While spa-goers have long known to protect their skin from the damaging effects of the sun, they’re now learning of a new culprit with the ability to wreak havoc on the skin: pollution. As we learn more about the effect exhaust, smog, and other airborne pollutants have on the complexion, skincare manufacturers are taking action with products that protect the skin from the inflammation and free radicals caused by exposure to the toxic air commonly found in urban areas. “This trend is so popular because it’s relevant on a global scale,” says Anna De La Cruz, director of brand development for Glo Skin Beauty. “Airborne pollution concerns are widespread in large, industrialized regions and cities all over the world. In turn, manufacturers are recognizing this and developing formulas directly targeting this consumer trend.”
While most spa-goers understand the importance of antioxidants in defending skin from oxidative stress and more, their role is evolving. “Now, the focus is getting more specific—protecting and preventing damage specifically from environmental airborne pollutants, hence the new term ‘anti-pollutants’ we are seeing,” says De La Cruz. As a result, Glo Skin Beauty recently launched a daytime environmental and anti-pollutant vitamin C serum called Daily Power C. And they’re not the only ones focused on this growing category, as some companies like Aqua+ are based on
Urvashi Singh, founder of Aphorism, a New York City-based brand designed to address urban skincare needs, notes that pollution-fighting products aren’t just for urban dwellers but also for those living lifestyles with a high degree of exposure to cigarette smoke, manufacturing dust and fumes, and more. Says Singh, “To prevent premature aging and a variety of conditions ranging from inflammation, breakouts, dryness, hyperpigmentation, and loss of elasticity in skin, it is important to use skincare products that battle against these skin stressors.”
According to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2017 report, nearly four in 10 people (38.9 percent) in the U.S. live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution, which means more than 125 million Americans are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution. Dermalogica’s Skin Pollution Index reveals the risk of accelerated skin aging consumers may experience based on their locations. “The reality is that exposure to airborne pollutants is unavoidable,” says De La Cruz.
Although Candace Noonan, master esthetician for Environ, cautions that more research is needed regarding the effectiveness of products that protect the skin from pollution, it is the direction the industry is headed. Environmental Protection Factor (EPF), for example, is a trademarked term used to describe a method of measuring the oxidative stress protection capacity of antioxidants.
“There are a lot of products that contain antioxidants, but there is not necessarily a clear way to tell if one product or formula has more antioxidant or environmental protection benefit than another,” says De La Cruz. “This is where an EPF rating would come in, assigning an antioxidant ingredient a rating from one to 100 based on the strength of the antioxidant protection it provides. The concept is great, but many product manufacturers believe additional information, including independent data and regulatory guidance, is still needed.” In the meantime, formulations are being geared to protect from free-radical damage, according to Noonan. Barrier protection is also key. In the future, expect to see a host of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as ellagic acid, green tea, kakadu plum, vitamins C and E, and proprietary complexes, leading the charge.