Combatting Pollution for Hair and Skin

As a London salon based on a main road, we’ve recently got to thinking about how we can shield our hair and skin from the effects of pollution. Lately, the weather has been heavy and humid, and it seems more than ever that we can feel the city on our skin.

As we all know, pollution is rife in London – Oxford Street, for example, has the highest recorded levels of harmful NO2 gas, produced by diesel fumes, anywhere in the world. Prolonged exposure to the effects of pollution can exacerbate and cause issues like uneven skin tone, premature ageing and even hair loss. A study by the Journal of Investigative Dermatology compared women living in high and low pollution areas over a period of two decades, and confirmed that those in more urban areas had more dark spots and wrinkling.

Knowledge is power, however, so we’ve collected all your need-to-know pollution-busting info here. From the effects of pollution on skin and hair, to what you can do to best combat them, we’ve got your back. We’ve even thrown in a few Glasshouse Shop hero product recommendations for good measure, so you can put your best foot forward whilst defending yourself against the smog.

Keep It Clean

The easiest thing you can do to combat pollution’s toll on your skin is to cleanse and maintain a routine of doing so, as pollution manifests physically as tiny particles of dirt and soot that rest on the skin and find their way under fingernails.

Cleansing regularly with a simple, gentle cleanser (something like Honest Balancing Cleansing Cream) is half the battle in keeping your skin safe from pollution’s grasp, especially if you live and work in an urban area where your skin is exposed to fumes and unclean air.

The same goes for hair – use a simple, sulphate-free shampoo (such as Organic Colour Systems Status Quo, or for slightly finer or weaker hair, Power Build) to refresh your locks.

Image: Kenny Hurtado
Image: Kenny Hurtado

Beware the Free Radicals One of the more complicated, and, unfortunately, more hidden problems caused for skin by pollution is the creation of free radicals. When pollution makes contact with your skin, molecules which are lacking a crucial stabilising electron are formed – these are known as free radicals.

Free radicals bounce around the skin, attempting to steal electrons from already-healthy cells. This injures those healthy cells, and can therefore contribute to conditions such as acne, hyper-pigmentation and rosacea, all of which negatively affect skin tone, sometimes over long periods of time.

Never fear, however – there is hope in the form of antioxidants. Skincare products which contain antioxidants can donate electrons in order to neutralise free radicals, stopping them in their tracks.

We happen to stock a number of effective, antioxidant-packed products in the salon and online – we’re especially big fans of Guy Morgan Apothecary Black Thorn Facial Oil, which contains raspberry seed and rosehip oils, both of which are powerful antioxidants.

Alternatively, try a drinking a cup of Teatox Energy Matcha – formulated from antioxidant-rich Japanese tencha leaves, it’ll combat the effects of pollution on your skin from the inside, as will fruits such as blueberries and redcurrants.

Free radicals can also take their toll on hair, and are mostly linked with hair loss, due to their ability to spoil cell structures and damage hair follicles. To protect your mane, try Lilly Pilly-containing Atonic by Original Mineral (a lightweight, volumising spray for thin hair), or even a rebalancing conditioner such as Sans [ceuticals] Balancing Hair Hydratant which contains antioxidants, vitamins and lipids to re-enrich the scalp.

Let’s Get Physical

For the hair, there is also one final, more practical step that can be taken – consider wearing hats or scarves that cover the hair when entering particularly polluted areas, to create a physical barrier between the damaging air and your hair. If the air can’t reach your hair, those pesky free-radicals can’t wreak their havoc.

Whilst pollution can feel like an intimidating threat to your skin and hair, we hope we’ve demystified it all a little here. Whilst we can’t stop pollution (we wish we could!) we can certainly combat it, and with that knowledge, there’s a little bit less to worry about.

Words: Lauren O’Neill

Cover Image: Cos Stores

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