Anti-Pollution Skincare Tips

By Minji

  • Concerned about air-pollution and the negative effects it can have on your skin?
  • I'm sharing a few anti-pollution skincare tips learned from Seoul, where people have been dealing with "fine dust pollution" issues for years now
  • It starts with the K-beauty double cleanse!

We’re all wearing masks now regardless of where we might live, but regular mask wearing was already a thing in Seoul, many years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Mask-wearing started in Seoul not to fight against the current pandemic, not to prevent against the flu or other infectious diseases, but actually to protect against the harmful effects of air pollution.

Seoul has been struggling with what’s called “fine dust pollution” for several years now.  The Korean government has passed emergency measures to tackle this so-called “social disaster,” which poses major health risks such as various respiratory, cardiovascular diseases and can be the source of all sorts of skincare problems as well. 

It’s been humbling to see how similar issues have come to the forefront recently in LA.  Like I used to do in Seoul, recently, one of the first things I check in the morning is the air quality index, in addition to the standard weather report.  It’s been a glaring red “unhealthy” for the past few days now and I haven’t left the house due to health concerns!

The exact reasons for the surge in air pollution are different, but it’s an opportunity to again realize how the world and all living beings are interconnected.  Nothing is really ever just one person, one country’s problem.  It makes sense to view the world in a much more connected way.

Related to this, friends have been asking me for pollution related skincare tips. Having the know-how from Seoul where we’ve been through this for a while now, I wanted to recommend the following. In case you’re one of the people out there increasingly worried about the negative effects air-pollution can have on your skin, try this.

  1. Proper cleansing is more important than ever! On days where the pollution levels are high, make sure you engage in the K-beauty double cleansing technique at night. It’s imperative that you remove as much pollutants off your face before you go to sleep so that your skin can breathe well and properly repair itself during your beauty sleep. Make sure you wash your hands before you start the cleansing process too, so you’re not adding to the trouble!
  2. Add in a facial sheet mask after cleansing, before Step 1 toner. With all the pollutants damaging your skin and the extra effort you’re putting into with washing your face, the higher risk that your skin will dry out. According to Dr. Yoon, adding in a facial sheet mask can increase absorption of hydrating ingredients by up to 10 times, so make sure you do it at least once a week. 2-3 times/week during times of intense pollution is even better.
  3. Incorporate a gentle AHA toner. I love toners because they bridge the gap between cleansing and your regular skincare routine.  Gentle AHA toners are the best since they can help swipe away any impurities that might still be left on your skin after cleansing and also exfoliate and prep your skin.  
  4. Stay away from face oil during the day and consider using oil-free sunscreen. The less sticky your face is, the less chance that pollutants will stick to your skin.
  5. Don’t forget your mask, sunglasses and hat. Going back to how daily mask wearing started in Seoul, wearing protective gear can physically block out pollutants as well.
  6. Make sure you incorporate antioxidants into your skincare products and also your diet. Instead of focusing too much on the “anti-pollution” labels brands are using these days, just make sure your regular skincare products contain ingredients like vitamin C and E, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramide, green tea, etc. which are all known to help combat damage on the skin caused by pollutants.
  7. Use a nourishing face oil or overnight face mask at night. In addition to cleansing properly and boosting hydration, you want to make sure you put in the extra effort to nourish and strengthen your skin’s natural protective barriers.