Last month, a shocking statistic hit our headlines – London breached its annual air pollution limits just five days into 2017, with Oxford Street emerging as one of the dirtiest streets in the world. Such unprecedented pollution even led Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to issue the highest air pollution alert ever in the capital. Scary stuff. And while poor air quality has been linked to a whole host of diseases, including asthma and cancer, it turns out it can also wreak havoc on your complexion.
While many of us are quick to blame our hormones or dairy-fuelled diet for our skin woes, an increasing number of health experts agree soaring levels of pollution are also robbing our skin of oxygen, causing premature ageing, a lack of plumpness and loss of elasticity. Luckily, help is at hand as the latest crop of skincare solutions promise to combat the harmful particles of smoke and soot that settles on our skin each day.
We turned to Consultant Dermatologist Dr Noor Almaani for her top tips on how to safeguard your skin against city grime...
Up The Ante On Anti-Oxidants
As Dr Almaani explains, “While skin damage and ageing has been linked to intrinsic factors such as genes and hormones, the effect of extrinsic factors such as pollution is only just gaining momentum. Pollution has been shown to increase harmful free radicals in the air, which in turn decreases the skin’s production of collagen and damages our skin’s DNA.” Luckily, research has also found antioxidants can interact with free radicals to stop them in their tracks before skin cells are damaged. “Antioxidants come in many forms and are easy to add to our diet and beauty regime. Look out for products containing the likes of vitamins E, C and Squalene as well as eating foods such as blueberries, beans and nuts,” she explains.
Boost Your Barrier
While it’s well-documented outdoor pollution can starve the skin of oxygen and deplete the skin’s natural oils leading to a dry, lacklustre complexion, research also suggests indoor pollution – largely triggered by toxins from ovens and fireplaces – can also have a negative impact on the skin. Improving ventilation and reducing excess humidity indoors can help to reduce pollution levels. In the meantime, bolster your skin’s natural barrier by applying moisturiser and increase hydration levels by drinking plenty of water, especially in the winter.
Wash The Day Away
Those prone to blemishes, blocked pores and acne, take note – pollution also has the ability to increase inflammation deep within the skin which can lead to increased amounts of sebum. This can clog pores, leaving skin greasy and more vulnerable to acne. In fact, pollutant particles can be up to 20 times smaller than the size of a pore, so a hard-working cleanser is essential to wash away grime at the end of the day. Keep an eye out for Clinique’s hot-off-the-press anti-pollution scrub, which is chock full of clay and silica beads to sweep away surface dirt and pollutive impurities.
Be Militant About SPF
As any dermatologist will tell you, the need to protect your skin against UV damage is a year-round necessity, not just a summer one. Unfortunately, soaring levels of pollution are also eroding the delicate ozone layer, meaning more UV radiation is able to sneak through. So even in the depths of winter using a product containing SPF is crucial.