Is Anti-Pollution Skin Care Actually Protective?

If you’ve lately read the tiny print on any of your favorite cosmetic products, you may have noticed that “anti-pollution” is one of the many claimed advantages.

Perhaps you’ve seen an increase in anti-pollution skin care products at your favorite online beauty stores. In any case, you may have wondered: Is pollution truly bad for my skin? Is it possible to preserve it with anti-pollution skin care? We combed through the evidence and enlisted the help of a few renowned dermatologists to weigh in on this buzzword in the beauty world.

The truth

The “anti-pollution skin care” craze originated in Asia, as did many of the world’s largest beauty fads. This might be due to the fact that air pollution levels in several major Asian cities, such as Beijing, are quite high.

We’re all a little more conscious of pollution these days, with climate change being a concern no matter where you live. But what does research say about the anti-pollution skin care benefits?

How Pollution Affects Your Skin

Pollution has been related to a variety of skin diseases, including hives, acne, premature skin aging, and inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, according to several studies. According to Dr. Adam Mamelak, a board certified dermatologist in Austin, Texas, pollutants permeate through skin cell membranes and disperse into the body. Pollutants have been demonstrated to cause oxidative stress by reducing naturally occurring antioxidant levels once they penetrate the skin.


“Antioxidants and free radicals are usually kept in check by the body.” External causes, including as pollution or ultraviolet (UV) radiation, may induce an imbalance, according to Dr. Kellie Reed of Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas. Chronic exposure to pollutants in the environment creates free radicals while diminishing the antioxidant vitamins C and E in the skin, according to two studies from 2015Trusted Source and 2019.

This results in inflammation and a breakdown of the skin’s barrier. According to Reed, environmental pollution has been demonstrated to contribute to skin damage that leads to aging, such as sun spots and wrinkles, as well as moisture loss. Increased levels of ozone pollution were connected to an increase in ER visits for hives, eczema, and contact dermatitis, according to a survey of almost 70,000 individuals conducted by Trusted Source.

The following are the principal outdoor contaminants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • Heavy metals
  • nitrogen dioxide
  • sulphur dioxide
  • carbon monoxide
  • particulate matter (PM)

“When nitrogen oxide molecules are exposed to UV light, they mix with volatile organic compounds and get activated, resulting in ground-level ozone,” Mamelak adds. Particulate matter causes oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which are connected to cancer. A reliable source for information about skin aging.

Another pollutant found mostly in cigarette smoke, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), has been linked to accelerated skin aging. Pollutants are most harmful in large, heavily populated cities, which should come as no surprise, according to Robinson. According to Mamelak, automobile emissions are a substantial contributor to nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulphur dioxide pollution.

How can anti-pollution skin care keep your skin safe?

According to Robinson, there isn’t much evidence to back up anti-pollution skin care products, and the majority of studies have been conducted by skin care corporations.

“There is undeniable prejudice.” “However, many can demonstrate considerable outcomes in the use of their goods,” Mamelak adds. Furthermore, since the word “anti-pollution” is unregulated, many skin care products might offer anti-pollution properties without the “anti-pollution” label, according to Mamelak.

All of the physicians we spoke with agreed that anti-pollution skin care products include substances that protect the skin from all types of harm, including pollution.

They may work their magic in a variety of ways:

1. Antioxidants, for starters

According to Robinson and Reed, antioxidants attach to free radicals before they may cause damage to skin cells. They may be able to combat pollution-related skin damage, according to limited but encouraging study. According to a study published in Trusted Source, participants who used an antioxidant serum containing vitamins C, E, and ferulic acid twice a day for two weeks following laser treatments had a larger decrease in pollution-related dark spots on their skin.


A 2020 research financed by an American skin care firm discovered that consistently applying a solution containing vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid), vitamin E, and ferulic acid to human skin cells in the lab reduced pollution-induced damage.

In 2019, researchers from an Italian skin care firm monitored 20 women living in a high-pollution metropolitan region for a study called Trusted Source. After a month of using the company’s serum, which includes ferulic acid and vitamin C, they discovered that it decreased dark spots and enhanced skin barrier function. According to Reed, the following antioxidants have been demonstrated to be the most efficient in preventing skin from free radical damage:

  • vitamin C
  • Retinol (vitamin A)
  • Niacinamide
  • vitamin E
  • coenzymeQ10
  • resveratrol
  • polyphenols
  • ferulic acid
  • astaxanthin
  • glutathione
  1. Moisturizers

Moisturizing on a regular basis increases the skin barrier, reducing the chance of air contaminants penetrating skin cells and causing oxidative stress.

Robinson and Reed suggest the following:

  • Ceramides. According to Robinson and Reed, these are some of the most efficient substances for boosting the skin’s barrier function.
  • Hyaluronic acid. It’s also known as sodium hyaluronate or simply hyaluronate and is an essential component of skin.
  1. UV blockers that are physically present

According to Robinson, UV radiation acts like a smart bomb, penetrating the skin and bursting collagen and elastic fibers, resulting in wrinkles, sagging skin, and cellular DNA alterations that raise cancer risk. However, there’s another reason to shield your skin from the sun: certain contaminants are activated by UV radiation before they do harm, according to Mamelak.

A mineral sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher (search for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) acts as a physical barrier against UV radiation and pollution.

  1. Probiotics and prebiotics

“Pollution has been found to alter the skin’s microbiome,” Mamelak adds, referring to the bacteria and germs that naturally dwell on the skin and contribute to skin health. He goes on to say that microbiome skin care may “help restore the right balance of bacteria on the skin.”

  1. Ingredients that haven’t been thoroughly tested

According to specialists, malachite is a pollution magnet that attaches to heavy metals and reduces oxidative stress on the skin. However, Robinson said he hasn’t seen any large research establishing whether or not heavy metals cause skin harm.

Other anti-pollution skin care elements that Robinson has encountered include algae, Chinese herbs, ginkgo biloba, and sea salt. “I don’t believe there is any medical evidence to back up these other claims,” Robinson adds.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Anti-Pollution Skin Care Product

Here are a few pointers to help you get the most out of your anti-pollution skin care product:

  • Begin with a mild cleaner. According to Reed and Mamelak, cleansing may lower the particle burden of contaminants on the skin, particularly particulate matter. Cleanse with a mild cleanser: According to Reed, harsh soaps rob skin of natural oils, damaging the skin barrier.
  • After that, you should use an anti-pollution product. After washing your face, use an anti-pollution lotion or serum once or twice a day. If it’s a serum, Robinson recommends using it before your moisturizer.
  • Moisturize your skin twice a day. “Hydrate your skin to ensure a robust skin barrier,” Reed advises.

  • Every day, apply sunscreen. Because it’s reflecting and doesn’t need to be absorbed into the skin to operate, a mineral sunscreen (containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) should be the final step in your morning skin care regimen. According to Robinson, a chemical sunscreen should be applied first.


  • Encourage your skin to regenerate. Consult your physician about a chemical peel to heal existing skin damage. “They thicken skin to make it more resistant against environmental assaults,” Robinson explains.
  • Exfoliation should be a part of your skin care routine. According to Robinson, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) is a skin care component that is occasionally used in chemical peels to help thicken skin over time and enhance barrier function.
  • Make exercise, sleep, and a balanced diet a priority. According to Robinson, these activities improve general skin health by maintaining the skin’s natural barrier function. “All of these boost metabolism and aid in the removal of pollutants from the body,” Mamelak explains.

What is it?

Although there are several anti-pollution products available, experts recommend using a serum or lotion. According to Mamelak, “they remain on the skin and are a terrific method to administer antioxidants and humectants to help prevent, heal, and restore.” Look for antioxidants as well as ceramides or hyaluronic acid.

In Conclusion

The risk of wrinkles, acne, and eczema has been linked to pollution. Hydrating components like ceramides and hyaluronic acid in skin care products assist to strengthen your skin’s barrier function and protect it from environmental aggressors.

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E protect the skin from free radical damage. A mineral sunscreen, on the other hand, may physically block UV radiation as well as pollution. To be sure, you don’t have to buy a product that’s particularly branded as “anti-pollution” to benefit from pollution-fighting properties.

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