If your skin has been looking duller, more tired and dehydrated recently, you’re not alone. A recent study conducted by Korean beauty brand HERA revealed that all of these changes were among the top skin concerns for women aged between 25 to 35 years old. The cause? Our urban lifestyle.
Pollution has long been condemned as the devil for the health of our skin, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. When fine dust particles are combined with blue light, UV rays, air-conditioning, and hectic schedules, it can easily cause stress and wreak havoc on your complexion.
What the urban environment does to your skin
When air pollution is introduced to our skin, it generates free radicals. These unstable atoms that hang out on the surface of our skin can damage skin cells, triggering sensitivities that can lead to a whole host of issues. Think pigmentation, premature ageing, and a sallow complexion. Yeah, no thank you.
Since we’ve been staying home more, we’ve had a ton of extra screen time and extended hours in air-conditioned rooms, which isn’t great news for your skin. The former allows blue light to break down our skin’s collagen and elastin, and the latter zaps moisture from our skin.
While tweaks to your lifestyle, such as upping your sunscreen application throughout the day and limiting your air-conditioner usage at home, can certainly help, it may not be enough to give your skin sufficient protection. Thankfully, there’s a slew of products we can use to shield and repair our skin from damage.
From serums rich in radical-neutralising antioxidants to a bronzing liquid with skin-boosting benefits, here are 14 products we’ve culled to defend your complexion.
Skincare products that protect your skin from urban pollution
HERA Youth Activating Cell Serum
To save distressed skin, the researchers at HERA formulated their latest serum with pyruvate, a compound that reduces the breakdown of collagen and speeds up cell production. It also contains niacinamide for a brightening, pore-minimising effect. In addition, there are oil particles of varying sizes in the formula, which gives the serum a lightweight but nourishing texture.
The elegant serum bottle is also a refillable one, so you can purchase the cartridge separately when you run out. Effective and eco-conscious – what’s not to love?
HERA Youth Activating Cell Serum retails for S$120, available at HERA Online.
NIOD Survival 0 Serum
A unique and advanced way to protect your skin from environmental damage, NIOD’s serum is a formula that’s designed to be used in the evening. The ‘0’ in its name actually refers to the fact that it doesn’t contain SPF, but it does provide a whole bunch of other benefits.
Despite its lightweight texture, this serum is jam-packed with skin-loving goodness. It combines purified lutein from marigold flowers, purified deep sea algae, and anti-inflammatory yeast-derived superoxide dismutase. These all work to deflect oxygen radicals, smog, stress, infrared, and blue light.
NIOD Survival 0 Serum retails for S$35, available at LookFantastic.
Skin Inc Serum UV Moisturizer SPF50+ PA+++
To protect your skin against blue light and harmful UV rays, Skin Inc created its new Serum UV Moisturizer. The lightweight, milky moisturiser fuses skin-friendly actives with protective UV filters to care for your skin during the day – particularly helpful if you’re facing a screen for long hours at a time.
The formula is packed with some of the brand’s most popular serums, such as Vitamin B3, Licorice, and Hyaluronic Acid. Together, they lock in hydration and feed your skin with antioxidants to repair and shield your complexion from external aggressors. To reduce the signs of ageing, the moisturiser also contains cica extract, which helps to strengthen the skin barrier.
Skin Inc Serum UV Moisturizer SPF50+ PA+++ retails for S$72, available at Skin Inc.
Innisfree Intensive Anti-Pollution Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++
One of the more affordable anti-pollution offerings on our list, Innisfree’s sunscreen protects your skin indoors, outdoors, and even in water. When you layer it on, it forms an invisible micro-filter that stops fine pollutants from penetrating your skin. It’s formulated with milder ingredients, so sensitive skin can enjoy the same comfort and protection too.
The sunscreen’s waterproof formula and SPF 50 protection makes it a great outdoor and poolside essential too. Remember to reapply if you’re out in the sun for an extended period of time.
Innisfree Intensive Anti-Pollution Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ retails for S$25, available at Shopee.
Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30
If you like an instant glow sans makeup, try Paula’s Choice’s Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer. This illuminating two-in-one formula shields the skin with mineral sun protection of SPF 30. Plus, it’s further boosted by 12 antioxidants to protect you against the effects of UV and blue light.
You’ll find skin-friendly ingredients like licorice, kiwi, argan, niacinamide, and vitamin C in the formula. They all work to visibly repair and brighten the skin, so you look younger and more radiant with continued use.
Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30 retails for S$45, available at Shopee.
Allies of Skin Molecular Multi-Nutrient Day Cream
This no-nonsense day cream from Allies of Skin is one of the most potent protectors you’ll find on our shores. The lightweight formula is packed with 12 different antioxidant extracts that work to shield your skin on every level. Probiotics and botanical cell cultures reduce inflammation and soothe breakouts, while fermented black tea perks up your skin.
The cream also contains two different types of hyaluronic acid that hydrate both the skin surface and the deeper layers, so you can say goodbye to dehydration and dullness.
Allies of Skin Molecular Multi-Nutrient Day Cream retails for S$151, available at Sephora.
REN Clean Skincare Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist
If you like to refresh your skin with a face mist, why not go for an anti-pollution one? REN Clean Skincare’s Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist is made with sophora japonica flower and biosaccharide gum that forms an invisible barrier on your skin’s surface. This helps to detoxify your skin and protect it from external aggressors.
You can use it to set your makeup or spritz it on to prevent inflammation and early signs of skin ageing.
REN Clean Skincare Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist retails for S$64, available at Net-a-Porter.
Oskia Citylife Facial Mist
This convenient facial mist by Oskia is a great way to top up your protection throughout the day. Its formula provides a non-film barrier to prevent pollutants on your skin from making their way further into your epidermis.
The vitamins and minerals in the mist work together to protect your skin against indoor and outdoor pollution. What’s more, it uses hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate, while niacinamide and vitamin C brighten your skin. To soothe your senses, the neroli and basil oil will aid in relieving tension too.
Oskia Citylife Facial Mist retails for S$77, available at LookFantastic.
Chantecaille Blue Light Protection Hyaluronic Serum
The price tag on this serum might make you gasp, but hear us out. Infused with a mixture of antioxidant-rich botanicals, Chantecaille’s serum protects your skin against blue light emitted from the screens of your devices. Cocoa peptides and plant extracts in the formula fight fatigue and boost radiance throughout the day and while you sleep.
It’s also powered by a blend of hyaluronic acid of various molecular weights, so it locks in hydration without feeling heavy or greasy on the skin. The serum is an easy one to incorporate into your routine; simply use it as a booster under your serum or moisturiser.
Chantecaille Blue Light Protection Hyaluronic Serum retails for S$236.50, available at LookFantastic.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Anti-Pollution Drops
Famed for her hyaluronic acid serum (seriously, everyone on Vogue’s Beauty Secrets uses it), Dr. Barbara Sturm knows a thing or two about keeping your skin protected from the elements. One of her most advanced products, the Anti-Pollution Drops shields your skin from smoke and smog while it wards off damage from blue light too.
Besides hyaluronic acid to quench your skin, the serum contains cocoa seed extract to soothe and strengthen your skin with antioxidants. Together with marine extracts and microorganisms, this formula neutralises airborne heavy metals and reverses inflammation caused by pollution. Apply it before your moisturiser or mix a drop into it for a boost of protection and hydration.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Anti-Pollution Drops retails for S$211, available at Net-a-Porter.
Powered by superfoods, this serum from Cover FX is packed with antioxidants that provide an extra layer of protection for your skin. It reduces redness and prevents premature ageing, so go ahead and mix a drop or two into your moisturiser or foundation.
Cover FX Super Power Antioxidant Booster Drops retails for S$68, available at Sephora.
De Mamiel Atmosphériques Intense Nurture Antioxidant Elixir
Yup, you can still protect yourself from city pollution while sticking to an all-natural beauty routine. De Mamiel’s serum uses a cocktail of antioxidants derived from citrus fruits and plant oils to shield and rebalance your skin.
This nutritious serum has quite a rich texture, which is perfect for those with dry skin. If you have oily skin, however, you may want to go easy on this skin elixir.
De Mamiel Atmosphériques Intense Nurture Antioxidant Elixir retails for S$151.90, available at Cult Beauty.
Sealed in glass vials for extra protection, Babor’s seven-day ampoules are filled with concentrated ingredients that serve as a reparative armour for your skin. The formula neutralises free radicals while visibly smoothing the skin for a healthier, fresher complexion.
To use, shake the ampoule well. Then, use the provided plastic cap or a napkin to break open the top of the bottle. Pour the ampoule into your palms, spread it out, and apply it to your face, neck, and décolletage. You can then finish off your skincare routine with another serum or moisturiser.
Babor Pollution Protect Fluid Ampoule Concentrates retails for S$64, available at Beauty Emporium.
Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops
Skincare meets makeup in Drunk Elephant’s D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops. This luminous bronzing gel is infused with cocoa powder to feed your skin with nutritious polyphenols. It even contains a peptide that mimics the antioxidant benefits of vitamin D, so you can get sun-kissed skin without the sun damage.
All you need is a tiny drop (it’s incredibly concentrated!) mixed into your moisturiser, BB cream, or foundation for a healthy-looking tan.
Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops retails for S$50, available at Sephora.