Environmental pollution is a significant problem in many large cities around the world and anti-pollution skincare is a hot new trend coming out of Asia. A significant number of studies have examined the effects of pollution on the ageing of the skin and found some alarming results.
Pollutants are very diverse, from some airborne components such as Ozone or Nitrogen Dioxide to industrial residues such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and nanoparticles. The effect that these pollutants can have on the skin depends of course on the daily environmental exposure. This exposure will vary from location to location and between individuals. However, if you live in a large polluted city then it is very likely that your skin is being exposed to significant pollution every single day.
Effects of Pollution on the Skin
Researchers have found the following effects of pollution on the skin:
• Ozone in photochemical smog appears to speed up skin ageing, by depleting Vitamin E levels in the
skin, interfering with wound-healing processes and causing oxidative stress.
• Skin exposed to pollution areas experiences a higher sebum secretion rate, when compared to non-
• There is a tendency of the cutaneous pH to decrease when exposed to pollution. One study found a
higher a significantly higher amount of lactic acid in the skin in polluted areas compared to non-polluted
• Squalene and vitamin E are the main antioxidants at the surface of the skin. Squalene is decreased in
polluted areas, as this antioxidant is mobilised to combat oxidative stress in the skin. Low values of both
these two antioxidants is normally associated with dry skin which may be a side effect of pollution.
• Cholesterol in the skin is decreased when exposed to pollution.
What is anti-pollution skincare? It will either include products that prevent skin damage caused by pollution, or products that rectify skin damage caused by pollution – or both.
When you’re formulating with the overall aim of providing anti-pollution skincare, you should aim to incorporate high antioxidant levels into the overall skincare product. Living in a highly polluted area means that often your skin may feel as if it has a thick layer of grime and grease on your skin, so gentle cleansing products will be important. You may also wish to account for higher levels of sebum production by formulating skincare which has a balancing effect on the oil levels of the skin. Barrier repair functionality is also a key point to consider, as cholesterol levels are low in the skin exposed to pollution. Some people may find that pollution has a drying effect on their skin given depleted antioxidant levels. Finally, consider the pH of your products and aim to normalise skin pH by ensuring that your products sit in the correct pH range of healthy normal skin – somewhere between 4- 6.5.