Skin-care products that add antioxidants and aid in barrier repair as a defense against air pollution.

Share story

Environmental attack. Free radical assault. Noxious gas. From some dire beauty headlines of late, you’d think the very air was contriving, if not to kill us, then to make us look older.

Scientists are just beginning to uncover how toxic air affects the skin’s aging process. A study done this year on data from subjects in Germany and China appeared to link increased air pollution to brown spots on the skin.

And not surprisingly, the big beauty players are stepping in with new skin care products — “pollution protection,” as it’s called.

“The best thing we can do now is apply antioxidants: vitamins C and E,” says Dr. Gilly Munavalli, medical director of Dermatology, Laser & Vein Specialists of the Carolinas in Charlotte, N.C.

Doctors say that a routine of antioxidants, cleansing and barrier repair is the best defense against air pollution.

“People forget that the main goal of our skin is to be an immune barrier,” says Dr. Anne Chapas of Union Square Laser Dermatology in Manhattan. “So the main goal is to keep things out of the body. If you have a compromised skin barrier, it’s letting things in.”

Among the skin care ingredients to consider are glycerin, lanolin, niacinamide and beeswax.

The pollutants we encounter every day may be largely inescapable, but there’s ample reason to be defensive in our skin care routine. Here are some products that may help.

Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day UV Sun Fluid ($34 at Sunscreen alone won’t protect the skin from all pollution damage. This Korean brand claims to have the same electrical charge as dust particles in the air, therefore repelling them and creating a protective field. Bonus points for a quick-absorbing, moisturizing finish.

Epionce Renewal Facial Cream, $94; Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, $125
Epionce Renewal Facial Cream, $94; Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, $125

Epionce Renewal Facial Cream ($94 at This moisturizer has ingredients said to be both barrier-repairing and anti-inflammatory, like meadowfoam, apple and avocado extract.

Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 ($125 at Formulated specifically to repair barrier function, this cream replenishes cholesterol, ceramides and fatty acids, all of which are depleted as the skin barrier is compromised.

Coola Sport SPF 50 Sunscreen Spray ($36 at Skin on the body is less susceptible to pollution than skin on the face. But that doesn’t mean one should skimp on protection. This sunscreen from Coola contains antioxidants.

Kayo Daily Vitamin Boost ($56 at Kayo, a new brand based in Malibu, Calif., makes what it calls “face grade” premium body care. Use its body antioxidant formula as you would a face serum: Add several drops to your sunscreen or moisturizer. Vitamins C and E are the main anti-pollution ingredients in this mix of hydrators and collagen boosters.

Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Defense SPF 45 Advanced UV Defender ($41 at extracts from a Brazilian cactus, this mineral sunscreen is said to create a physical barrier that protects skin from airborne particles. It also claims to trigger the production of hornerin, a protein that aids epidermal function.

Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart ($68 at This tinted cream is a good cosmetic choice, too. Light diffusers blur blemishes, and its dewy texture makes it a good base layer for fresh-faced makeup.