If you’ve so much as looked outside in London over the past few weeks, you’ll be aware of the worryingly high pollution levels in the air. This month, the UK has been given a ‘final warning’ by the European Commission over rising pollution, causing Mayor Sadiq Khan to urge Londoners to use public transport whenever possible after the city was put on a ‘very high’ toxic air alert.
And it’s not just the capital that’s suffering from the smog: 16 other major UK cities including Leeds and Birmingham have been reprimanded for failing to address their ascending pollution levels. Further afield, Germany, France and Italy have also received final warnings, while it’s been an ongoing battle for cities across China and India. So, as concerns over the purity of our air continue to grow, what does this mean for our skin?
“Pollution releases microscopic particles (or free radicals) that can sink deep into the skin and cause damage to otherwise healthy cells”, explains Dr. Goldfaden, founder of skincare brand Goldfaden MD. “The outcome is loss of elasticity and hyper-pigmentation. Pollution can cause uneven skin tone, dehydration, dryness, dark spots, expedited ageing, sagging skin and a deterioration of collagen.”
But all is not lost. A few informed tweaks to your beauty regime can help reverse past damage and protect you going forwards. “Look out for antioxidant ingredients as they fight free radicals. A few of the most studied and effective are Red Tea, ferulic acid, vitamins C and E, Japonica flowers, watercress and retinol.” says Dr. Goldfaden.
We’ve rounded up the best pollution-fighting products out there.
You can think of Wei’s Golden Root Anti-Pollution Mist as an invisible veil of protection for your face. The alcohol-free spray contains the Chinese brand’s hallmark golden root extract – a herbal antioxidant so potent it was once reserved for Chinese royalty – alongside earth smoke extract, which reacts with the ozone to neutralise harmful aggressors. Use it under your moisturiser in the morning, or spritz it over makeup for a fresh, dewy glow.
Working to protect the skin on every level, REN’s Flash Defence Mist is particularly suited for busy days in the heart of the city. Providing instant protection is biosaccharide gum, which acts like a ‘second skin’ to shield your complexion from pollutants. Working on a deeper level are zinc and manganese amino acids, which help to combat oxidative stress, while quercetin boosts the skin’s long-term capacity to repair itself.
Goldfaden MD’s Brightening Elixir contains too many pollution-fighting ingredients to count. The ultimate protective serum, it’s infused with a host of powerful actives, yet still suitable for the most sensitive of skin types. Key ingredients include a seriously high level of l-ascorbic acid (that’s vitamin C to me and you) along with ferulic acid and niacinimide. Use it every day beneath moisturiser for a visibly brighter complexion, reduced pigmentation and to calm inflammation.
It’s not just your skin that’s susceptible to pollution damage – our hair takes a hit, too. Moroccanoil’s Clarifying Shampoo is a deeply detoxifying treatment that removes impurities that regular shampoos often gloss over. The label’s signature argan oil lends deep moisture, while lavender, camomile and jojoba boost the nourishing effects. Free from parabens and sulphates, it’s safe for coloured and chemically treated hair. Use once every two weeks in place of your regular shampoo to keep build-up at bay.
The new Cilantro and Orange Pollutant Defending Masque from Kiehl’s works overnight to purify the skin from pollutants. Mediterranean orange extract defends from oxidative stress, blocking free radicals from reaching the cells, while cilantro strengthens the skin barrier. Use this soothing cream three times a week, and after four weeks of continued use you’ll notice a brighter complexion with increased elasticity, too.