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Pollution is the latest threat to supple, healthier-looking skin, so we’ve turned to the experts to find out how to tackle the problem

You take good care of your skin, you eat right, you moisturise – you’ll look peachy for years to come, right? But then you step outside and your complexion has a new war to fight: pollution. We know pollution is a huge issue in the UK – scientists have found that as many as 40,000 people are dying from dirty air across the country every year. But it’s not just our bodies that are at risk; pollution also affects our delicate skin, in turn, ageing it and making it look dull.

Free radicals

“As much as 80% of premature ageing is from the environment,” says Dr Howard Murad, founder of Murad Skincare. “Given the rise in urban pollution, advanced skincare solutions are in demand to combat these environmental stressors.” When it comes to protecting our precious skin, it’s not just car exhaust fumes we have to watch out for, either: “There are many aggressors out there that can cause ageing,” explains Dr Murad. “UVA/UVB rays, infrared, high-energy visible blue light and particulate matter, otherwise known as pollution, can trigger the immune system to produce excessive melanin which can cause pigmentation and skin darkening, inflammation and weakening of the skin barrier, causing lines and wrinkles. As a result, pollution is said to be one of the major sources of concern for health and beauty.”

Pure pores

“Pollution particles are sometimes 20 times smaller than pores, allowing them to penetrate the deeper layers of the epidermis,” explains skincare therapist Louise Thomas. “To really wash away any grime and dirt caused by pollution, it’s best to cleanse your face as soon as you get home – this will reduce damage and clogging,” says Stacey Whittaker, award-winning make-up artist and skincare expert. “Also, look for products containing vitamins A, C and E, as these protect your skin and act as a barrier against pollution.” Louise agrees that looking to your diet can be key: “Mop up harmful free radicals, which are the thieves of youth, by eating and applying antioxidants. Think green tea, coffee, Tazman pepper, berries and dark chocolate.”

Keep on moving

“Exercise is very good for the skin,” says Dean Nathanson, founder of the CACI micro-current anti-ageing facials. “Increased circulation from exercise means that more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to your skin cells, and you can enhance elasticity by toning your facial muscles specifically. The worst kind of exercise you can do is high-impact cardio near busy and congested roads,” he continues. “Your skin’s pores are opened up, and the increased blood flow means that the pollution from the road – especially particulate matter – can penetrate the outer layers of the skin, in turn, oxidising the dermis, which can seriously reduce the collagen levels in the skin.” The result? A grey, lifeless-looking complexion and more lines and wrinkles. “Plan your route so that you avoid the busiest roads. Pollution maps of London show that it peaks around certain streets. Wearing a barrier face cream will reduce particulate matter getting into your skin, but remember the cream may come off when you perspire.”

While you’re on the hunt for anti-pollution skincare, it’s important to shop sustainably and look for plastic-free products, here’s our guide to plastic-free beauty buys.

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