7 Tips For Protecting Your Skin From Summer Pollution

by Miki Hayes

While pollution is a year-round problem, it can be worse in the summer. What with all of the heat, the stagnant air, and if you live in a city, all of the emissions, it may seem difficult if not impossible to protect your skin from pollution. But there are ways, and good reason to do so too. To find out what exactly all of that congested air could do to your skin, I emailed with Dr. Clarissa Shetler and Christine Falsetti, PhD, founders of C2 California Clean, and Dr. Dendy Engelman, NYC-based dermatologic surgeon.

According to Drs. Shetler and Falsetti, some of the pollutants we face during the summer are photochemical oxidants like ozone or things that relate to UV radiation and sunlight. And because the air is hot and stagnant, it can actually cook emissions from things like cars, planes, and power plants to develop new chemical compounds. The danger with this, they say, is that many pollutant particles are so small that they "pose a health risk because they can be inhaled or absorbed into our system and disrupt normal cell function or cause skin damage." Dr. Engelman adds that 80-percent of all signs of skin aging are actually due to these environmental aggressors.

She explains that recent studies show that air pollutants called ambient particulate matter "generate excess free radicals, which interfere with skin's ability to produce collagen and elastin and retain moisture, resulting in accelerated signs of aging." In fact, having sensitive skin may actually be a result of impaired skin-barrier functions caused by pollution. And in addition to dark spots, inflammation, fine lines, and wrinkles, Dr. Engelman says that pollution may even be a cause of skin cancer.

But even though it can be difficult to avoid air pollution altogether, there are some ways to protect and heal your skin from exposure. Here are seven of them:

1. Stay Hydrated

Pollution can really dry your skin out. To keep it balanced and hydrated, Drs. Shetler and Falsetti recommend drinking plenty of water every day.

2. Exfoliate Regularly

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Try: Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Green Tea, $27, Sephora

To ensure those little pollutant particles aren't clogging your pores, Drs. Shetler and Falsetti also recommend washing your face and body every night, and exfoliating twice per week to remove any buildup.

3. Supplement With Face Masks

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Try: Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Double Action Detox Peel Off Mask, $78, Elizabeth Arden

Of course, using a mask or peel once per week can also help deep-clean your pores, say Drs. Shetler and Falsetti. Dr. Engelman recommends trying a formula that will help protect against free-radical damage while detoxifying your skin.

4. Use Facial Oils

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Try: C2 California Clean Ultra Replenishing Oil Squalane + Vitamin E, $88, C2 California Clean

Because pollution can block the pores from oxygen and natural oils, Drs. Shetler and Falsetti say it's important to "Use facial oils at night to help hydrate your skin and replace the natural oils." It also helps, they say, to "Protect your skin with moisturizers that contain anti-pollution properties."

5. Antioxidants Are Key

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Try: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, $165, SkinCeuticals

To help minimize skin damage though, antioxidants are key. Dr. Engelman explains: "An antioxidant helps protect skin against free radical assaults by neutralizing oxidative stress that can cause cell damage." She recommends using a vitamin serum with Ferulic acid, as Ferulic acid "stabilizes a solution of vitamins C and E and doubles its photo-protection of skin."

6. Eat Fruits & Veggies

Another way to stay up-to-date on your free-radical protection is by eating antioxidant-rich foods. Drs. Shetler and Falsetti recommend fruits and veggies that are high in vitamins C and E to help combat skin damage. Some such foods include strawberries, citrus, cantaloupe, apricots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and spinach.

7. Try Himalayan Pink Salt

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Try: Blithe Anti-Polluaging Cleansing Water, $36, Glow Recipe

Another ingredient that will help detoxify skin? Dr. Engelman says to try skin care with Himalayan Pink Salt as this ingredient "cleanses and defends skin from early signs of aging brought on by environmental pollution and stressors." Try it in an essence or cleansing water for a quick purifying treatment.

Because pollution doesn't have to get the better of your skin— even in the summer.