Protecting your skin in the big city

Our skin has a hidden enemy – pollution! Dr Nortley shares tips to look after yourself in the city

By Kate Byng-Hall

We all know how crucial it is to protect our skin against the sun, but when in urban areas, we can often forget that our skin is also at risk from pollution.

Aesthetic practitioner Dr Zara Nortley explains, “Pollution is disguised in many forms. The burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation causes a significant amount of gas pollution.”

She adds, “Dust, dirt, soot and smoke particles are large enough to be seen with the naked eye or on your flannel, however, some pollution particles are so tiny that they can easily penetrate through skin pores, causing inflammation, dehydration, wrinkling and ageing.”

In fact, studies have linked high pollution to skin conditions such as hives, acne, premature skin ageing, and inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema.  But it’s not time to pack your bags and head for the countryside just yet!

Dr Nortley's Top Tips

Dr Nortley has some great advice to defend your skin from the environmental factors that come hand in hand with a bustling city life.

Pollutants have been shown to reduce levels of antioxidants in the body, which can have a knock-on effect on the skin. Therefore, skin products rich in antioxidants can be beneficial, such as vitamin C, vitamin E or retinol serums (but you have to be mindful of protecting your skin from the sun while using these ingredients).

Dr Nortley adds, “L-ascorbic acid is a great ingredient for skin in the city. It neutralises free radicals that was formed by pollution.” A good moisturiser can also be a great barrier to help the skin hold off pollutants.

SPF protection is a hot topic during the sunny weather but blocking UV rays actually helps protect your skin from pollutants too. Dr Nortley recommends “SPF for everyone, even if you’re inside at a desk all day. Just because you’re not outside enjoying the countryside doesn’t mean harmful UVA rays won’t reach you!”

Cleansing your skin sufficiently after exposure to pollutants is also crucial. Dr Nortley advises, “Double cleanse at night-time to clear all the debris! People using cleansers for oilier skin may want to use something gentler or more hydrating for the first cleanse.”

Her last tip is to take a deep breath, “City life can be stressful, and stress causes premature skin ageing. Find ways to chill!”

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