5 Products that Protect your Skin from Pollution

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Skin is our largest organ, and on average a fully grown adult has about 8 pounds, (or 3.6 kgs) of the stuff – making up a whopping 22 square feet! 

Skin is waterproof, insulating, guards the body against extremes from temperature, damaging sunlight, and does its best to block harmful chemicals. It exudes antibacterial substances that prevent infection and manufactures vitamin D for converting calcium into healthy bones. Skin additionally is a huge sensor packed with nerves for keeping the brain in touch with the outside world. However despite being ridiculously versatile (as far as organs go), it is not necessarily equipped to deal with modern chemicals found in some polluted air. 

If you live in an area known for smog and air pollution, and you are noticing that your complexion sometimes has a similar hue to the sky, it may be time to start investing in an anti-pollution face cream or two. We are going to breakdown the point of these clever creams and explain why they are probably worth your hard earned pennies.

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Air pollutants rob skin cells of oxygen, which can make the skin look dull and sagging. As you get older the body’s ability to fight free radicals diminishes. Unfortunately, pollutants increase the number of free radicals in the air. This, in combination with UV radiation decreases the production of skin collagen, causing the skin to lose elasticity. Loss of elastin gives skin a rougher texture and fine lines begin to appear. If I am losing you, you can stop reading now and just make sure you apply suncream every day, even during the winter and you will be on your way to a youthful future. 

For those of you ready to get into it here goes. Pollution is in fact a mix of many, many components which makes it difficult to say exactly which one of the different elements are responsible for the skin changes we see. A few examples of specific pollutants found in air pollution include Benzo-a-pyrene, urban dust, ultrafine dust, and diesel exhaust.

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Now curiously, the real threat often doesn’t come from these particles themselves since they are usually too big to enter the skin; it actually comes from the chemicals that find a way to attach to them. Lets take urban dust as an example, it contains a cocktail of 224 toxic chemicals – from polyaromatic hydrocarbons to pesticides and heavy metals. And, while the particles of pollution are usually too large to penetrate skin themselves, many of these chemicals attached to them are not. Cigarette smoke is another major pollutant, and that has been shown to consist of thousands of chemicals.

Thanks to the wonders of science, in recent years, the health effects associated with air pollution have been intensively studied. Laboratory tests are able to measure not only how the cells react to different pollutants, but also which ingredients can protect them against the negative effects caused. From there, skin care products can be developed to protect against the damage and repair the damage done as much as possible. 

See below for 5 highly rated creams out there that can help your skin battle all of those nasty free radicals. 

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1. Kiehl’s Cliantro & Orange Extract Pollutant Defending Masque

If you’re going to pick up any pollution-proofing mask, make it one backed by clinical expertise. Kiehl’s offering purges pores of city grime and feeds lacklustre skin the nutrients it needs to glow.

Kiehl’s – £29

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2. Sunday Riley C.E.O antiOXIDANT Protect and Repair Moisturiser

A hero skincare ingredient among most specialists, vitamin C is one of the strongest pollution repellents, but the vitamin C in this moisturiser (5% THD ascorbate if you fancy a little science lesson) is seriously clever. Half stays put on the skin’s surface to block the nasties, while the other half is absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin to repair and brighten. The gel-creme moisturiser also features vitamin E which works in tandem with vitamin C to hydrate and neutralise environmental aggressors.

Cult Beauty – £60

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3. The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Pollutants can get stuck in the paste-like mixture of oil and dead cells that sit on the surface of skin, so a weekly peel will help to brighten and remove those dark spots.  Clinical facialist Kate Kerr suggests looking out for products with glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids, this one has all three. 

The Ordinary – £6.30

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4. This Works In Transit Skin Defence Anti-aging Daily Moisturiser and Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 45

This Works protects the skin from environmental damage, UVA aging and UVB burning, and keeps it nourished. 

This Works – £29

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5. Clarins Extra-Comfort Anti-Pollution Cleansing Cream

Wash away the build-up of pollutants in your skin with a targeted cleanser. Clarins’ cream is specifically designed with removing pollution in mind, making it one of the best. It’s also gentle, creamy and has a nice scent.

clarins.co.uk – £22