Pollution is one of the main contributors to ill health in the UK - but have you ever stopped to think about what it might be doing to your skin?
According to , sales of anti-pollution skincare - moisturisers and cleansers especially - has shot up by 30% in just six months, as we're slowly becoming aware of the effects that pollutants in the environment have on our once radiant complexions.
'Every day, microscopic specks of soot, smoke and acid are released into our atmosphere,' says Dr. Isabel Sharkar from . 'When the particles sizes are smaller than our pores, they infiltrate the deeper layers of our skin.'
Cue dullness, hyper-pigmentation, inflammation, dehydration, fine lines... We could go on.
And we hate to break it to you, but car emissions aren't the only thing to blame. UV rays, blue light from our phones, iron particles from train tracks, ozone and cigarette smoke all pose a threat to our skin's protective antioxidant and collagen levels as soon as we step out of the door. According to cosmetic doctor and skin expert , they can even directly damage DNA, which stops the cell's ability to repair itself.
The best way to counteract the attack? By beefing up your skincare arsenal.
Check out our pick of the best antioxidant-packed, vitamin-infused, pollution-blocking skincare products and beat the skin-scavenging smog for good.
According to facialist , antioxidants are not only brilliant at neutralising free radicals, but they're great at preventing the breakdown of collagen - because no-one wants deflated-looking skin, right?
'I recommend applying this in the morning to help counteract oxidation, to repair damage and to protect the skin against future damage,' she says. Skin expert is a huge fan, too.
Murad's City Skin range is an innovative one. Blue light from devices (yep, really), airborne pollution, infrared radiation and UVA and UVB don't stand a chance against this mineral sunscreen which feels satisfyingly matte, not chalky.
'This serum contains the most stable and active form form of vitamin C,' says Rabbia Aslam, skin expert and Clinical Director at , a main pollution-fighting ingredient.
'Vitamin C works as an antioxidant to neutralise free radicals before they can do damage, all whilst increasing the firm look of skin,' says Rabbia. 'It also boasts hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 which both hydrate and smooth the skin.'
According to ARK, creating an initial barrier against pollution such as CO2, ozone and cigarette smoke is so important if you want to avoid the signs of premature ageing. Enter their savvy primer. Instead of just sitting there, the vitamin E-packed formula penetrates the skin's surface and targets the cell's nucleus to keep dullness, fine lines and sagging at a distance, while SPF filters block UV rays.
Like an apron for your skin, this milky, feather-light serum is made up of a potent blend of antioxidants, which are essentially vitamins that work to deflect all of the bad stuff flung at your skin on a daily basis - take that, urban smog. It creates a flawless canvas for make-up, too.
Cool beauty fact: Activated charcoal can absorb thousands of times its own weight in
free radicals like bacteria and, of course, pollution, which makes this face wash a must-have for city dwellers exposed to high levels of particulate matter - the most damaging kind. Like a magnet, the creamy-gel binds itself to daily grime before it has the chance to dull your glow - and it's approved by facialist and skin expert
If you walk to and from work or exercise outside in an urban environment, it's a good idea to introduce a gentle cleansing brush into your P.M skincare routine to prevent micro-particles from penetrating your pores. P.S. Don't forget to snap up the , £17, too. The charcoal-infused bristles work twice as hard to draw out pollution, make-up and everyday grime.
Lighter-than-light and incredibly soothing, this facial oil is made up of a dream team of antioxidants which kick start sluggish cell production so that damage is repaired - and all while you snooze. With added lady thistle extract, the formula constructs an invisible coat of armour over skin exposed to daily environmental aggressors.
If your skin is prone to oil slicks and you feel like you're caked in pollution and grime before you've even got to the office, invest in a tube of this. With 100% mineral broad spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen, a cocktail of antioxidant vitamins and hydrating yet mattifying properties, it fights the good fight against UV rays, car emissions, excess sebum... Need we go on? It also veils skin in a subtle tint - apply after moisturiser for a dewy finish.
Studies conducted in the the most polluted areas of China revealed that pollution micro-particles in the air can lead to dehydrated skin - and that's where this stuff comes in. Filled to bursting with moisture magnet hyaluronic acid, it hydrates and plumps without any stickiness. Layer underneath SPF to dial up your skin's defence against aggressors.
If you're going to pick up any pollution-proofing mask, make it one backed by clinical expertise. Loved by beauty journos everywhere, this Kiehl's offering purges pores of city grime and feeds lacklustre skin the nutrients it needs to glow. Plus, the gel-texture is super-cooling.
Teeny tiny noxious molecules of particulate matter in polluted air have the ability to seep through pores causing fine lines, hyper-pigmentation and inflammation in the long run - but OSKIA's Cleansing Concentrate, which transforms into a light foam on contact with water, does a great job at dislodging them before they can ravage your complexion. We love the soothing, herbaceous scent.
This may be invisible once it hits the skin, but it's seriously mighty stuff. Biosaccharide Gum acts like a shield to bolster defence against environmental damage on the skin's surface while amino acids protect at a deeper level. It's the ultimate cooling spritz and will make your sweaty, pollution-laden commute just that bit more bearable.
'The best way to banish impurities is with a deeply nourishing face mask,' says skincare expert and facialist .
'This is ideal as it uses organic ingredients, enzymes, AHAs, glycolic acids and antioxidants which absorb city pollution and leave skin glowing. The green tea extract in particular is known to combat oxidative stress,' - things like UV rays and polluted water (yep, we're talking dirty city rain) that can lead to damaged, ageing skin.
SkinCeuticals' Phloretin CF might seem expensive for a beauty product, but trust us on this one. The solution wages a three-pronged attack on infrared radiation, UV rays, and ozone to name but a few pollutants thanks to the powerful blend of 10% vitamin C (the most effective is proven to be between 10-20%), 5% ferulic acid and 2% phloretin. Facialists all over the globe swear by it.
A hero skincare ingredient among most specialists, vitamin C is one of the strongest pollution repellents, but the vitamin C in this moisturiser (5% THD ascorbate if you fancy a little science lesson) is seriously clever. Half stays put on the skin's surface to block the nasties, while the other half is absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin to repair and brighten. The gel-creme moisturiser also features vitamin E which works in tandem with vitamin C to hydrate and neutralise environmental aggressors.
Sounds gross, but pollutants can get stuck in the paste-like mixture of oil and dead cells that sit on the surface of skin, so a weekly peel is a must if you want to swerve dullness and dark spots. Clinical facialist Kate Kerr suggests looking out for products with glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids. Our pick? This baby, as it boasts all three.
Double cleansing is vital if you're serious about protecting your skin from the glow-zapping effects that microscopic particles of soot and smoke have on your skin. Glycolic and lactic acids are at the heart of this clever gel-to-foam formula, so it exfoliates and stimulates cell turnover as it eradicates pollutants, make-up, oil and grime. 'It's one of my favourites,' says Dr. Isabel Sharkar from .
'Your skin has a circadian rhythm and repairs itself from daily stress as you sleep, explains Dr. Natalie Blakely, aesthetic doctor and owner of the . 'To make your skin work extra hard, use a night cream after cleansing. If you're looking for an all-rounder that tackles everything from pigmentation through to wrinkles and lines, consider investing in this. The luxurious formula sinks in effortlessly and boasts 51 proven skin benefits. It smells divine too!'