6 Ways to Conquer Pollution, Skin’s Latest Enemy
Pollution’s like a zombie, dying to wreak havoc on your skin. Thankfully, antioxidants are the Glenn Rhee to the free radical walking dead.
Walking your dog in the park. A brisk jog around the neighborhood. Your daily commute to work.
All ordinary moments in the day of a life? Sure. But also all moments for pollution to attack.
While UV damage from the sun has been the hot topic in skincare in years past, an emerging body of scientific research now reveals that environmental pollution is another major factor in premature aging. Not only does air pollution worsen skin conditions like eczema and hives but it can exacerbate fine lines, sagging, redness, even hyperpigmentation. Worst of all? Unlike UV rays, pollution’s pretty near impossible to avoid. (What are you gonna do — never go outside?)
And we urbanites are especially vulnerable to premature aging. That’s because the major bad guys are from traffic pollution: nitrogen dioxide (NO2), microscopic particles called PMs, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Now that may be a mouthful, but just think of these toxic substances, which are small enough to penetrate our skin pores, as zombies. A zombie bites a person, that person becomes a zombie, who then bites another person, who then becomes yet another member of the walking dead, and the chaos continues endlessly. Essentially that’s what pollution does: They rob molecules of an electron, resulting in unstable atoms or molecules. These unstable molecules, or free radicals, then start attacking healthy cells, including lipids, proteins, even DNA. This leads to a cascade of cellular damage, a chain reaction of inflammation and oxidative stress, which if left unchecked, can lead to all sorts of skin disasters from the breakdown of collagen and elastin, hyperpigmentation, and damage to the skin barrier. Essentially, zombie skin.
Thankfully, antioxidants are the Glenn Rhee of the free radical world — they’re our best weapons against pollution premature aging. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage — whether by preventing them from forming in the first place, stabilizing them, or repairing their damage — but it’s a one-to-one sort of combat: one antioxidant for one zombie, er, unstable molecule. While our bodies make their own antioxidants, like everything else, natural antioxidant production decreases as we age. So we need to supplement our antioxidant reserve, especially for our skin, which is on the frontlines of the pollution wars.
Ready to do battle? Here, 6 ways you can help protect your skin from pollution.
1. Double cleanse
Since pollutants leave an invisible, toxic film on the skin throughout the day, cleansing your skin before you go to bed is key. Always double cleanse, first with an oil cleanser to remove sunscreen and oil-based makeup, and then with a gentle foam or water-based cleanser to remove dirt and debris without stripping skin. Eclado’s Ionisation Daily Deep Cleanser utilizes negatively charged ions to remove the micro-dust particulates from urban air pollution that gets into our pores throughout the day.
2. But don’t overdo the cleansing!
There’s a fine line between double cleansing the pollutants away and damaging your skin barrier by over-exfoliating. Go easy on facial scrubs and acids, which can disrupt the skin barrier. Exfoliate with a gentle, non-microbead facial scrub no more than a few times a week or try a konjac puff when cleansing.
3. Always wear sunscreen
Free radicals are formed not just by pollution but also UV rays (which are magnified by pollution), so look for a high SPF sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) with strong UVA protection. In Asia and Europe, look for PA followed by at least three or four plusses on the label; in the U.S., mineral sunscreens like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide ensure you’re getting adequate UVA protection and create a physical barrier against pollution particles.
4. Eat lots of fresh veggies
Especially leafy greens, fruits (especially dark berries), and beans to get your antioxidants nutritionally.
5. Protect and build up your skin barrier function
Use a lipid-rich moisturizer to keep hydration in and all the bad stuff out. (We like SanDaWha Ultra Rich Hydrating Camellia Floral Water Cream, which also contains niacinamide, effective in fighting pollution-related skin damage.)
6. Use serums and essences with antioxidants
Hey, Glenn needed Daryl and Rick to have his back, right? So too do we need a variety of antioxidants, each working in its own unique way to scavenge free radicals. Some effective antioxidants to look out for include glutathione, vitamin E, vitamin C, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and a variety of plants and botanicals, like in CELLNCO Rose Therapy Nutrient Boost Ampoule.
Is pollution a skincare concern of yours? How do you try to protect your skin from pollution?