Pollution. It has been abuzz in the beauty world for some time now; thrown into the skincare ring and bandied about willingly. Each month, a new punch is thrown; new evidence surfaces about the effects of pollution on our skin. In Asia, pollution is now considered to be the primary cause of ageing. Products are now specifically targeting “pollution”, with the word emblazoned across creams, serums, boosters, even mists. Quite simply, it is now one of – if not the – major factors in the deterioration of our skin heath, so major it has created its own category within the skincare market. And the crescendo is only getting louder.

But what does it really mean in terms of our skin? We chat to skin expert and Education Manager for the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica, Emma Hobson, about the causes, triggers and treatment of pollution on our skin.

Don’t pull your punches when it comes to pollution; parry away.

Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin backstage at Bottega Veneta during Milan Fashion Week

CAN WE AVOID POLLUTION?
It’s not easy to avoid pollution as it is all around us, the invisible enemy, both indoors and out. In fact, it’s often worse indoors that it is outside. You can certainly use air purifiers but in themselves they can’t prevent all exposure to air born pollution particles.

CAN WE DO ANYTHING TO HELP pREVENT POLLUTION?
There are things you can do: consider the chemicals you use to clean your home and change them to natural alternatives, keep your home well ventilated, keep mould and dust to a minimum, clean and air your bedding (pillows, quilts), rugs; spray your mattress with a diluted tea tree or other anti-microbial and bacterial essential oils, and consider which paint you have on your walls and use low level chemical paints.

WHAT EXACTLY DOES POLLUTION DO OUR SKIN AND ITS BARRIER FUNCTION?
We now know that pollution and the toxins in our environment has some pretty hefty and unpleasant effects on our skin. Studies have shown a link between exposure to air pollution and premature skin ageing, ranging from hyperpigmentation and dehydration to a weakened skin structure and increased sensitivity.

The pollution we are exposed to on a daily basis can be seen on the skin as the following signs of premature ageing;

  1. Creates premature skin ageing
  2. Increases age spots
  3. Dullness and increased dehydration; causing the breakdown of our natural protective barrier on the skin. Resulting in fine lines, coarse texture and increased skin sensitivity and long term premature ageing.
  4. Breakouts and acne
  5. Rough, uneven skin texture
  6. Skin congestion leading to breakouts
  7. Breaks down of the skin’s lipid bilayer (one of the main defence mechanisms of the skin) resulting in increased sensitivity and dehydration and long term accelerated ageing
  8. Accelerated skin ageing through the loss of elasticity and the breakdown of collagen creating fine lines and wrinkles
  9. Uneven skin tone, the skin can appear patchy/blotchy in colour.
  10. Increased pigmentation resulting in defined brown spots. (on average pollution causes 20% more pigmented spots)
  11. Increased redness, skin irritation, sensitivity and irritation. It can also make the skin vulnerable by reacting to products placed on the skin surface.
  12. Increased inflammation leading to ‘Inflammaging’; whereby the skin loses its tone and turgor resulting in flaccid, lines skin. (Inflammaging is due to increased skin sensitivity causing a chain response in the skin that breaks down our skin integrity  that being our collagen and elastin fibers).
  13. 2 hours of exposure to ozone can reduce our Vitamin E content within the skin by 25%

WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE POLLUTION PROTECTION ROUTINE?

  1. Cleansing: Thorough double cleansing of the skin is essential. Using powerful pre-cleansing oils combined with deep cleansing products and tools to ensure the pollutant partials on our skins surface are dislodged and removed effectively.
  2. Exfoliation: Using AHA’s and BHA’s to clear dirt and pollution debris from the pores and skin surface.
  3. Barrier repair: Using key ingredients to prevent trans epidermal water loss and repair an impaired barrier function.
  4. Powerful skin protection: Using ingredients that will not only seal and protect the skin from the environment but also neutralise the effects of low level ozone and oxidation e.g. powerful anti-oxidants.

WHAT ANTI-POLLUTION PRODUCTS SHOULD WE BE STOCKING UP ON?

  • Mists; which can be sprayed on intermittently throughout the day for all day skin protection
  • Exfoliants; to help draw out and dislodge pollution particles
  • Specialised masks; using the adsorption properties such as activated Binchotan Charcoal powder
  • Multi-purpose Moisturisers; using powerful anti-oxidants, barrier and lipid repair and protecting ingredients combined with UV protection

WHAT ARE THE KEY INGREDIENTS WE SHOULD BE LOOKING FOR?

  • Activated Binchotan Charcoal Powder derived from Ubame Oak (also referred to as “white charcoal”) attracts and binds itself to impurities in the skin, pulling them out of pores. Microfine particles resurface the skin and draw out particulate matter, as well as excess sebum and other impurities
  • Enzymes of papain, lipase and subtilisin dissolve proteins in the skin, deeply cleanse skin while accelerating exfoliation
  • Anti-adherence complex (Red Algae and Tara Fruit Extract) helps preserve the natural barrier function of the skin by providing a non-occlusive molecular mesh that inhibits penetration and adherence of environmental pollutants
  • Niacinamide provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to prevent adhesion of pollution particles and prevent signs of skin aging
Beautiful skin backstage at Bottega Veneta during Milan Fashion Week
thoughts?