Anti-Pollution Skin Care: The Best Products to Defend Your Skin

Anti-Pollution Skincare Products Your Skin Needs To Protect Itself

Anti-Pollution Skin Care: The Best Products to Defend Your Skin |

Pollution is threatening the planet – and it’s ageing our skin, too.

The word anti-pollution is one hell of a buzzword at the moment and you’ve probably spotted it on many of the latest skin launches. There’s now a whole species of product that protects the skin against environmental nasties and prevents the damaging effects – anti-pollution skincare is going nowhere.

With plans to completely pedestrianise London’s Oxford Street after King’s College London found that it was the most polluted street in the world and the new Ultra Low Emission Zone in place in Central London, it’s no wonder that people are more attuned to the damaging effects of pollution. In fact, Liberty London recently saw a sales increase of 166% in anti-pollution beauty, while online searches have gone up by 73% in the past year.

Kyle Galvin x Revlon

What does pollution do to the skin?

Pollution really is the silent aggressor, because it doesn’t just sit on the surface of your skin, muddying it up a windscreen, it can seep deep down into your skin speeding up the deterioration of your cells.

Which is why it is one of the worst things for premature ageing. Nitrogen dioxide gas from car exhausts and toxic oily molecules measure 2.5 micrometres, that’s one 400th of a millimetre, so 20 times smaller than the diameter of a skin pore.

So it’s no wonder that they easily gain entry into your skin.

‘Once inside skin, they cause chronic inflammation,’ says Dr Tom Mammone, vice president of skin physiology and pharmacology at Clinique. ‘This overstimulates melanocytes, giving you skin pigmentation. Your skin’s antioxidant and DNA systems also become overwhelmed so they no longer repair sufficiently, resulting in lines and sagging.’

Not only do they cause inflammation, but also dehydration and can exacerbate existing skin concerns, eczema.

Kyle Galvin x Revlon

But can anti-pollution skincare products help, or are they just a marketing ploy? It’s a bit of both. Un SPFs, there’s currently no comparable ‘pollution protection factor’.

However, the power of antioxidants such as vitamin C to protect against free radicals is backed by science. All that’s happened is the emphasis has shifted from UV rays to pollution and the same chain reaction.

So, if you’re using an antioxidant serum daily, you’ve already ticked one box in an urban skincare regime.

Also remember: keep skin’s moisture barrier intact with hydrating ingredients including hyaluronic acid. ‘We’ve been able to prove that pollution tears tiny holes in the skin’s barrier, causing moisture loss,’ explains Dr Mammone.

Ingredients that form a film over the skin’s surface can help, too. ‘Alteromonas ferment, from marine bacteria, is brilliant at preventing pollution particles from adhering to skin,’ says dermatologist Dr Barbara Sturm.

Kyle Galvin x Revlon

The other more obvious thing to be sure you’re doing is nailing your nighttime cleansing regimen. Ridding your skin of as much of the day’s dirt, grime and surface pollution will help you in the battle against it.

Finally, don’t forget your all year-round SPF moisturiser. ‘Pollution is worse in winter due to surface inversion, where the air directly above the ground cools down much faster than the air above it,’ explains Dr Sturm. ‘The warmth builds a wall and traps pollutants in the cold air we’re exposed to.’

You may not be able to avoid pollution, but these products are armour against skin-scavenging smog.

Pollution can cause an imbalance of bacteria on the skin’s surface – read acne and sensitivity. Keep everything in check with this probiotic essence.

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Your ‘pretox’ starts here: alteromonas ferment binds to pollution particles, then joins forces with the antioxidant herb purslane and cocoa seed to neutralise them and keep the skin’s barrier strong.

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Research in Germany links air-traffic pollution with a 25 per cent increase in pigmentation on cheeks. Using clinical expertise, this serum breaks down the enzyme responsible for melanin production.

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an invisible raincoat for your face. Hyaluronic acid and polymers form a film over skin to keep pollutants out and moisture in. Satisfyingly non-sticky, too.

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This is a magnet to draw out pollution, but charcoal can leave drier skin feeling paper. Here, wildflower honey stops the problem.

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Whilst you might keep a face mist on your desk and in your handbag to refresh your skin, this does just that with the added benefit of Biosaccharide Gum-4. What does that do? It forms a physical, non-sticky barrier to protect skin for pollutants. You can use as your last step, on top of make-up.

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An oil-based cleanser is your most important product in your arsenal. This is what removes all make-up AND surface pollutants and impurities. It also been found that the blue micro-algae in the formula protects cells against micro-stress caused by pollution. Huzzah!

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Created for modern women living in urban environments, By Terry's Detoxilyn range includes this cream, which can be used day and night. It hydrates and nourishes the skin, as well as strengthening the skin's barrier with it's free-radical fighting actives.

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This is a bit of a hybrid product – it has the potency of a mask, but the texture of a day cream. It's packed full of hydrating ingredients, peptides, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which all work in harmony to create a protective shield against pollutants in the air.

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I mean, the dream! Not only is this rich in anti-oxidants to help the skin's defences and fatty acids to support the skin's barrier, but it makes you look super duper glowy and tanned. I mean, the dream!

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This salon-strength hydrator boosts moisture levels in the skin and creates an invisible shield on the skin's surface to stop as many pollution particles getting through and into the skin's layers.

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So much more than a foundation. This matte base is an extension of your skincare routine. It's been created with vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties and it has anti-blue light technology. It's super breathable, with a medium coverage that can be built up. Use it a moisturiser and work it into skin with your fingers.

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This range took the brand six years to develop. This booster is super potent, filled to the brim with free-radical fighting ingredients. Add a few drops to your everyday serum, oil or day cream to create a shield between your skin and the external aggressors.

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According to a study by the brand, after using this for four weeks you will see a noticeable change to your skin – smoother, more supple, firmer and stronger defences. No wonder then that since its launch a bottle has been sold every 15 seconds.

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It isn't just your face that feels the effects of pollution, it gets into every pore – even the ones on your body. Be sure to really wash the day off with this body wash.

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The ideal on-the-go anti-pollution product. Apply just before you head the door (it won't smudge your make-up) for pollution and sun protection. It's also super refreshing so will perk up skin throughout the day.

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How To Stop Pollution From Totally Ruining Your Skin

Anti-Pollution Skin Care: The Best Products to Defend Your Skin |

Skin care routines can be tailored to address pretty much any issue, be it acne, dry skin, clogged pores or even the effects of air pollution.

That last one might seem a little odd or gimmicky, but as it happens, anti-pollution skin care has become a growing trend in the beauty industry. Brands Kiehl’sand Drunk Elephant have released products that claim to protect skin against pollutants in the air.

Air pollution’s effects on our health have been studied for a long time. In terms of skin care, there is research that suggests pollution can lead to things inflammation and premature aging, so the increasing popularity of anti-pollution beauty and skin care products isn’t a coincidence.

“Our skin impacts what we are [absorbing] into our body. We have to protect ourselves from the outer world,” Natalya Rachkova, an aesthetician and the co-founder of The Better Skin Co., told HuffPost. We already know what we’re supposed to eat and that we should exercise and drink water, she said, “but we also have to protect ourselves from our outer environment.”

We spoke to dermatologists to find out more about anti-pollution skin care, including what it really is and how it works to protect us.

According to Dr. Anne Chapas, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York, air pollution contains a combination of tiny particles called particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and chemicals polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

“The exact mechanism of how they cause skin aging is not clear, but it could include causing more oxidative damage, increasing skin inflammation, changing the skin microflora or activation of acyl hydrocarbon receptor pathways,” she said. “Whatever the mechanism, the result seems to be increased wrinkles and pigmentation.”

All those tiny particles can also penetrate and clog our pores, Dr. Devika Icecreamwala, a dermatologist based in Berkeley, California, told HuffPost. As a result, “We’re noticing how pollution [is] causing the skin to look really dull, uneven and even discolored,” she said.

Icecreamwala also said that prolonged exposure to pollutants in the air can contribute to a breakdown of collagen.

Anti-pollution skin care, then, is meant to “counteract the particulates in the air that lead to damaged skin,” Chapas said.

As Icecreamwala put it, the point of using anti-pollution skin care products is to “remove those tiny micro-particles from the pores so it’s not really clogging them anymore and also protect the skin from the pollution that can penetrate the deeper layers, because that pollution can actually break down collagen.”

The goal is to make a sort of barrier between your skin and pollutants in the air, she said.

According to both Icecreamwala and Chapas, antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, play a big part in protecting our skin from the effects of pollution in the air.

They both suggested incorporating a vitamin C serum into your daily skin care routine and recommended the same product: Skinceuticals C E Ferulic. (It’s pricey at $180, but even our own editor swears by it.

If you’re looking for some other recommendations, we’ve got plenty.)

Chapas said that vitamin C and other antioxidants help block the formation of free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells and potentially lead to premature aging) and “pigment pathways.”

“Melanin blockers, such as niacinamide, are also helpful,” she said, adding, “It’s important to have an intact skin barrier by using moisturizers with ceramides and not over-treating the skin with retinol or acids.”

Along with topical products, Icecreamwala said that it’s important to include vitamin C and other antioxidants into our diets, as they’re “going to protect our skin and bodies from inflammation.” She also said she’s a fan of exfoliating agents, salicylic and lactic acid, for taking off “the grime from the skin and [unclogging] the pores.”

“The closer you live to the pollution, the more it affects you,” Chapas said, noting that, in her experience, “city dwellers seem to have more pollution-related skin damage than country dwellers.”

Icecreamwala agreed, noting that commuters ― especially those who walk to and from work or find themselves on hot, grimy subway platforms those in New York ― might notice the effects of pollution on their skin more so than individuals who live in more suburban or rural communities.

Prevention is really the first step to combating the effects of pollution, but Icecreamwala noted that using antioxidants, for example, can encourage the regeneration of collagen once it’s broken down. It should be noted that no product or ingredient is magic, however.

In Chapas’ opinion, laser treatments ”offer a faster and more effective way to combat skin pigmentation and damage, [and] give the skin a healthier and younger appearance.”

And, of course, you should always be wearing sunscreen, which helps prevent additional damage caused by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. According to Icecreamwala, protecting your skin with sunscreen ― she prefers mineral sunscreens ― helps keep collagen from degrading as well.


10 Products That Protect Your Skin from Pollution

Anti-Pollution Skin Care: The Best Products to Defend Your Skin |

Try these all-star products to protect your skin from spots, wrinkles, and more caused by gross smog and debris.

Getty Images

You already know that sun exposure can seriously damage your skin. (You're taking all the right steps to avoid this, right? Ahem, sunscreen.) But the sun isn't the only thing to watch out for—there's another environmental skin saboteur out there: pollution.

Smog, particulate matter (minuscule particles of soot and dirt) and other grime in the air can wreak major havoc on your complexion. Pollution of this kind can cause inflammation and the formation of free radicals, which lead to spots, wrinkles, and a whole host of other issues.

Happily, the latest crop of skin-care products have powerful antioxidants and other ingredients to combat these detrimental effects. Ahead, 10 of our favorites.




This serum is a favorite among dermatologists for good reason.

Not only does it contain antioxidants l-ascorbic acid and alpha-tocopherol (you may know them as vitamins C and E), but it also includes ferulic acid, another potent plant-based antioxidant.

This power combo works synergistically to combat skin-damaging free radicals caused by both UV rays and pollution. Make it a non-negotiable step in your morning beauty routine, layering a few drops under sunscreen. ($165;

Elizabeth Arden

Pollution particles can be 20 times smaller than your pores, allowing them to lodge in your skin without your even knowing it (gross, but true). This multitasking mask touts a special polymer that lifts off and removes those pollutants.

Plus it has Idebenone, a powerful antioxidant, to counteract any damage the pollutants may have caused. It also removes excess dirt and oil, making pores look smaller and skin brighter and more even.

Not to mention that peeling it off is oh so satisfying. ($78;

Related: How to Shrink Large Pores for Flawlessly Clear Skin



Not only does this hydrating cream offer long-lasting hydration (up to 24 hours!), but it also removes and keeps pollution from adhering to your complexion.

Credit moringa extract, a peptide that both purifies the skin and keeps those pesky particles from sticking.

Bonus points for the lightweight gel formula that feels refreshing and cooling going on (perfect for hot, summer days) and its clean, slightly floral scent. ($70;


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The thin skin around your eyes is super susceptible to damage and the first place where fine lines typically appear, making a good eye cream essential. This one—the brand's first with SPF—has a broad-spectrum SPF 20, while white tea offers antioxidant protection.

Other natural extracts, such as white birch and edelweiss, safeguard skin from both pollution and IR (infra-red), another type of damaging radiation from the sun.

Add to that a slightly opalescent finish that brightens your entire eye area, and you've got the perfect eye cream to use every morning. ($38;


We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but simply washing your face at night isn't enough to get rid of all the grime that's built up during the day. When those tiny pollution particles get wedged into your pores, removing them requires a little more elbow grease.

The good news: The patented sonic cleansing technology in the Clarisonic face brushes has been shown to be 30 times better at removing this gunk than manual washing alone.

Their latest version is admittedly pricey, but comes with a face brush, body brush, and massaging head attachment that helps firm and smooth skin. #Worthit. ($349;




Use the time you spend snoozing as an opportunity to treat your skin: Swap your standard night cream for this option, which has antioxidants from plant stem cells to counteract pollution, plus brightening and firming vitamin C. There's also a blend of botanicals that combat pollution-induced damage to the skin barrier (translation: dehydration), all in a non-oily formula. ($70;


Shop All Tinted Moisturizers

You should (obviously) be wearing sunscreen every day, so why not use one that goes above and beyond its standard job description, this newbie. The mineral formula keeps skin looking youthful, thanks to peptides that support healthy collagen and elastin.

It also has antioxidants green tea and vitamin E, and a detoxifying and anti-inflammatory plant extractto protect against environmental aggressors. And beyond all that, the universal tint evens out your complexion, a good choice for days when you want to skip makeup.


And if you plan to break a serious sweat, check out these sunscreens for working out that don't suck—or streak or leave you greasy.


City-dwellers, be sure to keep a bottle of this in your purse. The spritz instantly protects your skin from cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, and other pollutants, thanks to a biosaccharide gum (derived from sugar and yeast) that forms an invisible barrier and blocks these nasties.

And it doesn't stop at these instantaneous benefits, either. Zinc and manganese amino acids knock out free radicals and protect the skin from oxidative stress. The best part? It can be used repeatedly throughout the day as needed and won't mess up your makeup. ($38; sephora.




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The makeup brand makes its first foray into skin care with a line of products specifically made to protect skin from the environment.

This lightweight serum is chock-full of antioxidants vitamins C and E, and pomegranate to strengthen, protect, and brighten your complexion. It also delivers immediate hydration, making it the perfect pre-makeup prep step.

And can we talk about the price for a sec? A major steal for such skin care benefits. ($16; available in June on


Thorough cleansing plus regular exfoliation keep pollution particles from getting stuck in your skin.

This powder exfoliant (mix it with water and it turns into a foamy paste) contains a type of charcoal to purify pores, along with red algae and tara fruit extract to keep debris from adhering to the skin.

It exfoliates both chemically and mechanically—credit enzymes and rice bran extract, respectively—to leave skin smooth and glowy. Also nice: The formula is gentle enough for everyday use. ($58;