The best methods of keeping a good complexion in the face of pollutants
Katie Wright asks the experts what we should be doing to counteract the effects of that urban skin enemy - pollution
Drinking plenty of water, eating healthily and always removing your make-up before going to bed - we all know what we should be doing to maximise our chances of clear, blemish-free skin.
But even if you follow these rules religiously, did you know that there's an invisible danger lurking in the air that could be undoing all your hard work?
"Pollution is the number one skin problem of our time," warns Dr Pauline Hili, founder of Nourish London and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
"Pollutants - such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides and heavy metals - attach themselves to toxic particles that not only sit on the skin but are small enough to penetrate the dermis, causing an explosion of free radicals, the cause of skin damage."
"Pollution builds up under the skin creating blemishes, spots and asphyxiated skin," says Skeyndor national product trainer Demane Jones. "Heavy metals stimulate pigmentation, causing uneven skin tone and brown spots.
"This can give a lack of luminosity, and dull and tired looking skin, due to low metabolism and lack of oxygen. Irritation and redness can occur, due to pores being blocked. Wrinkles and flaccid skin can also emerge, due to collagen and elastin being broken down by heavy metals."
Sounds pretty hideous, doesn't it? But that's only the half of it - there's even more going on underneath the skin's surface.
"The particulate matter in the air, 20 times smaller than a pore, enters the pore and diffuses heavy metals into the skin. This oxidises the cell membrane - breaking them down - and opens the doors to cell attack from free radicals," Jones explains. This affects our cells' metabolism, slowing everything down so cells don't regenerate as quickly as they should. Vitamin C can also be reduced by heavy metals, reducing collagen."
So, what's the solution, aside from never leaving the house or wearing a gas mask when you do? The good news is, there are ways to repair the effects of this invisible irritant and prevent further damage.
Here, our experts talk us through three key steps everyone should be taking, and the products you need in your anti-pollution arsenal.
1. Cleanse thoroughly
"Air pollutants are sometimes found in even higher levels indoors than outside, so it's important to protect your skin, even if you're mostly inside," says Corinne Morley, in-house skincare expert at Trilogy.
"Double cleansing might be necessary, especially if wearing make-up," so Morley recommends starting with a balm, then moving on to a foaming or exfoliating face wash.
"Thoroughly removing make-up, along with daily grime, is essential to keep skin clean, fresh and healthy. It also prepares the skin for maximum absorption of much-needed repair products."
Botanics Organic Hot Cloth Cleansing Balm, £6.74 - currently reduced from £8.99, Boots
Nourish London Kale Enzymatic Exfoliator, £18
ZO Offects Exfoliating Cleanser, £32 (for stockists see zo-skinhealth.co.uk)
2. Protect and defend
"Antioxidants are a vital component of modern skincare to help protect against ageing and tissue damage, caused by pollution and environmental free radicals," Morley advises, so adding an effective serum, oil or moisturiser into your daily routine will boost your defences from the inside out.
"Antioxidants protect the skin by binding with free radicals, preventing them from attaching to healthy skin cells in a process called quenching. This helps ensure the integrity of these cells, promoting healthier, more radiant-looking skin."
Trilogy Rosehip Oil Antioxidant+, £31.50
BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Defense, £35
Skeyndor Power Oxygen City Pollution Block, £70, salons nationwide
Previse Ozone Defense Nutrify Serum, £49, Wolf and Badger
Murad City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturiser, £65
3. Get a facial
In response to customer demand, salons are now starting to offer facials which use cutting-edge technology to remedy skin that's been ravaged by pollution.
"The Skeyndor Power Oxygen facial uses a triple-action method - it protects, repairs, and provides the skin with more oxygen," Jones explains. "During the treatment, we use pure O2 and Perfluorodecalin, which mimics blood and allows us to deliver double the amount of oxygen into the skin."
"There are some really effective facial treatments for deep cleansing and helping to eliminate waste from the skin.
"A good facial can really boost the skin's radiance," Morley agrees.
"That said, you don't have to spend a fortune - you can do a great job at home too, if you've some good quality products and take an hour or so out for some personal pampering time.
"A weekly exfoliation and mask treatment are good additions to your usual routine. Look for a mask containing Kaolin clay.
"Kaolin deeply cleanses and purifies, thoroughly removing soot and other microscopic particles that can build up in the pores of the skin."
The Body Shop Japanese Matcha Tea Pollution Clearing Mask, £17
Trilogy Mineral Radiance Mask, £20.50
The Skeyndor Power Oxygen facial is available at Jumeirah Carlton Tower's Peak Health Club & Spa and nationwide, £120 for 60 minutes. Call 01375 640655 for other locations.