Pollution is the latest threat to younger, healthier-looking skin. We ask the experts how to tackle the problem
You take good care of your skin, you eat right, you moisturise – you’ll look peachy for years to come, right? But then you step outside and your complexion has a new war to fight: pollution.
We know pollution is a huge issue in the UK – scientists have found that as many as 40,000 people are dying from dirty air across the country every year. But it’s not just our bodies that are at risk – it affects our delicate skin, ageing it and making it dull. “As much as 80 percent of premature ageing is from the environment,” says Dr Howard Murad, founder of Murad skincare (murad.co.uk). “But with the rise of urban pollution, advanced skincare solutions are being demanded to combat these environmental stressors.” It’s not just the fumes from car exhaust fumes we have to watch for in the city, either, when it comes to protecting our precious skin. “There are many aggressors out there that cause ageing,” says Dr Murad. “UVA/UVB rays, infrared, high energy visible blue light and particulate matter otherwise known as pollution can trigger the immune system to produce excessive melanin which cause pigmentation and skin darkening, inflammation and weakening of the skin barrier, causing lines and wrinkles. As a result, pollution is said to be one of the major sources of concern for health and beauty. But we have a huge opportunity here to change how our skin ages.”
“Pollution particles are sometimes 20 times smaller than pores, allowing them to penetrate into the deeper layers of the epidermis,” says Louise Thomas, skincare therapist and founder of the Louise Thomas Skincare range (lisaarmitage.com), which is launching this year. A multi-pronged approach is best, but you can start with your skincare. “To really wash away and grime and dirt caused by pollution, it is best to cleanse your face as soon as you get home – this will reduce damage and clogging,” says Stacey Whittaker, award-winning makeup artist and skincare expert. “Also, look for products containing vitamins A, C and E as these protect your skin and act as a barrier against pollution.”
“Look to your diet too,” advises Louise. “Mope up harmful free radicals, which are the thieves of youth, by eating and applying antioxidants. Think green tea, coffee, Tazman pepper berry and dark chocolate.”
“Exercise is very good for the skin generally,” says Dean Nathanson, the founder of the CACI micro-current anti-ageing facials (caci-international.co.uk). “Increased circulation from exercise means that more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to your skin cells, and you can enhance elasticity by toning your facial muscles specifically.
“The worst kind of exercise you can do is high-impact cardio near busy and congested roads,” he continues. “Your skin’s pores are opened up and the increased blood flow means that the pollution from the road – especially particulate matter – can even more easily penetrate the outer layers of the skin and oxidise the dermis which will seriously reduce the collagen levels in the skin. The result from this is a grey, lifeless-looking complexion and more lines and wrinkles.
“Plan your route so that you avoid the busiest roads. Pollution maps of London show that it peaks around certain streets. Wearing a barrier face cream will reduce particulate matter getting into your skin but remember the cream may come off when you perspire.”
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