Whether you live in the city or suburbs, or somewhere in between, you can't escape the fact that pollution is part of daily life. Along with your best efforts to help reduce this global concern, like ride-sharing and recycling, understanding the effect that pollution has on your skin—and what you can do to protect it—is important too.
Pollution is used in very broad terms, but here's a more detailed breakdown of what it actually means. Outdoor pollution is caused by car exhaust, smoke, road dust, factory emissions and more. And there's indoor pollution too, which includes contaminants like mold, tobacco smoke, household cleaners, pesticides and gases. None of that is good news for your skin. All of those stressors can wreak havoc, resulting in clogged pores, more visible wrinkles, dark spots and general lack of radiance. “When pollution comes into contact with your skin, some stays on the surface clogging pores and dulling the appearance of your skin, and some tiny particles can get into the deeper layers of your skin, causing inflammation, dryness, dehydration and a reaction on a cellular-level that leads to loss of elasticity and firmness," says New York City-based licensed medical esthetician Jordana Mattioli.
Since you don't need any more stress in your life, this anti-pollution skin solution is delightfully relaxing: multi-masking. “Everyone has different skin concerns in different areas of their face, and it's important to treat each one accordingly," says Jordana. “During professional facial treatments, I'll use 2 to 4 different masks at the same time. Why not do that at home, too?" Here's how to customize your favorite Sunday night ritual to arm yourself against pollution. It's pampering with a purpose.
Mask 1: Detox your t-zone.
To remove pore-clogging toxins and dirt, the key ingredient to look for is charcoal, which naturally attracts impurities and draws them out of your skin like a magnet. City Block Purifying Charcoal Clay Mask + Scrub not only has natural bamboo charcoal, it also has kaolin clay to absorb excess sebum and minimize the appearance of large pores over time. Apply this detox mask only to your t-zone (forehead, nose and chin) as those areas produce more oil than the rest of your face, which makes them more prone to congestion.
Mask 2: Hydrate and protect your cheeks.
Strengthen your moisture barrier and hydrate your cheeks with Moisture Surge Overnight Mask. “Your cheeks tend to be drier and more fragile because the pores are smaller and don't produce as much oil," says Jordana. This mask is packed with hyaluronic acid, which not only replenishes lost moisture, but also helps to strengthen your skin's natural moisture barrier. When you have a strong moisture barrier, your skin is better able to retain the moisture it needs to function and defend against the damaging external aggressors that can lead to premature aging.
The pro rinse-off.
After 5-10 minutes, the charcoal clay mask will dry and turn light blue—that's how you know it's done. Gently tissue off the moisture mask from your cheeks first, then splash warm water on your face and use a clean, soft washcloth to massage off the clay mask. You'll feel the environment-friendly natural silica beads gently exfoliate your skin, removing impurities and promoting healthy cell turnover. Win, win.
Always apply a soothing moisturizer after exfoliating your face. Look for one with antioxidants, which reduce the free radical damage caused by pollution and help protect against future damage. We love Super Rescue Antioxidant Night Moisturizer because it is loaded with antioxidants and helps keep skin strong.
Photos: Christine Hahn