The 21st Century SkinCare Problem: Do You Actively Guard Against Pollution?

If you’re a resident of a big city, you may already be aware of the toll living amongst a cloud of pollution can take on your overall wellbeing (increased likelihood of picking up a cough, clogged pores, dry skin, those black bogeys when you blow your nose!) But even if you don’t live amongst the bright lights, you could be experiencing a huge number of skincare issues that have their roots in exhaust fumes. We all know the negative impact pollution has on the environment, but lesser known are the adverse effects on our skin: “Pollution can cause uneven skin tone, accelerated aging and even skin cancer,” says Doris Day, Professor of Dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Centre. Slapping on some SPF isn’t the only thing we need to be regularly doing if we want to maintain our healthy looking complexions for longer, as UV rays aren’t the only damaging environmental factors we’re exposed to on a daily basis.

Microscopic specks of smoke, soot, acid and other pollutants are released into the atmosphere from sources including fires, construction sites, vehicles and power plants. When that pollution comes into contact with your skin, it doesn’t just sit on the surface – these particles are sometimes twenty times smaller than pores, allowing them to penetrate the skin into the much deeper layers, causing not only inflammation and dehydration but also lost elasticity and firmness. These ‘free radicals’ are able to break down collagen and the lipid layer of skin, imparting skin barrier functions and speeding up the process of ageing. Although this may sound scary, simple changes to your beauty regime can have a big overall impact; effective cleansing and moisture replenishment has never been more important, but there are an increasing number of products popping up that aim to tackle the very issue of pollution. Michael Jackson face masks aren’t necessary just yet, but there is a portfolio of beauty treatments and little pick-me-ups which specifically target the damage caused by pollution – as well as helping to ‘boost’ the skin’s own ability to rid itself of these damaging particles. Here are just a selection that I’ve been using and enjoying…

REN Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist (£24.00)

This super-fine mist that has been formulated to protect the skin from the ageing effects of environmental pollutants and free radical assault; it aims to strengthens the skin’s natural defences against oxidative stress, as well as reinforcing its ability to ‘detox’ (i.e. get rid of the nasty stuff we don’t need.) Although it’s incredibly hard to measure any kind of day-to-day effectiveness, the mist is refreshing and a pleasure to apply – leaving skin feeling boosted and makeup absolutely budge-free. If you’re interested in the science behind it, then Biosaccharide Gum (derived from sugar and yeast) creates an invisible ‘second-skin’ shield, Zinc and Manganese Amino Acids defend against free radicals, and Quercetin boosts the antioxidant capacity of the cells to stimulate repair. (Launches April 2016.)

Origins By All Greens Deep Cleansing Mask (£32.00)

A genius 2-in-1 product that initially works as an intense ‘detoxing’ treatment, this creamy clay formula transforms into a self-activating foam to gently (yet deeply) cleanse. It works to unclogs pores and leave skin feeling refreshed, without stripping skin. It’s packed with nutrient-rich Spirulina, Spinach and Green Tea (all known to for their ‘detoxing’ power and ability to draw out impurities,) as well as coconut derived cleansers and Kaolin Clay help remove skin-damaging dirt, pollution and pore-cloggers. Although not specifically sold as an anti-pollution product, this is essentially what it is; the ingredients work to draw out particles we don’t want and hydrate the skin simultaneously. When used once or twice a week, your complexion will look noticeably smoother and more radiant.

Shiseido Ibuki Quick Fix Mist (£20.00) 

This dewy and refreshing gel-like mist visibly corrects shine, dehydration and stressed out skin, while preventing makeup from wearing off or creasing. It can be spritzed anywhere, making it a little handbag saviour – especially for days working in the city. Formulated with Majoram Extract to help target dehydration for supple-looking skin, and an exclusive ‘PhytoTarget Complex’ to enhance skin’s natural moisture factors and help build resistance to external stressors, i.e. pollution, this is a quick and easy way to look after your face. Shiseido are well known for their Asian roots, and the Asian market is absolutely obsessed with counteracting the negative impact of pollution; it’s a no-brainer to turn to them for a little helping hand if you’re concerned about living or working in a big city.

Kiehl’s Pollutant Defending Masque (£28.00)

Clinically ‘demonstrated’ (I’m assuming a little less than proven!) to minimize the damaging effects of pollution on skin, this nourishing formula replenishes vital nutrients while defending skin from daily environmental aggressors. The slightly funky smelling green cream can be applied as a mask three times a week, but can also be used as an overnight treatment or intense recovery balm when excess is massaged into skin. Although the formula won’t instantly leave your skin feeling renewed, it does help it to feel hydrated and a little more radiant – as well as prepared to protect itself from pollution the next day. Again, it’s one of those that’s difficult to measure the positive impact on a day to day basis, but it’s a pleasure to use and will last an absolute age. 

Are you concerned about the impact of pollution on your skin?

Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  




  1. Pam Scalfi
    March 30, 2016 / 4:53 pm

    no i dont, but I should! The shiseido one sounds rather fab, I really wanna try that brand.Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

  2. Leanne Page
    March 30, 2016 / 6:15 pm

    When i first started seeing skin care aimed at this i thought it was just a bit if fad. But after reading this i feel like i should probably invest in anti pollution skin care! The Kielhs mask sounds great

  3. PeachPlz Beauty
    March 31, 2016 / 10:48 am

    ohhh i simply must try the keihls mask! looks so good!

  4. Anonymous
    April 4, 2016 / 3:47 am

    OMG. Such an interesting post and something I never thought of! This Manhattan girl is checking some of these out!!Mel |

  5. sampan_27
    April 10, 2016 / 1:36 pm

    Such an important skin issue. I started walking to work a few tears ago. It's 1.6 mile and i can tell the difference effect it has had on my skin. The main road i walk is so bad for pollution, so that you for these suggestions! I usually wear SPF or suncream but need these i think and will have to find the right fit for my skin 🙂

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