Environmental pollution is a well-established cause for alarm: Poor air quality has been linked to a host of maladies, including premature aging and cancer. And as it turns out, it can also wreak havoc on your complexion.
In a recent article published in Women’s Wear Daily, Dr. Leslie Gerstman, a board-certified physician who specializes in aesthetic medicine, explained exactly what pollution does to one's skin: “It depletes Vitamin E, cholesterol and squalene, a natural antioxidant found in one's sebum. It also causes a surge in free radicals, which causes collagen breakdown, as well as a decrease in the skin's pH balance, making skin more acidic.”
Translation: All those toxins that float around in the air—guess where they end up? Right on your face.
The fact is we’ve known for years that irritants in the air (like cigarette smoke, for instance) damages skin, and studies have specifically linked air pollution to age spots. Indeed, Gertsman cited a recent study in China that looked at women in a rural area and women in an urban area and found that the ones in the urban area age 10 times faster(!) So, while the sun and UV rays are still the biggest cause of skin damage, accelerated aging and skin cancer, think of air pollution as the second tier of badness to block.
Those unable to seek solace (and better skin) in a quiet country life can turn to the latest crop of skincare products promising to combat the harmful particles of smoke, soot, and acid we accrue on our skin each day. While the importance of cleansing morning and night can’t be overstated, an antioxidant-packed cream, serum, or sunblock might be your best defense.
Here, for the health of your skin, are seven products formulated to keep bad air at bay.
Lancome City Miracle CC Cream with SPF 50, which was originally tested in the some of the world’s most polluted cities, is packed with a free-radical-fighting kombucha. It has the added benefit of being tinted, so it can act as your go-to foundation replacement all summer.
Shiseido Urban Environment is a super-light oil-free sunscreen spiked with rose apple leaf extract and other antioxidants to defend again ozone pollution while leaving behind a matte finish.
Clinique City Block Purifying Charcoal Clay Mask + Scrub and City Block Purifying Charcoal Cleansing Gel are part of a new Charcoal Clay Skincare Collection that just hit our shelves! Because sunscreen alone won’t protect your skin from all pollution damage, this defensive duo is loaded with natural, impurity-attracting bamboo charcoal to wash away city grime from your face. And by using the 5-minute Mask + Scrub, you get a boost of kaolin clay to further help draw out pollutants and pore-deep impurities, while the natural silica beads—a safe and eco-friendly alternative to plastic micro beads—lend exfoliation without irritation.
Dior One Essential City Defense targets pollution in three ways. First, it purports to form an invisible shield atop skin, preventing particles from adhering to the skin. (Think of it like water bouncing off a glass surface.) At the same time, it strengthens the skin barrier to minimize penetration of pollutants. And finally, should any pollutants enter the skin, they are neutralized by antioxidants contained within the formula. If you have particularly sensitive skin, this one’s for you.
Clarins UV Plus HP is a skin-perfecting tint with 100% mineral sun filters that was specifically designed for city living. It comes with the brand’s patented anti-pollution complex, which fights free radicals and DNA damage. The lightweight formulation is ideal for those with normal to oily skin and the silicones promote a silky finish.
Prevage by Elizabeth Arden launched over a decade ago after it was found that environmental damage—from sun to pollution to oxidative stress—is the number-one cause of skin aging. The anti-aging serum is perfect pick to repel all the bad stuff at you but look out for the City Smart + DNA Enzyme Complex + Antipollution + Antioxidants Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield, that will be released next month. The multi-purpose product was created with Antipollution Shield Technology’ that filters out 98 percent of UVB rays and a patent-pending Anti-pollution Complex that contains Idebenone, billed as the most powerful antioxidant.