How Pollution Damages Skin (And 2 Ways To Fight It)

by Gio

how to protect your skin from pollution

All my life, I couldn’t wait to escape from Senigallia.

It’s a charming small town. The kind of place where you spend all your summers on its velvety beach and the rest of the year hanging out in one of the few pubs on its outskirts, gossiping about your friends and colleagues. There’s nothing else to do there.

It’s not the kind of place where I could see myself building my life. But, there’s one thing I love about Senigallia. The lack of pollution.

You’re rarely stuck in traffic – unless it pours down – because people prefer to move around with their bikes. No factories exhale their polluting smoke out in the air. Its beaches are awarded the Blue Flag (a certification of purity) year after year.

Back then, I never gave much though to what pollution could do my skin. That all changed when I moved to London last year. I adore this gigantic, hectic, never-sleeping city but heck, pollution levels are sky high here!

If I leave my laundry to dry in the garden, it can get so dirty, I’ll have to wash it again. When I shower, I can see the clean fresh water turn black. I can’t seem to keep my fingernails clean.

And my face is exposed to that grime every single day. Ewww! Sure, I cleanse my face morning and night but, that’s not enough. Some of those toxins are absorbed by the skin, causing all sorts of havoc:

How Pollution Harms Your Skin

Did you know that pollution makes your 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*

Low level ozone, smoke, smog, and other ambient air pollutants hurt your skin, too:

  • They generate free radicals, which cause wrinkles
  • They cause inflammation, which is to blame for premature aging and lots of deadly diseases
  • They destroy the skin’s protective barrier, leaving it dry and irritated
  • They alter the skin’s microflora
  • They deplete skin of antioxidants (wrinkle-fighters), especially vitamins C and E.

Feel like moving from your big, polluted city now?

That’s a bit drastic. I worry about pollution, but I’m not gonna uproot my life and move away anytime soon (gosh, I’d be so dead bored in a charming, unpolluted small village).

Instead, I’m gonna build up my defences. Pollution is a nasty thing but you can protect your skin against it. Here’s how:

1. Use skincare products chockfull of antioxidants To Prevent Wrinkles

Antioxidants are your skin’s in-built police force. They patrol your body everyday looking for free radicals. It doesn’t matter if they’re caused by pollution, UV rays or oxygen (yes, breathing generates free radicals, too!), when an antioxidants spots a free radical, it destroys it.

Problem is, pollution can deplete this police force! With fewer antioxidants roaming through your body, free radicals have more chance of wreaking their ugly damage before being caught!

That’s where you come in. At any time, you can replenish this police force and up the number of antioxidants in your skin. The easiest way to do it is to use skincare products loaded with antioxidants.

When I say loaded, I mean loaded. Most creams and serums out there only have one or two lonely antioxidants. That’s not enough. Just like your body doesn’t need only kale, your skin doesn’t need only quercetin or vitamin C.

The most effective combo? Vitamins C and E and ferulic acid boost one another’s properties and help reduce damage caused by oxidative stress (wrinkles and dark spots).

I use a CEF serum in the morning and another loaded with 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, in the evening.

I prefer serums because they tend to have higher concentrations of antioxidants, so they work better and faster. But you get bonus points if your moisturizer has its fair share of antioxidants, too.

Best Picks:


You don’t need special skincare products marketed as anti-pollution to fight the smog and toxins in the air. Anything that’s loaded with antioxidants will do the job.

You don't need anti-pollution skincare. Anything loaded with antioxidants will do the job.Click to Tweet

2. Eat A Diet Rich In Antioxidants To Keep Your Skin And Body Young

You can get your antioxidant fix in another way, too: eat them up. Antioxidants are everywhere in nature:

  • Artichokes
  • Avocadoes
  • Beans
  • Berries
  • Green tea
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Oranges
  • Oregano
  • Pecans
  • Plums
  • Pumkins
  • Rosemary
  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Thyme
  • Tomatoes
  • Walnuts

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Pretty much all fruits, vegs and berries are loaded with antioxidants. The more you eat, the better.

If you struggle to eat your veggies, why not put them in a smoothie? You can add some berries to hide their bitter taste. 🙂

P.S. Don’t think for a second you get to skip eating vegs if you use skincare products with antioxidants. Your skin needs both.

Related: 5 Delicious Diet Changes I Made For Flawless, Beautiful Skin

The Bottom Line

Our beautiful world is very polluted. 🙁 Pollution doesn’t just make us sick, it also makes us age faster. Eating a healthy diet and using skincare products loaded with antioxidants are our best weapons against the havoc it wreaks. But, don’t be stingy. Remember, the more, the merrier!

How do you defend your skin against pollution? Share your tricks in the comments below.



Janessa January 17, 2016 - 6:22 am

It is very sad how polluted our world is. I use #1 at night and a vitamin C serum during the day. Also PC’s skin recover moisturizer during the day.

Gio January 17, 2016 - 8:38 am

Janessa, it’s very sad indeed. 🙁 But, your skincare routine is great at fighting pollution, well done.


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