At this point, we all know daily SPF is crucial for protecting our skin against the damaging and aging effects of the sun — even when it’s raining or we’re indoor cube-dwellers. But there’s another element you should be guarding against with equal vigor: pollution. Smog, car exhaust, and cigarette smoke are just a few of the damage-inducing culprits. “Whenever pollution comes in contact with your skin, it goes beyond just the surface,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, NYC-based dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. “Tiny particles get into the deeper layers of the epidermis, causing inflammation, dehydration, uneven skin tone, dark spots, and wrinkling. Plus, pollution breaks down collagen and the skin's lipid layer, which compromises the barrier function.”
Country mouses can breathe a mini sigh of relief, because city slickers are more at risk. Studies show that urbanites, as opposed to those who live in rural areas, are more likely to develop brown spots and uneven pigmentation. Which is not to say that if you don't notice the aforementioned marks, you're in the clear. “Pollution can damage your skin at any age, even when you're young, because it can cause irritation, pimples, dehydration, and impact radiance,” says Muriel Pujos, director of scientific communication for Philosophy. So what’s a girl to do? “A good strategy is eating highly colored fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and creator of Sea Radiance Skincare, who cites red beans, blueberries, kidney beans, pinto beans, cranberries, artichoke hearts, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries as great options. A daily antioxidant supplement is another choice.
Another easy and effective strategy is simply washing the skin every night before bed to remove nanoparticles. Wearing moisturizer or foundation is also helpful, because they trap pollutants during the day, preventing them from reaching the skin. Or, you can try any one of the following 10 products formulated specifically to guard against pollution.