Ward off environmental aggressors with these skincare saviours…

We all know it’s important to protect our skin from overexposure to the sun, but what about protecting it from pollution? Nasties, such as toxins and free radicals caused or accelerated by pollution, could be wreaking havoc with our complexions in both the short- and long-term in the form of premature ageing, increased sensitivity and dullness. The good news? There are several skincare saviours that can help provide better protection.

‘The top layer of the skin, the epidermis, has the vital function of being the skin’s barrier; your body’s first defence to the outside world, preventing moisture loss and keeping out external toxins, such as pollution,’ says Dr Adam Friedmann, consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics. ‘However, it can be easily compromised and is susceptible to environmental stress and damage.’

How does pollution affect skin?

‘Exposure to pollutants puts our body’s natural protective layer at risk,’ says Dr Friedmann. ‘While some pollution particles may be too large to penetrate the skin, they can still upset the barrier, resulting in sensitivity, uneven skin tone, dullness and premature ageing. Other particles may be small enough to be absorbed by the skin, potentially causing inflammation and dehydration.’

Can pollution cause acne?

While pollution doesn’t directly cause acne, ‘fumes, smog, dust and debris can all block pores and exacerbate the skin condition’, says Dr Friedmann.

How to help defend your skin from air & city pollution

It starts with your face wash. ‘Make time to gently but thoroughly cleanse twice a day to remove debris, dead skin cells and pollutants,’ advises Dr Sasha Dhoat, consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics. And avoid over-cleansing or scrubbing skin, recommends Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, medical director of Adonia Medical Clinic and CeraVe medical consultant, ‘as this can disrupt the skin’s barrier’, she says.

Next, help support skin’s defences. ‘Look out for antioxidants,’ says Dr Dhoat, ‘they protect your skin against free radicals – molecules in the environment that damage your skin by clinging to your collagen and weakening elasticity.’

‘Great antioxidants include niacinamide, ascorbic acid and resveratrol,’ recommends Dr Ejikeme.

Next step, moisturiser. ‘I would recommend looking for products that contain ceramides, which help repair skin barrier function and improve water retention,’ says Dr Dhoat, ‘and hyaluronic acid, which plumps skin cells by attracting water to surrounding tissue.’

Finish with a high-factor, broad-spectrum sunscreen that will help protect against premature ageing caused by UV rays.

Our top 10 best skin-protecting products to ward off pollution
Best for shielding skin

Try: Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF50 Hydrating Shield

• Size: 40ml

• Broad-spectrum SPF50

This helps guard skin against the damaging effects of pollution and UV rays with SPF50, antioxidants and the brand’s ‘DNA Enzyme Complex’. Skin feels hydrated and protected all day long. 

Best for multitasking

Try: Allies of Skin Multi Nutrient & Dioic Renewing Cream

• Size: 50ml

• Cruelty-free

Expensive? Yes, but this cream is worth it. Brimming with 14 antioxidants, probiotics, 1% dioic acid and more, it helps protect skin, while reducing redness and dullness.

Best for boosting glow

Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops

• Size: 30ml

• Vegan

• Cruelty-free

Mix a few of these drops with your favourite serum or cream for a radiant glow and hefty dose of antioxidants to help boost skin’s defences against pollution. Double tick!

Best for smoothing

 Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate

• Size: 50ml

This serum has won lots of awards – and we can totally see why. Powered by eight botanicals, this formula is backed by 25 years of research, and helps to hydrate and defend skin against the effects of stress and pollution.

Best for UV protection

Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense SPF 50 PA++++

• Size: 30ml

• Non-comedogenic

A far cry from those heavy, greasy SPFs of the past, this lightweight sunscreen absorbs quickly, leaving behind an invisible finish. Featuring advanced UVA/UVB technology to help defend against UV rays and external aggressors, the formula is ideal for city dwellers.

Best for cleansing

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser for Normal to Dry Skin

• Size: 236ml

Wash away all the pollution particles that can build up over the day with this gentle, non-foaming cleanser that’s delicate enough for sensitive skin as it doesn’t strip it of essential moisture. Massage onto wet skin and rinse off.

Best for protecting the eye area

Try: No7 Early Defence Eye Cream

• Size: 15ml

• Hypoallergenic

The skin around our eyes is more delicate than that on the rest of our face and so it’s more susceptible to environmental damage. Protect the area with this hard-working eye cream, formulated with vitamin C and lipopeptides.

Best for sensitive skin

Try: Avene A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum

• Size: 30ml

Suitable for sensitive skin, this antioxidant serum helps fight the effects of pollution while hydrating and soothing away signs of stress thanks to hyaluronic acid and the brand’s own thermal spring water.

Best for brightening

Try: Vichy Liftactiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector Serum

• Size: 20ml

• Fragrance-free

• Alcohol-free

• Hypoallergenic

This serum is loaded with 15% pure vitamin C, which not only helps brighten the skin but can play a part in defending against free radical-induced damage. The serum also contains vitamin E for an extra nourishing boost.

Best for priming make-up

Nars Smooth & Protect Primer SPF50

• Size: 30ml

• SPF50

This multitasking primer creates a smooth canvas for foundation, provides broad-spectrum SPF50 protection and helps deflect pollution with skin-loving antioxidants. What’s not to love?

And there you have it, our modern-day skincare heroes to help give pollution and other environmental enemies the elbow. Browse our full range of facial skincare to find more hard-working, anti-pollution products to add into your morning and evening regimes.