How to Protect Your Skin From Pollution, According to Skincare Experts

April 18, 2022
Jessica Harrington
By: Jessica Harrington | by L'Oréal
How to Protect Your Skin From Pollution, According to Skincare Experts

The sun isn’t the only environmental factor you need to protect your skin from. You know that pollution takes a terrible toll on the world around you, but do you know what it does to your skin? “We understand that pollutants can cause inflammation, changes in the skin barrier and dehydrate the skin which can lead to loss of collagen and elastin,” says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology. To understand more about how it can harm your skin and what you can do to help protect your skin from it, Dr. Levin broke it down for us, ahead. 

What does pollution do to your skin?

As a board-certified dermatologist, I explain to my patients that the environment — from UV radiation to infrared radiation to pollution — have negative effects on our skin. In the past decade, we have increasingly seen more research and data about environmental stressors and the effects it has on the skin. A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology  demonstrated that women in urban environments compared to rural environments with higher exposure to pollution had increased signs of aging, including dark spots and wrinkling. 

Does it only affect people who live in urban areas? 

It's not only urban pollution but also smoke, acids and debris from fires, cigarette smoke, as well as car emissions, power plants, construction sites and more.

What are some of the ways to defend against the skin-damaging effects of pollution?

Tip #1: Cleansing the face daily and removing make-up and debris is an important step in a skin-care routine in order to reduce the burden of pollutants on the skin’s surface. I also encourage a gentle exfoliant several times a week. 

Tip #2: Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D and green tea extract help neutralize free-radical damage on skin’s surface that is triggered from pollutants. 

Tip #3: Moisturizing and maintaining a robust skin barrier is necessary in order to protect skin from the damaging effects of free radicals found in pollutants. 

Tip #4: Apply daily sunscreen with broad-spectrum SPF and wear UPF-protective clothing.

When products claim they protect your skin against pollution, what does it mean they’re doing? 

Typically, products that are marketed against pollution have enzymes or exfoliating ingredients to ensure a proper cleanse, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, sunscreen ingredients such as zinc and titanium dioxide, and moisturizing ingredients. We recommend trying SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF With Ferulic Acid, Vichy Idéalia Day Cream and Nuria Defend Skin Shielding Essence.

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