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Cleanse — & Then Cleanse Again
Big cities aren't exactly places you want to breathe in deeply — and neither does your skin, so to speak. Nanoparticles in the air from soot and smoke are 20 times smaller than your pores, says Dr. Sobel. "That allows them to infiltrate the epidermis and cause inflammation and dehydration," he explains. Short of confining yourself to the indoors, double up on cleansing each night by using two different formulas, one that is oil-based and another that's water-based. You can also use a facial cleansing brush for a more thorough scrub.
Exfoliate On The Reg
Environmental pollutants damage healthy skin cells, which can lead to buildup and interfere with the skin's natural renewal process. One easy solution: Get rid of those impaired cells. Chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid dissolve dead skin cells to unearth the fresh, properly functioning ones underneath — resulting in brighter, smoother skin. Dr. Sobel suggests using a toner or peel pads containing glycolic acid after you cleanse at night.
You don't need a ton of exposure to the elements to see their lasting effects. Even a quick jaunt to the subway exposes your skin to a free-radical fest (which can interrupt collagen production, destroy elastin, and slow cell turnover), leading to dullness and fine lines. The good news: Sunscreen keeps most free radicals at bay, while antioxidants neutralize those that do manage to sneak in. Every morning, slather on Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield, which pairs the two skin-care essentials for maximum protection.
Be Wise & Moisturize
Studies show that ozone can deplete the skin of lipids. These crucial molecules are basically plastic wrap for your skin in that they seal in moisture and maintain your protective barrier. Without these lipids, your skin becomes especially vulnerable to pollutants, says Dr. Sobel, leading to dryness and irritation. Seek out a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid — which can hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water — to help your skin stay hydrated.
Unlike nanoparticles, which are physical particles, air pollutants are gaseous — think smog and car exhaust. These damage your skin by depriving it of oxygen, a move that can slow both cell function and collagen production. This makes retinol — a derivative of vitamin A that, conveniently enough, boosts cell turnover and collagen synthesis — a non-negotiable. Plus, “retinol can increase blood flow to the skin, giving [you] a rosy glow,” notes Dr. Sobel.