At this point, we all know daily SPF is crucial for protecting our skin against the damaging and aging effects of the sun — even when it’s raining or we’re indoor cube-dwellers. But there’s another element you should be guarding against with equal vigor: pollution. Smog, car exhaust, and cigarette smoke are just a few of the damage-inducing culprits. “Whenever pollution comes in contact with your skin, it goes beyond just the surface,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, NYC-based dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. “Tiny particles get into the deeper layers of the epidermis, causing inflammation, dehydration, uneven skin tone, dark spots, and wrinkling. Plus, pollution breaks down collagen and the skin’s lipid layer, which compromises the barrier function.”
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Country mouses can breathe a mini sigh of relief, because city slickers are more at risk. Studies show that urbanites, as opposed to those who live in rural areas, are more likely to develop brown spots and uneven pigmentation. Which is not to say that if you don’t notice the aforementioned marks, you’re in the clear. “Pollution can damage your skin at any age, even when you’re young, because it can cause irritation, pimples, dehydration, and impact radiance,” says Muriel Pujos, director of scientific communication for Philosophy. So what’s a girl to do? “A good strategy is eating highly colored fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and creator of Sea Radiance Skincare, who cites red beans, blueberries, kidney beans, pinto beans, cranberries, artichoke hearts, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries as great options. A daily antioxidant supplement is another choice.
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Another easy and effective strategy is simply washing the skin every night before bed to remove nanoparticles. Wearing moisturizer or foundation is also helpful, because they trap pollutants during the day, preventing them from reaching the skin. Or, you can try any one of the following 10 products formulated specifically to guard against pollution.
Daily exposure to dust, smog, and all of the other bad stuff in the air can leave your complexion looking dull. That’s where this overnight mask chock-full of antioxidants — courtesy of orange extract — comes in. The triple-action formula combats pollution and prevents microparticles from absorbing, while vitamin E and cilantro-seed oil strengthen skin.
Kiehl’s Cilantro & Orange Extract Pollutant Defending Masque, $32, available at Kiehl’s.
Cleansing thoroughly is paramount to removing dirt and pollution from the skin’s surface. “Sonic cleansing systems mechanically vibrate off debris,” says Dr. Jaliman. “Otherwise, wash your face with a clean washcloth or a cotton pad. It’s especially important to cleanse before bed, so pollution doesn’t stay on your skin overnight.”
Clarisonic Mia Fit, $189, available at Sephora.
Planning on spending the day at a city beach or in the park? Spritz on this fine mist first for instant protection against free radicals and pollution. Biosaccharide gum, an extract from fermented plants, works to boost your skin’s natural defenses against oxidative stress, making it easier for your complexion to get back to square one.
Ren Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist, $38, available at Sephora.
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Having a daily skin-care routine in place that fights against free radicals and pollutants is key, but sometimes you’ve got to go the extra mile for a true detox. This gel-to-foam mask contains ingredients like vitamin C to renew skin cells and grape seed extract to minimize the damage pollutants place on your skin. Use it once a week (or up to three, depending on how often your skin is exposed to urban environments). Think of it as an invisible shield between you and your smoggy city.
Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Foaming Mask, available at $56 Bliss.
“Antioxidant serums neutralize free radicals and protect skin from daily environmental stressors like UV rays, cigarette smoke, pollution, or even fluorescent bulbs,“ says Dr. Bowe. Look for one with vitamin C, which shields skin from free-radical damage and has a brightening effect.
Dr. Brandt Power Dose Vitamin C Serum, $69, available at Dr. Brandt.
Fix damage done during the day by slathering on a nighttime recovery cream. (It’s like guzzling a quart of water after a night of heavy drinking.) This version tackles environmental aggressors including pollution, smoke, free radicals, and UV rays with its Smart Repair Technology.
Avon Anew Skinvincible Deep Recovery Cream, $36, available at Avon.
“Since we can’t change our way of life, it is up to cosmetics to cope with our busy urban lifestyle,” says Pujos. Philosophy’s Take a Deep Breath collection infuses the skin with oxygen, allowing it to breathe more easily with a blend of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals.
Philosophy Take a Deep Breath Oxygenating Eye Gel Cream, $42, available at Philosophy.
Pollution can majorly dehydrate your skin, so keeping your complexion moisturized is crucial. This hydrator taps moringa oleifera, an active anti-pollution plant ingredient that guards against harsh environmental elements by forming an invisible film on the skin. Hyaluronic acid plumps fine lines.
Decléor Paris Hydra Floral Anti-Pollution Hydrating Active Lotion, $48, available at Decléor.
We’ve already made the point that cleansing is important, but you don’t want to overdo it either. “The key is finding a super-efficient cleanser that isn’t so harsh that it irritates the skin and creates further problems, like compromising the skin barrier,” says Pujos. This version is a twofer: It cleanses andmoisturizes with olive, jojoba, coconut, and sunflower oils for an extra silky complexion.
Le Métier de Beauté Replenishing Oil Cleanser, $85, available at Neiman Marcus.
“Sunscreen creates a barrier, helping to shield our skin from the sun’s harmful rays,” says Dr. Bowe. “Apply a broad-spectrum SPF 30 daily and reapply every two hours, especially when you are outdoors.” This anti-pollution formula also blocks fine dust. Plus, the liquid-gel texture leaves skin feeling fresh instead of oily or sticky.
Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day UV Sun Fluid Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $34, available at Sephora.
Live actives like fermented botanicals and probiotics can deeply cleanse the skin, and this mask is full of them. Made with 23 ingredients — including broccoli extract, brown algae, prickly-pear-seed oil, sandalwood-seed oil, white clay, turmeric, fennel, ginger, and clove and silver-fir essential oils, among them — it helps your skin naturally ward off environmental impurities.
Tata Harper Purifying Mask, $65, available at Tata Harper.
By: Celia Shatzman