What impact does London’s polluted air have on your skin, and how can you help to minimise its effects? We ask the experts and offer some natural and organic anti-pollution skincare solutions.
By Sarah Graham
How much pollution and grime do you wash off your face at the end of a typical day of city-living – and have you ever considered what it’s doing to your skin? We’ve long been aware of the potential harm too much sun can do but, let’s face it, living in London you’re far more likely to be exposed to high levels of pollution on a daily basis than if you lived in the heart of the countryside and it might be taking its toll.
There is a growing awareness that traffic fumes and city smog can have a real impact on the health of our skin. Dermatologists from Woodford Medical Clinic recently described traffic fumes as “the most toxic substance for skin”, after a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology showed that people living in highly polluted areas are more likely to be affected by skin pigmentation such as age spots and dark patches.
But what can you do to protect your skin from the damage of pollution? Of course, many of the most popular solutions involve chemical-based products or treatments, but there are natural alternatives.
Judy Rocher, Education and Training Manager at Rio Health, believes relying on chemical products to protect from pollution can actually do more harm than good. “Our skins are so absorbent, whatever chemicals are in the products you’re putting onto your face, they are very likely to get into your system and into your bloodstream,” she says.
“All of the air pollution in London can clog up pores, cause outbreaks, affect the pH balance and really unsettle the skin,” Judy explains. To protect against this damage, she recommends using a natural barrier cream that’s free from chemicals and rich in anti-oxidants to neutralise free radicals.
Marianne Tregoning, Founder of Beyond Organic Skincare, agrees that having a good, natural, organic skincare routine is a much better solution than “adding extra toxins from chemical-based products”. She personally prefers a good, anti-oxidant rich cleanser and moisturiser rather than barrier creams, which she says can clog up the pores.
“You can’t totally protect the skin from air pollution, all you can do is feed it. Keep it moist and use a really good moisturiser so the pollution doesn’t dry out your skin, wash your skin regularly and reapply that moisturiser after you wash – honestly, that is the best thing you can do,” Marianne says. “SPF (sun protection factor) creams obviously help protect against UV as well, and all our products have anti-oxidants in, which is a big help.”
Here at L-SL, we’ve put together our pick of pollution-fighting natural and organic sun creams and skincare products, all packed with plant-based goodness, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants.
- Caribbean Blue All-Natural Sunscreen SPF25 (available from The Natural Skincare Company) – a high SPF, UV sunscreen is essential to protect your skin from pollution, as well as sun damage. Caribbean Blue’s products contain natural zinc oxide to protect against UVA and UVB rays, as well as antioxidant vitamins A, C and E to protect against free radicals found in pollution. £17.50 for 120ml, thenaturalskincarecompany.co.uk/by-brand/caribbean-blue/caribbean-blue-all-natural-sunscreen-spf25-120ml/
- Earthbound Organic Sun Protection Face Cream – provides natural protection from UBA and UVB rays, and is rich in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, natural ingredients like rice bran oil and aloe vera. £15.90 for 50ml, earthbound.co.uk/organic-sun-protection-face-cream-50ml.html
- Green People’s Scent Free Facial Sun Cream SPF30 – contains rosemary, green tea and edelweiss for powerful antioxidant effects, naturally protecting your skin from both pollution and damaging UV rays from the sun. £15.50 for 50ml, greenpeople.co.uk/facial-sun-cream-spf30-50ml
Cleansers and masks
- Origins Dr Andrew Weil Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Micellar Cleanser – a natural, antioxidant cleanser containing mushrooms and berry ferment to soothe your skin, gently remove dirt, make-up and pollution, and support your skin’s natural defences against environmental irritants. £27.50 for 100ml, origins.co.uk/product/15342/37561/skincare/cleanse/face-wash-and-cleanser/Dr-Andrew-Weil-for-Origins/Mega-Mushroom-Skin-Relief-Micellar-Cleanser
- Beyond Organic Natural Foaming Cleanser – packed full of gentle, natural goodness, including: the cleansing and anti-inflammatory power of chamomile; revitalising cucumber; and vitamin E which, as well as also having potent anti-inflammatory properties, protects the skin from both environmental pollution and UV radiation. £9 for 50ml, origins.co.uk/product/15342/37561/skincare/cleanse/face-wash-and-cleanser/Dr-Andrew-Weil-for-Origins/Mega-Mushroom-Skin-Relief-Micellar-Cleanser
- Sukin Oil Balancing Anti-Pollution Facial Masque (available from Planet Organic) – unveiled at this year’s Natural Beauty & Spa show at the ExCel Centre, this face mask contains cleansing bamboo charcoal, rooibos tea and willowherb, and antioxidant-rich bilberry, white tea and pomegranate, to cleanse, repair and protect skin from pollution damage. £10.15 for 100ml, planetorganic.com/sukin-oil-balancing-plus-charcoal-antipollution-facial-masque-100-ml/23704/
Oils and serums
- Rio Rosa Mosqueta Rosehip Seed Oil – a healing rosehip oil, high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids, and known for naturally treating scarring and uneven skin pigmentation. £20.49 for 50ml, riorosa.co.uk/Natural-Skincare-products/Repair-and-Protect/Rio-Rosa-Mosqueta-oil-50ml/
- Erbology Organic Virgin Amaranth Seed Oil – amaranth seed oil contains squalene, which helps protect your skin from damaging free radicals. £12.90 for 50ml, erbology.co.uk/products/organic-amaranth-oil
- Paul Penders My Skin Fitness Complexion Booster (available from The Natural Skincare Company) – contains seaweed, coconut water and Paul Penders’ trademark blend of organic herbs, to prevent free radical damage, even out skin tone and reduce skin-darkening melanin. £65 for 30ml, thenaturalskincarecompany.co.uk/paul-penders-my-skinfitness-complexion-booster-30ml/
Try switching to natural, mineral make – up with high UVA and UVB protection.