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It’s increasingly clear that lifestyle choices have a huge influence on the health of our skin and a big part of that is something we can’t always control: our environment. Outdoor air pollution has long been associated with changes such as fine lines, wrinkles and discolouration. While staying indoors may be a tempting, albeit unattractive, solution, it turns out you can run but you can’t hide from particulate matter. A study in Taizhou, China published in 2017 found that indoor pollutants have a similar effect on skin.

“The skin naturally has a defense mechanism in the form of various enzymes which act as antioxidants,” Dr. Ingrid Jarvis, a dermatologist at Toronto’s SpaMedica, says. “Air pollutants cause oxidative stress on skin cells, overcoming the skin’s natural antioxidants and leading to the formation of free radicals and reactive oxygen molecules. These cause inflammation and initiate biological processes which then cause genetic damage and change in pathways.”

Instead of going full bubble boy, look to a host of new skin-care offerings loaded with ingredients that can prevent the oxidative stress caused by pollution. Jarvis recommends regularly using a good sunscreen, a moisturizer and topical products containing vitamins C and E and drinking plenty of water. Washing your face with a gentle cleanser is also key, as it helps prevent particulate matter from staying on the skin. You are what you breathe.


Transforming from milk to water, this refreshing cleanser leaves skin with a glow.

Chanel Le Lait Fraîcheur d’Eau Anti-Pollution Cleansing Milk-to-Water, $53 at Chanel counters (

Protect against air debris while repairing existing damage with this hydrating face cream.

Marcelle City 24H Anti-Pollution Day & Night Moisturizing Emulsion, $22 at drugstores (

Lightly scented with lavender and geranium, this lightweight moisturizer helps provide a barrier against damage caused by air pollution and other environmental stressors.

Osea Atmosphere Protection Cream, $55 at Holt Renfrew.

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