While the impact of pollution on our health is well documented, the effect it has on our skin is still a work in progress. What is known though, is that pollution has the potential to deplete our skin’s moisture stores and exacerbate ageing.
“Air pollutants include the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), volatile organic compounds (VOC), oxides, particulate matter (PM), ozone, and cigarette smoke. Prolonged and repetitive exposure to these agents can have negative effects on the skin.” says Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson.*
Our body’s response mechanism to the presence air pollutants is for white blood cells to produce free radicals, but as these cells cannot kill the pollution particles, this mechanism results in increased free radicals which in turns leads to oxidative stress and inflammation.
While research shows that pollution can have negative effects on our skin, scientists are yet to uncover the best mode of defence against it. Many skincare brands have already released products that claim to create an environmental barrier against air pollutants. But are these products worth the investment? Not really. Rather than spending a fortune on anti-pollution skincare, expert dermatologists like Dr Gray recommend investing in a good quality cleanser, an antioxidant serum and a broad-spectrum SPF that you can easily wear every day.
Antioxidants act as a buffer between our body and free radicals.* A topical antioxidant is best because the oral absorption of vitamins is limited. Here are our favourite antioxidant-rich products that can help protect your cells from free radical damage, while also preventing the formation of new free radicals.
A good cleanser is the foundation of good skin. Ao Skincare Prepare is packed with antioxidants, like totarol and ferulic acid, to protect and revive aging skin, as well as essential omega fatty acids to boost moisture levels and strengthen the skin barrier.
A couple of notable New Zealand botanicals in this cleanser are totarol, an antioxidant that is also helpful for acne, and New Zealand tree fern, which has a component in it that gives the skin an instant tightening effect. Kiwi oil — still on the New Zealand theme — is also a great addition, as it has vitamin C, vitamin E, essential fatty acids and even an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) component for some gentle exfoliation.
But it’s the addition of stem cells (the important meristem ones) from the gardenia plant make this cleanser seem extra special. As well as being a tad exotic, these particular plant stem cells are supposed to boost collagen production. *
Ao Skincare is a multifunctional sheer lotion that simultaneously protects skin from all types of environmental stress (UVA, UVB and oxidative damage) while helping repair skin. It is made using New Zealand Astaxanthin, a carotenoid found in algae that functions as a potent antioxidant. 6,000 times more powerful than Vitamin C, astaxanthin also helps prevent the oxidative damage to skin after exposure to UVA radiation.
Restore is packed with antioxidants, peptides and vitamins to revitalise and strengthen your dynamic boundary and help restore cellular function. Key ingredients in this serum include spin trap - a potent antioxidant that intercepts free radicals before they can cause damage, sodium ascorbyl phosphate - a stable form of vitamin C, and boosts it with ferulic acid, niacinimide (vitamin B3) and copper peptide (bis copper acetate). *