Recent research from China was all over the news a few weeks ago telling us that air pollution is making us less intelligent. I am hardly the only one who thought “I’d better start wearing one of those blue masks everywhere”.
Intelligence isn’t the only thing that air pollution affects… It has a massive effect on your skin too. If you think you’re safe because you’re not in a city, think again, my friend. Think again.
What type of pollution affects our skin?
The phrase “air pollutants” is a little vague but it would be incredibly boring to list and explain each type of air pollutant. Under the umbrella term “air pollutants”, we find gases, particulate matter (the tiny particles mentioned earlier), heavy metals and traffic/toxic pollutants.
We are being exposed to these pollutants every day. Of course, levels vary, but even if you’re living on a tiny farm in the middle of nowhere, people still smoke, drive cars and burn fossil fuels in your area. All of these things are pollutant producers.
What we do know: pollutants have negative effects on our skin, specifically with regard to its immunity, with the overproduction of pigment (age spots/sun spots), the function of the stratum corneum (or our protective uppermost layer of skin) and inflammation.
What we don’t know: exactly why this happens. However, in one study, some possible causes were theorised.
- Pollutants cause an increase in free radicals which cause cellular damage to the skin, speeding up its ageing process.
- Our skin’s friendly bacteria is altered by pollutants, meaning that it is isn’t as strong and is possibly more susceptible to irritation, spots, eczema and rosacea
- Pollutants trigger inflammation in the skin, impairing our skin’s protective barrier
Some other things to note about how the skin is affected by pollution…
- In one study on women between 70-80, deep wrinkles and pigmentation (age spots/sun spots) were much more likely in those who lived in air-polluted urban areas
- There is a known correlation between particle pollution and pigment
Are you afraid of pollution now? Yep, thought so. Don’t fret – there are things you can do – yippee! We are looking for topical antioxidants.
Which specific antioxidants?
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin E actually scavenges for free radicals
- Vitamin C & E combinedTogether, they are more powerful… like the Spice GirlsIMAGE’s Vital C Hydrating Antioxidant A C E Serum (€72.50) contains vitamins A, C & E (it’s in the name, folks) as well as green tea extract (camellia sinensis) and hyaluronic acid. It’s a protective cocktail for the skin and it’s full of peptides too.On the more affordable side of things, we have Avène’s A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum (€31.50), which contains the precursor to vitamin E and ascorbyl glucoside (a form of vitamin C) as well as hyaluronic acid to plump up the skin. Camellia Sinensis/EGCG/Green tea polyphenolsCamellia sinensis is found in Dermalogica’s cult Daily Superfoliant (€72.00), as well as a host of other antioxidants as well as mild exfoliants. It is the activated charcoal in the formula that makes it stand out, as it helps to absorb pollution particles after a long day of exposure. It’s recommended as a post-cleanser but because it’s a powder, it can be added in to your cleanser to superboost it if you value efficiency like moiself.
YonKa’s Vital Defense (€49.50) is a daily cream that contains coenzyme Q10 (aka ubiquinol/ubiquinone) as well as vitamin E & C and moringa peptides. It’s a tonic for the skin that shields it whilst hydrating it and it’s perfect for someone who can’t live without something a bit creamier in their skincare routine.
Resveratrol is considered to be one of the most powerful of the topical antioxidants. It’s the mack daddy, in a sense. The optimal amount of resveratrol is 1% of it but you want it to be pure and stable too – there’s no point in paying for something with a potent antioxidant if it’s not getting into the skin or if it’s wrecked upon contact with air.
Skinceuticals Resveratrol B E (€144.00) is a concentrated night serum containing 1% resveratrol, 1% vitamin E and 0.5% baicalin (another antioxidant). In their study, it improved the density of the skin (crépe paper skin, begone!) as well as radiance, firmness and elasticity.
You don’t get something as potent as this for nothing. This is definitely on the pricier side, but if you have that type of money, it is a superstar.
Sometimes, you want a protective product that you can top up. This is where Académié Scientifique De Beauté’s Stop Pollution Anti-Pollution Mist (€30.70) comes in.
This creates a more physical shield across the skin containing their secret anti-pollution active ingredient. It also contains ingredients that stop transepidermal water loss (moisture leaking from the skin due to impaired barrier function) and bind hydration to the skin. It can be used over the whole body and to protect the scalp and hair.
It also doubles as a makeup setter but it’s not sticky like you’d imagine and you can pop it in your handbag for top ups.
There is no point fretting over how pollution affects your skin – just stay calm and make sure you’re protecting yourself with antioxidants!