Pollution Ruined My Skin- Here's How I Fixed It


Upon recently moving to New York, I discovered that life in the Big Apple is not what Gossip Girl makes it out to be (shocker, I know)—in fact, I had to deal with unprecedented challenges that Blair simply did not warn me about. I experienced my first winter (bless my Moncler for helping me make it through that one), I learned how to take the metro (and how to deal with the ~eclectic~ assortment of individuals who use this form of transportation), and I created my first-ever budget (so I didn’t spend all of my money on brunch and shopping in Soho). The most difficult challenge I faced when moving, however, is the fact that my skin had a complete Britney Spears-style breakdown circa 2007.


Convinced this facial revolution was due to stress, my hormones, or something I was eating, I attempted to stick it out and continue on with my normal routine. When nothing changed, however, I quickly booked an appointment with my dermatologist, who revealed a scary truth- it was a result of the air I was breathing. To make a long story short, the high quantities of smog, particulate matter (tiny particles of soot and dirt) and other grime in the air was wreaking havoc on my skin. New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me (and my skin) down.


Many of us are aware that pollution and the resulting climate change is an enormous issue facing our planet today, but you may not have been aware that it is harmful to your personal health as well, namely, your skin. Given half a chance, the pollutants in the environment can damage, irritate and inflame our skin, clog our pores, and worsen the effects of aging. Unfortunately, car emissions aren’t the only thing to blame, either. UV rays (from the sun) and blue light from your phone and computer (gasp!), also pose a threat to our skin. In summary, living in a city and staring at your phone all day might literally be causing your break out. The horror.


Fortunately, the beauty industry knows that we simply must be able to stare at our IG feeds for endless hours a day without fear of pimples forming, so an endless amount of products have been created to protect our skin from the various villains living in the air around us. Below, we’ve summarized the best three ways to beat pollution and blue light, tips and product recommendations included.


  1. Double Wash, then Triple Wash

Have you ever washed your face, only to have little remnants of mascara stubbornly sitting beneath your eyes? Imagine, if your facial cleanser can’t even remove surface-level mascara properly, it definitely isn’t reaching the deep depths of your pores where dirt, smog, and other pollutants are residing. This is why we recommend the triple wash. First, grab a light facial cleansing wipe like these natural ones from Burts Bees, and gently remove the majority of your makeup. Follow this with a cleansing oil, that will help remove remaining makeup, pore-clogging debris, and micro-pollution. Finally, introduce your facial cleanser for one last kick to remove any pore-clogging particles that may remain. Do this every day, at night, to get rid of the residue from the day. Your skin will thank you.


  1. Shake What Your Momma Gave Ya

Aka that sunscreen she’s always demanding you use—shake then apply liberally on your face every morning. Sunscreen with SPF is the best way to protect yourself against the frightening ~free radicals~. Free radicals are not, as the name suggests, a dangerous escaped prisoner that is on the prowl for their next skin victim. Instead, they are (in Zenzy Gal terms), normal, happy, functioning cells that already live in your skin, that are mutated by pollutants in the gross urban air (yum!). Since UV rays are a big trigger for cell mutation, and SPF blocks UV rays, Dr. Howard Murad, founder of his eponymous brand Murad Skincare, recommends wearing an SPF everyday no matter the weather.


  1. This Time and This Time Only—Less is Not More

Unfortunately, SPF will not protect your skin from all the other harmful residents in the air. The final step is to reach for antioxidant-rich products. New York Dermatology Group’s Dr. Jessica Weiser suggest ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E, Argan oil, green tea, and coffee berry. Antioxidants will protect your existing cells from free radical damage, while also preventing the formation of new free radicals. These products work best in the form of a serum, which can easily be applied before or after your SPF and moisturizer, but definitely before any other makeup products.


Fortunately, it seems that anti-pollution has become beauty’s new buzzword, and today there are more anti-pollution products on offer than ever. In fact, a quick search of the word “pollution” on Sephora.com brings up 185 results. Luckily for you, we’ve curated our favourite anti-pollution products below.



COVER IMAGE: Pinterest

Dr. Murad City Skin Age Defense - $65

This is my personal favourite product. It’s the be-all and end-all of anti-pollution products and this lightweight, non-greasy formula blesses my skin with its SPF 50 and potent antioxidant called lutein every morning. Not only will this shield your skin from the sun, but from your phone and your laptop’s blue light as well. It also blocks the penetration of environmental oxides and infrared radiation—all the gross stuff you find in cities.


RESIST Super Antioxidant Serum Paula’s Choice - $38

This is another one of my personal favorites. This serum is so smooth and beautiful that I literally look forward to putting it on every morning. This antioxidant serum is packed with Vitamin C, which effectively fights against environmental attacks.


Sunday Riley C.E.O. C + E Micro-Dissolve Cleansing Oil - $38

This is the second step in the multi-layered approach we’re taking to cleansing. This cleansing oil will break down and eliminate make-up, pore-clogging debris and pollution while also give you a boost of turmeric and vitamin C. This will leave your skin looking visibly brightened, while reducing the look and feel of redness and sensitivity.


Kiehl’s Cilantro & Orange Extract Pollutant Defending Masque - $39

This is best used once or twice a week for the true refresher your skin needs from urban life. Much like you need a break after walking around the city all day, this mask will give your skin a break. It is designed to protect against the visible effect of pollution by preventing impurities from entering your pores, leaving skin looking brighter and healthier. Apply a thin layer on clean skin, then wipe most of it off after five minutes to leave a thin layer on overnight.


REN Flash Defense Anti-Pollution Mist - $38

This is the perfect, refreshing spray for when you’re on the go. It acts like a shield to boost your defense against environmental damage, while amino acids protect at a deeper level. Not only that, but it’s cooling and light, making your sweaty, pollution-filled commute or walk that much more enjoyable.


Boscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser

Fun fact of the day: Activated charcoal can absorb thousands of times its own weight in free radicals like bacteria and pollution, which makes this the perfect environment-protecting face wash. Like a magnet, it pulls all of the gross matter out of your pores, then washes them away when you rinse the wash off.


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