Yes, pollution does age your skin - and here's why

Blemishes? Brown spots? Wrinkles? Pollution could be one of the causes. We asked dermatologis

Blemishes? Brown spots? Wrinkles? Pollution could be one of the causes. We asked dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos to explain how pollution plays a part in ageing the skin.

Yes, pollution does age your skin - and here's why
Yes, pollution does age your skin - and here's why

How does pollution harm skin?

Countless studies have shown that pollution can contribute to premature skin ageing.[1] Research conducted by L'Oréal in Mexico and China showed a decrease in hydration and increased sebum production among participants overexposed to pollution. Environmental aggressors are also known to cause staining of the skin and brown spots.

As if pollution on its own wasn’t bad enough, it has a “double effect” on skin when combined with UV rays. When associated with exposure to sunshine, pollution damage transforms into what’s known as ‘photo pollution’[2][3], triggering oxidative stress within the body and speeding up the ageing process. Oxidative stress happens when the amount of damaging free radicals in the skin reduces the skin’s ability to repair itself properly, damaging our cells, proteins and even our DNA (genes). Dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos says: “Our lifestyle can have a significant impact on how pollution affects our skin. As well as UV rays, cigarette smoke can also cause this ‘double effect’, combining with pollution to damage skin.”


How can we help fight signs of pollution?

When it comes to UV-related or pollution-based damage, adapting your skincare and diet can really help improve the appearance of symptoms.


Foods rich in antioxidants, such as red berries and leafy greens, will help combat the skin damaging free radicals triggered by these environmental factors.


Nina recommends paying attention to your cleansing routine in order to fully remove dirt and impurities caused by a buildup of pollution - whether or not you wear makeup on a daily basis. For example, it’s important to wear SPF all year round to help protect skin from UV damage, which, as we’ve seen above, also worsens the impact of pollution on the skin. However, SPF formulas can cling to skin unless properly removed with a cleansing lotion or gel, so make sure you’re thoroughly cleaning skin to remove all traces of sun protection as well as toxins resulting from poor quality air.  For an effective cleanse, even if you have sensitive skin, Pureté Thermale 3-in-1 One Step Cleanser, is a wash off cream that acts as a cleansing milk, toning lotion and eye make-up remover in one, for a gentle yet effective result.

Exfoliation can also help improve the appearance of blackheads and imperfections, as well as removing dead skin cells, which can give skin a tired or dull look. Vitamin C has also been shown to help reduce the appearance of brown spots that may occur as a result of exposure to pollution, so if your skin’s texture or uneven tone is one of your main concerns, try opting for an exfoliator enriched with vitamin C for brighter, smoother skin. Skin products featuring vitamin C can also help tackle problems linked to brown spots or dullness, so it’s worth considering a targeted treatment like Vichy Liftactiv Vitamin C Skin Brightening Corrector to restore evenness and brightness to fatigued skin. [4]

 Finally, make sure skin is well hydrated inside and out as this helps its barrier function to work properly. Drink plenty of water and use a good moisturiser such as Vichy Slow Âge Cream Moisturiser, a rich probiotic cream with SPF30 which is specifically designed to combat some of the effects of pollution and clinically proven to slow down the appearance of urban ageing signs. Protect your skin and it will protect you!


[1] A Vierkötter. ‘Environmental pollution and skin aging’ [original article in German] in Der Hautarzt; Zeitschrift für Dermatologie, Venerologie, und verwandte Gebiete 62.8 (2011) pp. 577-581. [Accessible at:]

[2] Pham, D.-M., B. Boussouira, D. Moyal, and Q.l. Nguyen. "Oxidization of squalene, a human skin lipid: a new and reliable marker of environmental pollution studies." International Journal of Cosmetic Science 37.4 (2015): 357-65. Web.

[3]  Soeur, J., Belaïdi, J. P., Chollet, C., Denat, L., Dimitrov, A., Jones, C., ... & Erdmann, D. (2017). Photo-pollution stress in skin: Traces of pollutants (PAH and particulate matter) impair redox homeostasis in keratinocytes exposed to UVA1. Journal of Dermatological Science86(2), 162-169.

[4] Telang, P. ‘Vitamin C in Dermatology’ in Indian Dermatology Online Journal 4.2 (2013) pp. 143-146 [Accessible at:]