You city-girls know it: Modern-day living can be stressful on the mind, not to mention the impact that all those pollutants can have on our body! With the number of consumers living urban lifestyles increasing globally, sales of beauty products that claim to help ward off the damaging effects of pollutants and other harmful environmental factors have seen a significant increase – but is it all just a sales point or can these products really live up to their ‘knight-in-shining-armour’ promises?

Between 2011 and 2013, market research firm Mintel reported a 40% rise in the number of cosmetic care products in the Asia-Pacific region that boasted anti-pollution properties. Although this region was a particular hot-spot for product expansion, the claims stretch world-wide and new products carrying anti-pollution properties showed an overall 10% increase between 2011 and 2013 globally. The most significant rise (a whopping 60%) occurred in new launches of soap and bath products, with haircare products at a close second, increasing by 41% during this time. Newly-launched skincare products showed a slightly lower but still significant rise at 22%, and these were found as the most likely type of cosmetic to use antioxidant claims in their marketing. But can damaging effects of our ever-changing and complicated environment really be mopped up and washed away as easily as companies claim?

When it comes to taking care of our appearance, skincare seems to reign supreme. Dedicated beauty-buffs are often willing to fork out for ‘the best’ products that ensure healthier, more youthful looking skin. Products often pack the promise of giving our visage some much needed TLC to counter-act environmental stresses like UV exposure, which can lead to premature ageing. With buzzwords like antioxidant, anti-pollutant complex and SPF featuring in many cosmetics nowadays, it’s easy to see why we’d flock to those that boast the best science, so why is inclusion of these little wonder-molecules in other areas of our lifestyle (like the diet) not enough?

There are often questions raised about the effects of topical application of certain components of cosmetics – namely the inclusion of antioxidants in products like face creams and SPF in our makeup – but studies have found that the addition of these ingredients can actually play significant roles in protecting us from our harsh environment. Such experiments found that vitamin C (a vitamin with known antioxidant activity) applied topically remained within the skin at 20-40 times the concentration as levels measured with oral vitamin C administration alone. Concentrations of vitamin E (another antioxidant) in the skin increased 10.6-fold and selenium by a factor of 1.7, with topical application of these ingredients being shown to remain in and protect the skin for several days. The studies concluded that regular application of these shielding agents, particularly in combination with broad-spectrum sunscreens ‘may be of the utmost benefit in efficiently preparing our skin against exogenous (outside) oxidative stressors occurring during daily life’. Seems that these anti-pollution ingredients do indeed have a place in our products!

The real problem is that protective components like vitamins A, C and E and selenium have numerous scientific forms, and require addition to formulas at the correct concentration and in the correct form in order to remain stable and active within the product (whether that be haircare, skincare or bath products) and thus deliver optimum beauty benefits.

So, had your 5-a-day of exhaust fumes, UV rays, industrial smoke, tobacco and ozone-made free radicals? Don’t try and tackle it solely with a defence-by-cosmetics approach – these products aren’t an impenetrable shield against ageing! Invest some time and effort into focusing on the bigger picture; looking after yourself on the inside is just as important, so don’t ditch the veggies just yet and maybe make one or two investments in your cosmetics. I It seems as though a healthy lifestyle with an added dose of defence from our products is just what we ladies need to keep looking and feeling Sexy in the City!


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