Pollution is the buzzword in skincare for 2016, thanks to new research into exactly what it does to your skin. It's not all doom and smoggy gloom though, as it's easy to protect yourself with the latest air defences.
So, why is everyone talking about pollution?
Clearly nobody ever thought dirty air was great for skin, but now we know exactly why it can add years on to you. A quick science fact — air pollution is made up of particles that love latching onto your face. Some bind to the fats in your skin, while others are tiny enough to slip in through your pores.
Icky, admittedly. But how bad can a bit of mucky air be?
Very. First of all, pollution attacks the skin barrier; so your first line of defence is breached. Moisture drains away and skin gets dry and rough. A weakened barrier also leaves you wide open to skin allergies, so you can suddenly react to products you've used for years.
Is pollution actually going to make me look old?
Afraid so. Pollutant particles trigger free radicals, which cause the same sort of ageing that too much sun can lead to. It's not just a case of early onset wrinkles either. "There's a link between air pollution and pigmentation spots on the forehead and cheeks, which previously were thought to be caused solely by the sun," says pollution expert Dr Jean Krutman.
I don't live in a city. So I'm okay, right?
Obviously the more polluted the air you breathe, the greater the ill effects. However, research shows 90 per cent of people living in built-up areas are breathing polluted air. It doesn't just come from gridlocked traffic or factory fumes either. For instance, cigarette smoke (including the passive variety) is packed with pollutant particles. Plus, research is now looking at indoor sources of air pollution, from stoves and fireplaces to foam insulation and even computer printers!
Sun and smog — double trouble
SPF itself won't protect you from pollution, but skipping it will make the UV damage worse. Why? Well, UV and air toxins work as a kind of skin supervillain tag team, which means a combination of sun exposure and a polluted environment causes more damage than the two things individually. In short, wear SPF all year round.
Boost your air defences with these beauty wonders
You can fight back effects of pollution by tweaking your beauty regime:
Step one has to be shifting pollutant particles that sit on your skin's surface or lodge in follicles. Sonic cleansing brushes remove more dirt than manual cleaning.
Getting shot of the dead, dulling, polluted cells on your skin surface is another must. Go for a product that's gentle enough to use at least three times a week.
We've moved beyond the cliche of a mud pack and cucumber slices — high-tech masks are huge for 2016. Defending masques not only boost the skin barrier while it's on the face, but also blocks receptors that pollutants normally lock onto in between treatments.
Up the anti
Anti-oxidants are vital for neutralising the free radical carnage unleashed by pollution. Wear a day cream packed with antioxidant vitamins, and add in a vitamin C serum. As well as being a potent antioxidant, it helps curb and even reverse age spots triggered by pollution.
Foundation blocks the amount of pollutant particles that can latch on and penetrate into your skin.