Linoleic acid (Omega 6) - Rosehip oil is an excellent source of linoleic acid
Chia oil (Omega 3)
Kiwi Fruit Seed Oil (Omega 3)
Excellent at replenishing the skin's moisture barrier, squalane is naturally present in the skin’s lipid barrier. Choosing facial oils and anti pollution moisturisers with this ingredient will help restore a damaged skin barrier to a healthy, supple state.
The good bacteria of probiotics help create a harmonious environment for a damaged skin barrier to heal and thrive. A strong barrier means your skin can better defend itself against the effects of pollution.
We recommend: Skin Mylck.
Have questions about choosing the right esmi Skin Minerals products for your skin concerns? Book your free consultation with our skincare specialists.