Skincare Sunday: How to fight pollution and win

Think that an antioxidant cocktail and SPF has your skin covered? We now need much more to protect against pollution damage – NEWBY HANDS explains how to build up your defenses


What does pollution do to skin?

Pollution exacerbates UV damage while creating a whole list of its own problems, from destroying the protective skin barrier (leading to a cascade of destruction) to breaking down collagen. From breakouts to dry skin, eczema to sensitivity, plus an explosion of pigmentation (city dwellers have more, at a younger age) and ultimately speeding up aging, all this and more is linked to pollution. Whether it’s industrial smog, traffic fumes or forest fires – or blown in on the jet stream from across the ocean – according to the World Health Organization, 90% of us live with unhealthy air.

Always deep-clean

Pollution particles are notoriously hard to remove, but double cleansing helps, especially with oils and balms that can be worked into the skin to lift off dirt, debris and surface pollution. Using a PHA-based peel or cleanser (a version of AHAs) not only removes dead surface cells along with some pollution but will “deactivate heavy metals that cause free-radical damage in the skin, plus they strengthen the skin barrier,” explains Marisa Dufort, Director of Product Development and Ingredient Innovation for NeoStrata.

Create a magic cocktail

City skin needs a multi-layered protection package of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and SPF, plus lots of hydration with hyaluronic acid, probiotics (healthy microbiome = stronger barrier) and skin-barrier builders, such as ceramides. Adding a tint will also create a mini barrier of pigment, meaning the particles sit on that and not your skin surface.

Don’t go bare

Skin does not breathe; it needs protection, so barefaced days are more likely to create damage than a healthy glow. In fact, recent research shows that skin regularly applied with SPF and makeup shows less aging damage than skin protected only by SPF. Foundation, blush, and even eyeshadow all provide a physical barrier. “Plus, the polymers in skincare also create a film that sits on the skin, again offering some barrier protection,” says Dufort.

The model featured in this story is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown.