Listen to this article
If you braved London’s smog cloud back in April – which in some places reached nine on the UK government’s 10-point pollution scale – you were almost certainly concerned about its effect on your lungs. You should have also been worrying about your skin: when it comes to environmental damage, pollution’s effects on the skin could be almost as ageing as that of the sun’s UV rays. If this is particularly bad news for Brits, who have some of the highest levels of pollution in the EU, it also affects around 80 per cent of the world’s population, who, according to Nasa, breathe polluted air that exceeds the World Health Organisation’s recommended levels.
“Urban pollution is caused by car emissions, air conditioning and smoke, all of which can weaken the skin,” says Marie McKeever, head of treatment development at Clarins.
To counteract the ageing effects of minuscule air-born particles, the beauty houses are turning their attention to cleansing. According to Robb Akridge, a member of the American Academy of Dermatology and co-founder of Pacific Bioscience Laboratories, makers of Clarisonic skincare, “In 2010, a study was done in Germany on older women living in the countryside versus those living near an expressway. The women living near the expressway had 22 per cent more hyper-pigmentation and more severe wrinkles. It was concluded that pollution in the air [had] caused this skin damage.”
Inspired by that study, Clarisonic has developed a sonic cleansing brush – think of it as a large, vibrating toothbrush for your face – that the company says can remove 30 times as much pollution from make-up free skin than using your hands alone.
“There are two major sizes of particulate matter in the air – 2.5 and 10 microns,” says Akridge. “A skin pore is 50 microns in size so these tiny particles can get deep into the pore, and the best way to remove them is by using an oscillating cleanser.”
The Clarisonic Plus Cleansing System (£179) has been designed to oscillate more than 300 times per second to deep-cleanse the complexion.
In January this year Clarins launched its Extra-Comfort Anti-Pollution Cleansing Cream (shown left, £25). The star ingredient here is moringa seed, which is believed to have detoxifying capabilities, which has been combined with jojoba, mango and shea butter, believed to strengthen the skin’s natural barrier.
Aurelia Probiotic Skincare claims that its Refine & Polish Miracle Balm (shown far left, £57), a brightening exfoliator, helps to decongest and balance dull, stress-damaged skin.
Once skin is thoroughly clean, protection is key to preventing more accelerated ageing.
Finally, for a quick midday protective pick-me-up, Ada Ooi, founder of skincare brand 001, suggests a floral water spritz misted over the face.
“While alcohol is anti-bacterial, it can be too harsh for skin,” she says. “Lavender, however, belongs to the mint family and is naturally antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and soothing. Give your skin a clean during lunch by spraying on to the face and wiping with a tissue in a circular motion.” Try 001’s Pure Lavender Hydrolat Toner (£25) and get ready to face the city – and the smog – with confidence.
Stockists in this article and this week’s other Style articles