As city dwellers, it’s almost impossible to escape pollution. Besides causing harm to your health, smog, ultraviolet rays and free radicals can affect skin and accelerate the ageing process. A study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology compared women who lived in urban and rural environments over a quarter of a decade, and found those who were exposed to pollution had more dark spots and wrinkling. Dr Tan YZ of Mizu Aesthetic Clinic comments, “Pollutants like free radicals damage healthy skin cells and can bring about other skin problems like redness, dryness and skin sensitivity.” Dr Teo Wan Lin of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre adds, “PM 2.5 particles generates reactive oxygen species which increases the process of ageing, via the effect of collagen degradation in our skin and wrinkle formation.”
You may not be able to help stop the pollution, but you can certainly prevent or neutralise its brutal attack. Simple changes to your skincare, cleansing and adopting antioxidant-rich products, can have a positive impact on your skin, guarding it from these modern-day threats. We show you how with our four-step defence plan: Just remember the 4 Ps – Purify, Prevent, Pamper and Protect.
STEP 1: PURIFY
Being exposed to the haze is practically an annual affair in Singapore, and over the years we’ve been taught that it’s the PM 2.5 particles that are most harmful to the body. In layman terms, PM 2.5 means particles that are smaller than 2.5 micrometres. To illustrate just how small that is, one PM 2.5 particle is just three per cent of the diameter of a strand of hair – small enough to enter the skin and penetrate deep into the lungs.
In a joint study focusing on the effects of PM 2.5 particles on skin cells, scientists from Shanghai Medical School and Fudan University have discovered that exposure to concentrated amounts of PM 2.5 particles lead to weakened cell membranes, increasing the possibility of inflammation. This increases the risk of eczema and other inflammatory-related skin problems.
So, the first thing you’ve got to do is to use cleansers that help get rid of the PM 2.5 particles and other pollutants that might stick to the skin’s surface.
The iconic shu uemura Anti/Oxi + Pollutant & Dullness Clarifying Cleansing Oil, $125 (450 ml), underwent a reformulation to target not only makeup and impurities, but also PM2.5 particles. Papaya, moringa and green tea extracts cleanse thoroughly and restore skin radiance.
The Biotherm Skin Oxygen Depolluting Cleanser, $45
(150 ml), was created as part of the brand’s first dedicated anti-pollution range. Containing chlorella, a micro-algae rich in oxygen, this gel-to-foam cleanser repels PM 2.5 particles and leaves skin feeling refreshed.
Containing moringa, mango and shea butter, the Clarins Extra-Comfort Anti-Pollution Cleansing Cream, $50 (200 ml), removes traces of impurities on skin, but leaves it nourished and well-hydrated.
Gentle, yet effective, the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Caring Wash, $33.90 (200 ml), cleanses sensitive skin thoroughly without drying or irritating skin.
STEP 2: PREVENT
Free radicals are by-products of metabolism produced by the body, but they also spawn from pollution, radiation or cigarette smoke. Free radicals have missing electrons which are purposefully created by the immune system to bond with bacteria and viruses in a bid to neutralise them. However, when left to their own devices, free radicals will capture electrons from healthy cells, leaving them vulnerable to damage.
Enter the unsung heroes that end free radicals’ cycle of destruction: Antioxidants like vitamins C and E readily give up their own electrons to stabilise free radicals, taking the damage for regular cells. You get antioxidants in certain foods and fruits (berries are a great source), but application of topical skincare products also yield effective anti-ageing results as they contain high concentrations of the good stuff.
Packed with barley leaf extract, vitamins and amino acids, the Philosophy Take A Deep Breath Night Oil-Free Detoxifying Gel-Balm, $56 (60 ml), hydrates and detoxifies skin as you sleep.
Containing the Nordic Superberry Complex, the Estelle & Thild Biodefense Antioxidant Day Cream, $71 (50 ml), promotes skin’s healing process and slows down the signs of ageing.
The Estetica ést.lab Vitalift A+ OPC Antioxidant Cream, $128 (50 ml), contains powerful antioxidants like grape seed extract to eliminate free radicals as well as soothe redness.
The 111SKIN Y Theorem Repair Light Serum, $380 (30 ml), is a lightweight serum which supports collagen production and cell regeneration, while providing protection against environmental aggressors.
STEP 3: PAMPER
As free radicals attack, cell membranes weaken over time. This can manifest in the form of inflammation, itchiness and skin sensitivity. Besides daily application of antioxidant-rich creams, give skin the chance to bounce back to health with masks which not only help counter free radical damage, but also soothe redness and strengthen the skin’s barrier.
Give skin a breath of fresh air with the Skin Inc Oxy-Recharge Bubble Mask, $76 (30 ml), a bubble mask which contains a blend of antioxidants to neutralise free radical damage.
The two main ingredients, orange and cilantro extracts, in Kiehl’s Cilantro & Orange Extract Pollutant Defending Mask, $62 (100 ml), work to neutralise free radical damage and strengthen the skin barrier.
Acting like a magnet, the Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Detox Mask, $114 (75 ml), draws out impurities within pores. The peel-off action of the mask also gently exfoliates, getting rid of surface pollutants, dirt and excess sebum.
The Allies of Skin 1A All-Day Mask, $109 (50 ml), is packed with peptides, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin and protect it against environmental aggressors.
STEP 4: PROTECT
We’ve heard this a million times: Sunscreen is good for you. However, many still fall behind in terms of sun protection. The bare minimum means putting sunscreen every day, but ensuring adequate protection requires more than just slathering it on. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation in the US, the amount of sunscreen applied on the face should at least be a dollar-coin dollop, and because sunscreens photo-degenerate once exposed to the sun, you should reapply it every two hours. Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that have an SPF rating of at least 30 to protect against UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and cause premature ageing, while UVB rays cause the skin’s surface to burn. So, don’t leave home without sunscreen.
The BEVY C. Perfect UV Sunscreen SPF 50+ PA++++, $61 (50 ml), is a waterproof sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, while keeping sebum and shine at bay.
The Urban Decay All Nighter Pollution Protection Environmental Defense Makeup Setting Spray, $50 (118 ml), not only protects against free radical damage, but helps makeup stay on.
The Dior One Essential City Defense Pollution and UV Shield Advanced Protection SPF 50 PA+++, $95 (30 ml), prevents particles from adhering to or penetrating skin, while antioxidants help neutralise free radicals.
Anti-pollution skincare takes a convenient form in the LANEIGE Anti-Pollution Finishing Pact SPF 15 PA++, $36. This handy powder pact prevents particles from sticking to the skin while controlling shine and excess sebum.
Text: Arissa Ha / Photos: Vee Chin / Makeup: Larry Yeo / Hair: Samuel Sim, Hairloom using Goldwell / Model:Yasmin M, AVE Model Management
A print version of this article can be found in the March 2018 issue of The Singapore Women’s Weekly.