There are certain truths to taking care of your face that you learn as you go through your own personal skin care journey. Things like always wear SPF; hydrate more than you think necessary; and results never happen overnight. But of course, everyone’s skin is different, and while some of us need intense day-and-night salicylic acid treatments, others probably just need a quick scrub in the mornings.
Your individual routine will also depend on where you live. Though you’re not completely out of the woods if you live in rural towns with an abundance of fresh, clean air (pollution is everywhere!), cities are rife with pollution, free radicals and harmful elements -- and it’s wreaking havoc on your skin in ways that you may not even think about. Adjusting your habits to accommodate for the air you’re faced with every day may not turn your skin into a blemish-free masterpiece overnight, but it’s important to keep the effects of the environment in the back of your mind.
First of all, check the air quality index in your city, just to see what you’re working with. It’s a result of a number of factors, but it mainly measures for five major pollutants, which can be caused by anything from smog to cigarette smoke to household cleaners: ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. The Environmental Protection Agency has standards across the board for how present these pollutants should be and calculate a city’s AQI from there.
Think about it: How often do you face a hot breeze as a subway train flies past you? You know whatever’s in that gust is not cute.
Though concerns like intense breakouts and dark spots are certainly up there when you think about pollution affecting your skin, the top concern is probably aging. Poor air quality expedites your skin’s aging process; urban areas are simply higher in substances that float around the atmosphere with the potential to clog your pores, break down your collagen and grime up your complexion until it’s dull and sulky. How? Free radicals, these tiny, chemically unstable nano-particles generated by the pollutants. Since they’re unstable, they seek their missing electrons to balance themselves out, and the atoms in our skin cells make the perfect host. They slip through our pores and quite literally steal our electrons, which ages our cells faster, and you know what that means? Wrinkles!
And sorry, sun-lovers: I have bad news. According to Dr. Christine Choi Kim, a Santa Barbara dermatologist, 80 percent of free radicals are formed from UV radiation. “I would never say put on this antioxidant serum in place of sunscreen. I would say layer it underneath a sunscreen or use a sunscreen that already has antioxidants built in,” she told SELF. So, yes, the sun is a pollutant. Technically.
So, how should you defend yourself against an onslaught of pollutants? You basically need to reinforce your skin’s natural barrier, and that’s done through antioxidants. You’re hopefully already getting a good amount of antioxidants from your diet, but these antioxidants offer up electrons for the free radicals to use -- the more antioxidants you have, the more electrons will be leftover to keep your skin firm and clear.
<b><i>Cleanse, Exfoliate & Moisturize</i></b>
To start, seek out a face wash with deep-cleansing properties. You want to really scrub all that nasty stuff off your face at the end of the day. Don’t sleep on micellar waters, either!
You know how much exfoliation your own skin needs, but pay extra attention to this process when you’re in the city. “Even though these particles are tiny and can get into the superficial layers, you can help protect yourself against these nano sized particles by exfoliating,” Dr. Ava Shamban, a dermatologist, told SELF. Exfoliating removes dead skin, yes, but it’ll also work to remove the particles that have found a home in your skin.
When picking out a moisturizer, do double duty and pick one that not only hydrates, but pumps you with antioxidants as well. The added nutrients will strengthen your skin’s barrier, making it more likely to fend off the harmful particles as time goes on. Plus, since we found that the sun was such a huge factor here, you’ll want to make sure you’re really packing in the hydration that it sucks out of you.
You knew this was coming. Like Dr. Kim said, don’t start your skin care routine without a layer of SPF, and opt for a sunscreen that also has tons of antioxidants in it.
Once you have the basics down, you can get fancy with your extras. Some mists and setting sprays are designed to be the strong first wall of defense against airborne pollutants and free radicals, so you can add one of these to your routine when you know you’re going to be spending the day outdoors.
Applying serums and retinoid creams, meanwhile, is basically like taking a bath in antioxidants. You can pick between specific ones or a blend of a few and apply at night to strengthen your skin’s barrier even more while you sleep as a repair mechanism.
Or, opt for a face mask to yank those pollutants out of your pores all at once and invigorate and smooth out your skin at the same time.
So, the theme here is antioxidants. Keep those levels high and enjoy your city slicker lifestyle to its fullest!
Like many websites, Dailybreak uses affiliate links where available which allows us to continue to provide you with all sorts of content!