Are Pollution Protection Products Worth the Hype?


At this point everyone knows to slather on the sunscreen at all times to protect your skin from UV damage. Cosmetics brands and beauty enthusiast alike have hammered this message for years. But what about air pollution.

If you have ever been to Asia, especially China and South Korea, then you might have noticed that many people wear face masks outside and or when traveling. Did you know that these masks are not just about protecting their lungs from particulate matter (PM) but also their skin? Moreover, did you know that there are skincare products formulated to protect your skin from pollutants?

Yes, we know that this sounds like just another trend that will be gone next season but there is scientific evidence to support the likelihood that particulates in our air can be harmful to our skin. Dangerous particles called PM2.5 are incredibly small and can easily penetrate the tissue of your lungs, causing a wide variety of health problems. While pollution doesn’t have the same life-threatening effects when it’s absorbed into the outer layers of your skin, it can still cause some less-than-pleasant side effects. It turns out that PM2.5 particles are small enough to infiltrate the pores of your epidermis and disrupt the health of your skin by allowing free radicals to destroy the natural mechanisms your body has in place that prevent you from aging prematurely. Air pollution can lead to early aging and worsen inflammatory skin diseases like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

92% of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution exceeds safe limits


According to the World Health Organization, 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution exceeds safe limits. So even if you live in the suburbs or some remote tropical island, you can’t avoid exposure to air pollutants. Key ingredients to look for when choosing an anti-pollution skincare product, specifically when protecting your face, include:

  • Antioxidants: Vitamin C to reduce inflammation and vitamins A and E to repair collagen

  • Soothing: Zinc oxide, Vitamin B3, and Bisabolol

  • Hydration: Hyaluronic acid

Does this mean go out and buy a ton of new products? No of course not, Well, not unless you are a skincare junky like we are, then have at it!. All you need to do is examine the products in your current skincare regimen for the ingredients listed above. You do not need to have all of them but if you have one in each category you will have all of your bases covered (pun intended lol).

Lastly, it is also important to know which ingredients and/or products to avoid that could exacerbate the effects of air pollution. Try to limit your exposure to the  following ingredients:

  1. chemical preservatives

  2. parabens

  3. dioxins

  4. synthetic colors and fragrances

Actually, one more thing, we would hate to ignore the obvious here, but there are ways to reduce pollution and live more sustainably. We can all do our part. Here are some of our favorite Instagram accounts we follow to learn more about living sustainably and reducing our impact. We are certainly not perfect, but being open to doing better and taking action is a great start.


  1. Chang, Anne Lynn S., Expanding Our Understanding of Human Skin Aging, Journal of Investigative Dermatology , Volume 136 , Issue 5 , 897 - 899