Tips for Stopping Skin Damage from Pollution
We all know that the sun and stress age our skin and of course genetics play a role in how our skin ages. But did you realize that pollution is also a growing threat to the health of your skin? Recently some cosmetic companies have started selling products that say they fight the effects of pollution on the skin, products such as Estee Lauder’s Enlighten products or Tata Harper’s Purifying Cleanser.
Yet do you really need a product that is formulated to fight the ravages of pollution or is this simply marketing hype?
How Pollution Damages Our Skin
Before talking about products that promise to repair the damage pollution does to our skin let’s look at how pollution negatively affects our skin. According to the Refinery 29 article Are Anti-Pollution Products Really Necessary?
Pollution that affects the skin is called ozone pollution:
Ground level ozone is a mix of daylight or sunlight and also chemicals emitted by sources like plants and cars. Its dangerous molecules can also speed up the skins aging process.
“The gases stick to your skin and break down what we call the barrier function of the skin — the waxy portion that keeps the moisture in,” Dr. Tanzi says. “They break down certain proteins and lipids, which leads to inflammation. That leads to the breakdown of collagen — which causes skin sensitivity.” It’s a snowball effect that, over time, can cause serious damage.
Over time the harmful particles in this ozone pollution not only cause skin sensitivity and skin aging but hyperpigmentation (dark patches) as well.
Since there is little anyone of us can do to escape being exposed to car exhaust what can you do to protect your skin?
Products That Claim to Fight Pollution Damage
Cosmetic and skin care companies have realized the marketing potential for skin care products that claim to fight the damage caused by pollution.
The problem is is that most of these products are simply smart marketing more than anything else. While scientists have indeed identified certain vitamins in the skin that are negatively affected by pollution that doesn’t mean that they have found a specific way to combat that damage. Indeed research is still ongoing in order to pinpoint actual skin care product ingredients and methods that will combat the damage done by pollution.
What that means to you as a consumer is that those products marketed for fighting pollution damage can help your skin, but they are not the be all and end all for fighting this growing problem. Smart lifestyle options such as not smoking and minimizing sun exposure can also help stop skin damage. Overall your safest bet is to use an antioxidant serum religiously each morning before applying your sunscreen. Why? Pollution creates free radicals and antioxidants combat free radical damage. You might be scratching your head now and saying “um what’s a free radical?”. Simply put a free radical is an unstable molecule that has lost an electron. In order to find a new electron, it latches onto healthy cells eventually causing a cascade of damage to your skin (and body). When it comes to your skin free radicals lead to skin sagging. Fine lines, hyperpigmentation (skin discoloration), and even DNA damage in your skin cells.
Protect Your Skin With Antioxidants
The best way to fight the free radical damage caused by pollution is with antioxidant serums. There are hundreds of antioxidant serums on the market, so it isn’t hard to find one at every price level and for every skin type. When purchasing an antioxidant serum be sure to keep a few things in mind:
- There is no such thing as “the best” antioxidant. All antioxidants are effective. Popular ones in skin care products include Vitamin C and E, green tea, and resveratrol, but there are numerous other antioxidants as well that do great things for your skin.
- Make sure the antioxidant is your serum is among the first 5 or so ingredients in the product ingredient list. If the antioxidant is at the bottom of the list, it is being used as a preservative in the product.
- Apply your antioxidant serum in the morning on clean skin before your moisturizer or sunscreen so that it can protect your skin from pollution damage during the day.
- After applying your antioxidant serum wait a few minutes before applying your moisturizer or sunscreen on top. Let the product to be fully absorbed into your skin before going on to your next skin care regime step.
- Products to consider trying with antioxidants include Neutrogena AgeShield Sunscreen, Skinceuticals Phloretin CF Gel, and Prevage Face Advanced Anti-Aging Serum.
Other ways to fight the damage pollution causes your skin? Make sure you thoroughly clean your skin at night (consider investing in a sonic cleansing brush) and always use sunscreen.