All my life, I couldn’t wait to escape from Senigallia.
It’s a pretty little town. But very small. Once summer’s over and it’s too cold to go to the beach, it’s dead. There’s nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Nothing ever happens. But, everyone knows everyone and has their own opinion on what they should and shouldn’t do. People there are very narrow-minded.
But, there’s something good about Senigallia. There’s not much pollution there. Yes, there’s traffic, but, unless it pours down, it’s not that bad. In spring and summer, everyone takes to their bikes, anyway. There are no factories there contaminating the area. And, every year, our beaches are awarded the Blue Flag. It’s a certification the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) gives to beaches that meet stringent standards of water purity and environmental safety.
So, I never really thought much about what the few toxins in the air were doing to my skin. Then, I moved to London. As you can imagine, things are much worse here. It’s a struggle to keep your fingernails clean. Leave your laundry to dry in the garden, and it’ll soon get so dirty, you’ll have to wash it again. And my skin, especially my face, is exposed to that grime every day . Ewww!
Yes, I wash my face twice a day, but that’s not enough. Some of those toxins are absorbed by the skin, and cause some serious damage.
How pollution harms the skin
There’s quite a lot of research that claims pollution makes skin age faster than normal. Soothe and diesel exhaust are the worst culprits. According to Jean Krutmann, a toxicologist and professor of dermatology and environmental medicine at the University of Dusseldorf in Germany, they “trigger genes responsible for wrinkle formation and inflammation, and melanocyte proliferation that causes uneven pigmentation.” That means more wrinkles and dark spots! *sighs*
Studies have shown that low level ozone, smoke, smog, and other ambient air pollutants can generate the formation of wrinkle-inducing free radicals, cause inflammation, impair the skin’s protective barrier, alter its microflora, and deplete it of antioxidants, particularly vitamins C and E.
But, don’t panic just yet. Pollution is nasty, but we’re not totally defenceless against it. There are a couple of things we can do to reduce its damaging effects on our skin. And they both involve antioxidants, those powerful friends that can bust free radicals and premature wrinkles. Here’s how:
1. Use skincare products chockfull of antioxidants
Whether free radicals are caused by pollution, UV rays, or oxygen, antioxidants can intercept and destroy them. The good news is that antioxidants are naturally present in the skin. The bad news that daily, cumulative exposure to all those damaging nasties deplete them.
But, worry not. You can replenish them in two ways. The first one is to use skincare products full of antioxidants. I mean just that. It must be full of THEM. Don’t waste time (and money) on the search for the best antioxidant. It doesn’t exist.
When it comes to antioxidants, the more the merrier. Research has shown they work best when used together. For instance, vitamins C and E and ferulic acid boost one another’s properties and help reduce damage caused by oxidative stress (wrinkles and dark spots).
Add a touch of vitamin A, a pinch of rosemary, a few drops of green tea, a sprinkle of resveratrol with some coenzyme Q10 thrown in for good measure, and you’ve got an even more powerful anti-aging formula.
The best products with antioxidants
So, what skincare products should you invest in? Definitely a serum. They contain a more concentrated dose of antioxidants, so work better and faster. But using an antioxidant-rich moisturizer too surely wouldn’t hurt. Here are my top picks:
1. Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol ($32.00)
This serum contains pretty much every antioxidant you can think of, including vitamins A, C, and E, green tea, and grape seed extract. It speeds up cellular turnover, fights free radicals, and makes skin smoother. There’s also a version for dry and sensitive skin, which contains less vitamin A (can be irritating if your skin is very delicate) and more anti-inflammatory ingredients. Available at Paula’s Choice.
2. FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2 ($89.00)
Rather than ferulic acid, Nicky Zevola of Future Derm decided to pair vitamins C and E with caffeic acid. This is another powerful combination that can brighten skin and boost the production of collagen, which leads to a younger and smoother appearance. Available at FutureDerm.
3. Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($162.00)
If you prefer the original combination (vitamins C and E and ferulic acid), you can always turn to Skinceuticals CE Ferulic. Yes, it’s super expensive, but it works. Available at Dermstore.
4. Clinique Super Rescue Antioxidant Night Moisturizer ($47.00)
There are three versions of this moisturizer: for very dry skin, for very oily skin, and for dry to combination skin. Pick the one that best suits your skin type. They’re all loaded with skin-friendly antioxidants that’ll help you slow down premature aging. Available at Sephora.
5. Paula’s Choice Earth Sourced Antioxidant-Enriched Natural Moisturizer ($27.00)
This is perfect for the natural skincare lovers out there. It contains a pletora of plant-based antioxidants, and none of the irritating natural ingredients that can harm skin. Yes, you read that right. Not everything that’s natural is good for the skin. Available at Paula’s Choice.
2. Eat a diet rich in antioxidants
The second way to resupply the skin of the antioxidants it lost is to eat them up. They can be found in lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Berries, beans, artchockes, pecans, walnuts, plums, tomatoes, spinach, pumpkins, oranges, avocadoes, thyme, and oregans are just some of the many foods rich in antioxidants, and they should all be part of a healthy diet anyway.
Of course, you don’t have to eat avocadoes if you don’t like them, for example. But, again, don’t get sidetrack by the search for the best antioxidant super food. Again, the more the merrier. The more antioxidants-rich foods you gobble up, the better your skin will look. And the healthier you’ll feel. Antioxidants help prevent lots of diseases, too.
The Bottom Line
Our beautiful world is, sadly, very polluted. And that negatively impacts both our health and our skin. Eating plenty of foods rich in antioxidants and using skincare products chockfull of them are the best ways to fight the damage pollution inflicts to our skin. But, don’t be stingy. Remember, the more, the merrier!
How do you defend your skin against pollution?