Summer used to feel so pure. Picnic dinners, ice cream every night and bonfires on the beach. But in 2023, things look a little different. Sorry to bring (back) the bad news, but climate change isn’t just the catalyst for our apocalyptic Instagram posts. Thanks to the worrying AQI (air quality index) from early summer, we’re all fighting for our masks once again. And our skin doesn’t like it either. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but as things get worse, many of us are looking to anti-pollution skincare to help combat side effects like premature signs of wrinkles, dark spots, and yes, much more.
With these harrowing details, it’s no wonder anti-pollution skincare is having a moment. As more brands declare themselves “anti-pollution” and many flashy beauty products claim to protect skin from “chemical stressors,” you may be wondering: what does it all mean? Our skin is exposed to many potentially harmful chemicals, toxins, and irritants every time we go outside. From the sun’s ultraviolet rays to man-made chemicals, our skin is faced with an onslaught of harmful agents all the time. For answers on the best anti-pollution skincare, we turned to the experts.
Featured image from our interview with Marie Kouadio Amouzame by Belathée Photography.
Anti-Pollution Skincare: What an Esthetician Wants You to Know
Now that it’s summer, most of us spend as much time as we can outdoors. Although it comes with benefits (vitamin D! serotonin!), our time in the great outdoors can also bring hidden side effects. Just as we slather on our sunscreen before going out, we need to be more mindful of our anti-pollution skincare rituals.
Anti-pollution skincare addresses oxidative stress with antioxidants and other free radical-fighting ingredients. Pollution attacking ingredients can come with a variety of abilities. Some actively fight pollutants, some reverse current signs of damage, and some help strengthen the skin’s barrier to prevent further damage. An ideal anti-pollution skincare routine would fulfill all of these functions.
To determine what to look for in anti-pollution skincare, I spoke with Erica Choi, founder of Superegg and a licensed esthetician. Below, she discusses how pollution can affect skin and shares the best anti-pollution skincare tips available. Read on for your ultimate anti-pollution skincare kit.
What is contamination?
Pollution refers to harmful substances that enter the environment. While the highest levels of pollution are often found in large cities due to their population densities and industrial activities, pollution exists in a number of settings. It is not limited to urban areas and can be influenced by factors such as industrial emissions, vehicle traffic, agricultural practices, and natural phenomena. Therefore, pollution is a concern that can affect different regions and is not limited to large cities.
How does pollution affect your skin?
Pollution affects the skin in multiple ways. Contains free radicals that damage skin cells and accelerate the breakdown of collagen and elastin, leading to signs of premature aging like wrinkles, skin discoloration, and loss of elasticity. Some pollutants stimulate melanin production, which leads to dark spots and uneven skin tone. Pollution can also clog pores and contribute to the development of skin blemishes.
In addition, pollution weakens the skin’s protective barrier, facilitating the entry of harmful substances. This penetration causes irritation, redness and increased sensitivity. Over time, chronic inflammation disrupts the skin’s barrier, leading to dryness, eczema, and acne.
How to protect your skin from pollution
Use SPF every day. The sun’s UV rays can intensify the harmful effects of pollution on the skin. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily to protect your skin from UV radiation and pollution. Reapply frequently.
Clean effectively. It is essential to cleanse the skin at the end of the day to remove pollutants, dirt and impurities that accumulate on the skin. Choose a gentle cleanser like our Gentle Elements Foaming Cleanser, which effectively removes dirt without stripping skin of its natural oils.
Use antioxidant-rich skin care. Antioxidants play a crucial role in defending the skin against the harmful effects of pollution. Incorporate skin care products with antioxidants into your routine.
Moisturizes and strengthens the skin barrier. Keeping skin hydrated and maintaining a healthy skin barrier is essential for resilience against pollutants. Use a moisturizer to nourish and strengthen your barrier, which will help defend against harmful substances.
The best anti-pollution ingredients
I wholeheartedly accept the power of antioxidants! These ingredients are essential to counteract free radicals and decrease oxidative stress, resulting in a resilient, radiant complexion. In particular, I love the benefits of vitamins C, B, and E, as well as green tea extract (with a special mention of EGCG), astaxanthin, snow mushroom, and various ferments. These ingredients work together to defend against environmental damage, ensuring skin remains nourished and protected.
Powerful antioxidants to look for in anti-pollution skin care include:
- Vitamin C
- Retinol (vitamin A)
- Vitamin E
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
- ferulic acid
Each product is handpicked by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether we’re giving it away or buying it ourselves. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.
take a look: A pre, pro and postbiotic cleanser that gently removes impurities and pollution to protect and repair the skin barrier.
Main ingredients: Apple amino acids, Hyaluronic acid, Lactic acid, Prebiotics, Probiotics, Postbiotics
take a look: A protective barrier cleanser to balance skin and soothe irritation or breakouts.
Main ingredients: Lecithin, MicroSilver BG™
take a look: A do-it-all face spray that soothes irritated skin and has the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.
Main ingredients: Hypochlorous acid
take a look: A daily powder exfoliator that fights pollutants and detoxifies the skin.
Main ingredients: Fruit enzymes, AHA, activated charcoal, niacinamide, red algae, tara fruit extract
take a look: A revitalizing and protective serum that harnesses the power of antioxidants and other nourishing ingredients to protect your skin and brighten your complexion.
Main ingredients: Vitamins B, C, E, F, K, Niacinamide, Licorice Root, Sea Moss, Hyaluronic Acid, Tremella Mushroom
take a look: A repairing serum that fades dark spots and soothes irritation.
Main ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin C, amber algae, papaya and pineapple enzymes
take a look: A lightweight serum packed with antioxidants to protect against outdoor pollution and blue light.
Main ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamins A, C, E, Cocoa Beans, Exopolysaccharide
take a look: An exfoliating and nourishing night serum to build your barrier and detoxify your skin.
Main ingredients: AHA, phytic acid, fruit enzymes, spirulina, seaweed
take a look: A makeup artist-approved moisturizer dubbed “a push-up bra in a jar” to instantly revitalize skin.
Main ingredients: peptides, rosehip oil, rose water, aloe vera, vitamins A, C and E
take a look: Formulated with ingredients from the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, this detoxifying mask provides a natural glow.
Main ingredients: Blue Lagoon Microalgae, Blue Lagoon Silica
take a look: This SPF creates a shield for your skin to protect it against the sun and pollution.
Main ingredients: Vitamin A, E and Aloe
take a look: A setting spray meets mist that protects skin from every angle.
Main ingredients: Marine Actives, Tara Extract
take a look: Light tanning drops that also act as an anti-pollution serum.
Main ingredients: Cocoa Extract, Peptides