It’s fairly well-known that the number one cause of irritation, allergies, pigmentation, and dullness when it comes to skin is pollution. But how far does pollution go in determining your skin health? Very far, especially in a country like India where smoke, vehicle-exhaust, dust, and even humidity add to skin troubles. Beauty brands are increasingly launching skincare remedies in the form of sprays, masks, and creams to target this issue, and the anti-pollution beauty market has been grown by 30 percent over the past six months.
How pollution affects our skin
“Pollution in general is classified as particulate matter, gases, and screen-based light. Particulate matter causes micro-damage, which leads to sensitive skin and micropigmentation; gases lead to accelerated ageing and increased oil production; and screen-based light makes pigmentation worse,” explains Dr Aneesh Sheth of Dr. Sheths, a skincare label that has just launched an Anti-Pollution Day Serum and the Dr. Sheth’s CBD & Ceramide Overnight Repair Serum. Indian skin in specific tends to pigment more, adding to the irritation, ageing, and acne that comes with the effects of pollution.
There are other new-age labels also looking at pollution skincare remedies and products. Organic Riot have a pollution-specific cream called the Organic Riot Smog Block that is loaded with manuka extract, which works to strengthen this protective barrier. “I think that anti-pollution products will be as widely used as sun-protection in the coming 3-4 years. The levels of traffic-related air pollution, gases like nitrogen dioxide are linked to the formation of dark spots on the skin, a study from Journal of Investigative Dermatology found. Not only that, it was also seen that when pollution interacted with ultraviolet radiation, it led to damage at a cellular level,” explains Siddharth Somaiya, founder of Organic Riot.
Brands like Nykaa have created products that protect the skin, like the Nykaa Skinshield Anti-Pollution Foundation. “The demand for ‘defense or shields’ for city skin reflects growing awareness and concern about the impact of pollution. Pollution specific skincare also helps in slowing down early signs of ageing like fine lines, dark spots etc. This is one of the major reasons why we launched Nykaa Skinshield Anti-Pollution Foundation with triple active action formula,” adds Reena Chhabra, CEO, Nykaa Brands.
Ingredients that help with pollution
“There are two general kinds of ingredients that help with pollution – film formers, which form an invisible layer on your face to prevent particles from damaging and entering your skin,” explains Dr Sheth. “Other ingredients like rosehip extract that has highest amounts of Vitamin A; tamanu extracts are known for their skin regenerative properties; manuka extract promotes new cell growth and reduces scars; and (non-nano) zinc oxide, which is one of the safest natural SPF ingredients. Even Cupuaçu butter helps improve skin’s elasticity, as it supports skin proteins like collagen and elastin,” explains Somaiya.
As for makeup, Nykaa uses Bio Saccharide Gum 4, a star ingredient, which does a brilliant job at creating a protective barrier against atmospheric pollution and UV rays. “A rich composition of anti-oxidants and vegetable glycerine ensures that even the deepest layers of your skin stay hydrated,” adds Chhabra.
How to take care of your skin
Sunscreen is the basic of all pollution related skincare remedies, but most sunscreens do not protect against pollution. “It’s best to add a product with an anti-pollution claim to your regimen, and understand how it works. A deep cleanse when you come back is essential, followed by a product that works to repair the skin with ingredients like ceramides, cica etc. Calming ingredients like chamomile and CBD also help alleviate some of the sensitivity,” explains Dr. Sheth.
To deal with pollution is to first understand its damage. “Pollution damages collagen production in such a way that over time your skin is basically continuously inflamed at a microscopic level. Constant inflammation is known to decrease collagen production. The idea is to calm skin down rather than punish it into obedience,” advises Somaiya. But that also means constant maintenance. Chhabra makes sure it’s always the basics that are followed. “One should always make sure to wear good anti-pollution foundation and sunscreen. Always layer your lips with a lip balm containing SPF,” she adds. Consumption of a diet rich in antioxidants, and supplements that contain collagen, retinol and essential vitamins help. Weekly, monthly dermat appointments are a must too. “I think doing a regular dermabrasion/peel/medifacial with light extractions followed by a repair mask is a great way to tackle pollution damage too,” adds Dr Sheth.
Simple skincare remedies for pollution-affected skin
Use a good oil or a balm to remove makeup and debris and add a gentle face wash to the mix. Choose a cleanser for your skin type that has no added sulfates.
Exfoliate both physically and chemically
Exfoliating cleans your pores and remove the dirt, oil, and unnecessary gunk so try a physical one that is gentle, and a chemical one that’s really effective.
Whether internally or externally, take a multivitamin every day, and look for cleansers, moisturisers, and serums that contain antioxidant vitamins C and E.
Use a sheet mask regularly
A good detoxifying one will open up pores, infuse your skin, and if you roll a jade roller on top, just breathes new life into your skin.
A good one with SPF 30 and upwards will help set the pace for cleaner, healthier and happy skin.
We put together a few anti-pollution skincare essentials that will fight against free radical damage, repair damaged skin barrier and generally help you achieve healthier skin.