City living comes with many benefits—you're surrounded by an endless number of things to do, you're in a cultural epicenter, and there are food options at all hours of the day. But, as with anything, there are also drawbacks—one of them being pollution. Studies have shown that those who live in cities experience an increase in age spots and there is a clear correlation between spikes in air pollution and the likelihood of suffering from skin problems. Pollution causes inflammation, damages collagen, disrupts the skin barrier, and may consequently accelerate aging.
Even when city dwellers make healthier lifestyle choices—like drinking more water or committing to cleansing routines—they may still face worse skin health, and not just at the cosmetic level. Even when smog isn't glaringly visible, your skin may be exposed to toxic chemicals that can damage the skin. To combat against pollution particles, your skin needs a second line of defense that fortifies your natural skin barrier. Here's where protective products that pollution-proof your skin come in.
Certain ingredients proactively protect against environmental stressors. UV rays, car emissions, cigarette smoke, iron particles from train tracks, and even the blue light from our phones are just a handful of the realities of city living that may pose a threat to our skin's health. We've put together a city-proof skincare guide you didn't know you needed, rounding up anti-pollution products that fight against pollutants in the environment. Below we've rounded up a pollution-proof option for every step of your skincare routine and highlighted the ingredients that explain why they work.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum
Kick off your day with a generous dose of exactly what the doctor ordered: potent antioxidants. 15 percent l-ascorbic acid, 50 percent ferulic acid, and one percent vitamin E create a hardworking complex that promises to neutralize pollution and environmental stressors and stave off the damaging effects of free radicals. This day serum also boasts a reservoir effect, meaning it stays active on the skin for up to 72 hours so you can reap the benefits for days, according to the brand.
Tatcha The Silk Canvas Protective Primer
For the perfect base to any makeup look—and a supportive formula that does wonders for your skin—try this multitasking primer that works on the face, eyes, and lips. A protective botanical layer forms a barely-there yet efficient barrier between the makeup and skin. Hadasei-3, comprising Japanese superfoods green tea, rice, and algae, is designed to boost youthful radiance while anti-pollution natural active ingredients ward off environmental stressors.
Clarins UV PLUS Anti-Pollution Sunscreen Multi-Protection Tint SPF 50
Sunscreen inherently protects against environmental stressors like UV rays, but this product goes the extra mile to fight against free radicals and pollution. Furthermore, this sunscreen boasts just a touch of color so you can double it as a tinted moisturizer. According to the brand, 81% of women found it's the best protection for their skin in the city.
Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Bronzing Drops
For an extra sun-kissed boost to your beauty look, these bronzing drops impart an enviable glow while also delivering a concentrated mix of protective antioxidants. According to the brand, raw, unrefined cocoa powder offers polyphenols and a chronopeptide mimics the antioxidant benefits of vitamin D without the damaging effects of UV rays. Omega-rich virgin marula and black currant seed oils are just a couple more of the natural ingredients found in this formula meant to help support healthy skin barrier function.
Urban Decay All Nighter Pollution Protection Makeup Setting Spray Environmental Defense
Especially when living in the city, a makeup setting spray is a must to keep your makeup look on point from nine to five, but it can also offer a handful of other benefits. Not only does this cult favorite promise to keep your makeup intact for up to 16 hours, but it's infused with minerals meant to help shield against environmental damage. Zinc and copper protect the skin against free radicals but go on super fine with the brand's light-as-air formula.
If you're looking for something you can spritz throughout the day, Verso's toning face mist is made to be applied whenever you want it. This anti-pollution formula promises to strengthen the skin's natural defense against oxidative stress by serving up a polymer combination meant to remove free radicals and protect skin against environmental pollution, turmeric to reduce inflammation, and tripeptide-1 meant to plump the skin for a more youthful look.
Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant
Wash off the day with a gentle powder exfoliant that promises to absorb environmental pollutants and purifies the skin. According to the brand, activated binchotan charcoal help to mop up and flush out harmful pollutants while niancinamide, red algae, and tara fruit extract tackle the effects of pollution.
By Terry Detoxilyn City Serum
Protecting skin against environmental stressors and pollutants begins and ends with your skincare routine. According to the brand, this nighttime serum detoxifies skin overnight, eliminating toxins accumulated in the skin during the day with alpine rose native cells and mineral complex. To prepare skin for the next day ahead, acerola extract works as an antioxidant.
Pacifica Pollution Fight Blue Algae Urban Defense Facial Mask
Pamper yourself while combating invisible environmental toxins and pollution with this urban defense facial mask. A blend of banana, algae, kelp, and vitamin C is meant to deliver powerful nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants while fighting inflammation and brightening skin.
Fresh Black Tea Firming Overnight Mask
Turn up the intensity on end-of-day anti-pollution repair with this potent overnight mask. Fresh's proprietary complex of kombucha, black tea extract, blackberry leaf extract, and lychee seed extract promises to inhibit damaging free radicals and improve the appearance of skin elasticity, even if you live in the city that never sleeps.
Park SY, Byun EJ, Lee JD, Kim S, Kim HS. Air pollution, autophagy, and skin aging: impact of particulate matter (PM10) on human dermal fibroblasts. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(9):2727. doi:10.3390/ijms19092727
Michalak M, Pierzak M, Kręcisz B, Suliga E. Bioactive compounds for skin health: a review. Nutrients. 2021;13(1):203. doi:10.3390/nu13010203
Vollono L, Falconi M, Gaziano R, et al. Potential of curcumin in skin disorders. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2169. doi:10.3390/nu11092169
Prakash A, Baskaran R. Acerola, an untapped functional superfruit: a review on latest frontiers. J Food Sci Technol. 2018;55(9):3373-3384. doi:10.1007/s13197-018-3309-5