We’ve, rightfully, made sun exposure the big bad bully of the skincare world. Beyond the obvious and serious dangers of sun damage though, there are a whole lot of other, equally pressing, causes of rapid skin aging, and the most wrinkled state in the US is proof of that. Researchers commissioned by Roc Skincare analyzed factors such as pollution, stress, smoking statistics, commute time, and weather exposure to determine the most wrinkle-prone state. Surprisingly, sunny locales like Florida, Hawaii, and California didn’t top the list—New York is the worst state to live in for skin damage. Sunny Florida came in at a lowly number 32 on the skin damage scale.
One of the worst contributing factors is pollution, says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based, board-certified dermatologist, and cofounder of Dr. Loretta Skincare. She says that pollution causes free-radical damage, which accelerates skin aging rapidly. Outside air pollution comes from chronic exposure of a variety of sources, like car exhaust fumes and construction site emissions. But shockingly, the World Health Organization has found that indoor pollution levels are even higher than outdoors, from sources like stovetop emissions, carpeting, and paints. These pollutants, mixed with stress (a known cause of premature aging) and sun exposure combine to make for a toxic cocktail of excessive and rapid aging.
It is possible to protect your skin, though. Just as broad-spectrum protection with UVA and UVB sunscreen is necessary requirements from dermatologists to protect from the sun, there is protection for air pollution. The air pollutants are not only oxygen-based radicals, but they are also nitrogen and carbon radicals, so it’s not as simple as one ingredient. “Instead of just focusing on one source of pollution, like car exhaust fumes or construction site emissions, it’s better to consider how we can protect our skin from the damage done by all the sources of pollution,” says Dr. Ciraldo.
While many popular ingredients in your skincare arsenal are already fighting oxygen pollutants, like Vitamin C and retinol, they need a boost of protection from some more clinically advanced antioxidants. Dr. Loretta Skincare was specifically developed to fight air pollutants, thanks to its hero ingredient, an antioxidant called Lipochroman, which has been shown to protect skin from the three kinds of free radicals that can damage it. “We think this triple protection is vital to keeping skin younger,” says Dr. Ciraldo.
It’s good to remember that just because air pollution might be more detrimental to skin aging that doesn’t mean sun pollution shouldn’t be top of mind still. When outdoors, use SPF 30 or more, and when possible, use protective clothing like hats and long-sleeve UPF clothing.
Looking for pollution protection? Here are three top products that are knocking it out of the (apparently air-polluted) park.
While the entire brand is dedicated to pollutants, this serum is a workforce for both reversing signs of aging while also brightening and boosting hydration and collagen production. It’s ideal to use morning and night to protect from both inside and outside pollution.
The brand has dedicated years of research to discover the most potent ways to battle pollution and blue light from electronic devices. This cream focuses on repairing pollution damage by minimizing pores and fine lines while also then protecting and preventing further pollution issues. You can use it morning and evening as the final step in a regime.
Leave it to a sunscreen company to combine both the powers of sun and pollution protection into one slick product. This daily moisturizer absorbs into skin quickly and forms a moisture-binding barrier to act as a shield against pollution. It’s perfect for those who want to narrow down their morning routine, as it’s multipurpose—a daily moisturizer, sunscreen, and anti-pollution solution. Put it on in the morning after your serums and before makeup. You can also use at night if you frequently have excessive exposure to blue light in the evening.