Five Ways To City-Proof Your Skin
Add these grooming products to your routine and get ready to face anything.
The United Nations predicts that two-thirds of the global population will live in a city by 2050. High-density metropolises such as Beijing and London already test the limits of their inhabitants, and the steep trajectory of urbanisation will only make the psychological, biological and environmental consequences harder to ignore.
As those who live in the countryside are only too keen to point out, it is the urbanite’s face that bears the hallmarks of its environment. Pigmentation, sensitivity, fatigue and premature ageing – not to mention an intransigent scowl – are far more common among city dwellers than those who live closer to nature. In spite of its many conveniences, city life is hard on skin.
As such, a standard cleanse-and-moisturise routine isn’t going to cut it; you’ll need to bring out the big guns in order to mitigate the impact of living in the big smoke. Fortunately, the cosmetics industry has pre-empted our necessity for environmental shields. Premium brands such as Natura Bissé along with mass-market monoliths like Nivea now offer topical antidotes for hard-living urbanites.
Grooming, in this context, is not about beautifying or correcting so much as protecting and preserving your good looks. As the old adage goes, the best defence is a good offence.
Cleansing is non-negotiable for city dwellers. Removing the microscopic grime your face has collected during the day will have the greatest impact on the health of your skin, especially if you rely on an underground transport system to get from A to B. “I think using two-stage cleansing [an oil-based cleanser followed by a lathering cleanser and water] at least twice a day is useful in combating the effects of pollution,” says aesthetician Dr David Jack. Face washes and cleansers come in a variety of formats (oils, balms, gels) and, if you really want to level up, you can follow your cleanser of choice with an enzyme peel. If one product is more than enough, then we’d recommend Perricone MD’s CBx Super Clean Face Wash, a gel-to-foam formula that removes debris without over-drying skin. As an added bonus, it contains phytocannabinoids, from hemp, which have antioxidant properties.
UVA light is the most potent skin ravager of all. But, in spite of many campaigns imploring us to protect ourselves from the DNA damage it can cause, most of us do not use anywhere near enough sunscreen while at the beach, let alone when we’re in the city. Alas, it’s estimated that 80 per cent of UV damage happens during daily life, not just when we’re away on holiday. It is advisable, therefore, to think of sunscreen not as burn prevention but as an anti-ageing product that should be used year-round (yes, even in winter). To that end, a non-streaky city-friendly sunscreen should be the final step of your skincare routine. If that feels like one stage too many, then opt for Lab Series’ Daily Moisture Defense Lotion, a moisturiser that has an SPF15 built in.
Movement is part and parcel of city life. We go from one place to another, uptown to downtown, indoors to outdoors and, in doing so, we encounter a host of different environments. The most tangible shift is in temperature and humidity. One moment we’re in an air-conditioned office and the next we’re back out in the balmy summer heat. Or, perhaps, we move from subzero streets to a heated home. These repetitive transitions compromise the skin’s integrity, leaving it sensitive, dehydrated, and dull. Reinforce the skin’s barrier function by investing in a quality moisturiser that will relieve that tight feeling and give you a healthy glow to boot. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare’s hydrating formula features hyaluronic acid, a sponge-like polysaccharide that can hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water and keep moisture locked in the lower layers of the dermis.
Smartphones aren’t just destroying your attention span and playing with your sleep cycles – there’s a good chance they’re frying your face in the process, too. High-energy visible light (HEV) – better known as blue light – is thought to age skin in much the same way as sun lounging. Research is very much in its infancy, but the app-addicted are well advised to consider a shield in the form of Dr Sebagh’s Supreme Day Cream. This all-bases-covered moisturiser doesn’t just protect you from the glare of laptops, tablets and mobile phones, it also packs in a potent blend of antioxidants to help offset the radical damage that comes with city life.
With cities such as London exceeding The World Health Organization limits for pollution, there is no avoiding the tiny particulate matter that floats in the air and penetrates skin (it’s smaller than your pores!). To remedy this, you’ll want to bring in the dermatological big guns. Dr. Barbara Sturm’s anti-pollution drops hail from far beyond the city – the formula is based on a special extract derived from microorganisms found in French Polynesia. This extract reinforces the skin’s protective barrier, neutralises airborne heavy metals and shields against pollution-induced dullness. Use it alone or add it to your moisturiser of choice for industrial-strength protection.
Illustration by Mr Michal Bednarski