The truth about pollution

We talk to Elizabeth Arden’s senior director of research and development, Lavinia Popescu, about our increasingly polluted world, the damage it’s doing to our skin and what we can do to stop it.

When we’re talking beauty and skin, what exactly is pollution? Car exhausts? Cigarette smoke?

Pollution comes in a number of different forms that can damage your skin, including:

  • Particulate matter
  • Smoke
  • Surface ozone or smog
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can come from car exhaust and emissions
  • Nitrogen oxide gas which comes from burning fuel
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Could you explain what oxidative stress is and how pollution contributes to oxidative stress?

‘Oxidative stress’ occurs when your body produces more free radicals than it can handle. Free radicals are reactive atoms that can result from environmental insults like pollution, UV exposure, or toxins – which can damage DNA. Ambient Particulate Matter (PM) from pollution generates excess free radicals, which interfere with the skin’s ability to produce collagen and elastin and retain moisture, resulting in accelerated signs of ageing.

How is pollution able to penetrate our skin and what does pollution do to our skin?

The reason skin is so susceptible to damage from air pollution is that it is so easy for these pollution particles to penetrate the skin. Pollution particles in the nano-size range are considered to be among the most harmful components of Ambient Particulate Matter or PM. These particles can be up to 20 times smaller than human pores.

The resulting signs of skin damage can include dry, dull skin, more pronounced fine lines and wrinkles, and inflammation. There is also a clear correlation between exposure to high levels of Ambient Particulate Matter and extrinsic signs of skin ageing including hyper-pigmentation on the face and cheeks.

The environment can also compromise DNA enzymes within the skin. Our cells naturally produce DNA enzymes that help repair skin damage, but as we age the levels of these enzymes drop making the process less effective. DNA enzymes are further compromised by sun and pollution creating damage that is difficult to reverse. Without these important DNA enzymes our body is not able to self-repair as quickly the signs of ageing caused by toxic free radicals.

The best way to avoid these symptoms is to proactively protect skin from environmental damage by regularly using sunscreen, antioxidants and anti-pollution products.

What kind of impact can pollution have on the ageing process?

The environment is visibly aging your skin; in fact, 80% of all signs of skin aging are due to environmental aggressors such as UV rays, pollution and smoke.  In fact, a recent study shows that women who spent years living in urban areas being exposed to high levels of particulate matter from soot and traffic pollution had 20% more age spots and more pronounced wrinkles than those living in more rural areas.

Are there certain types of pollution that are worse than others? How does this tend to vary from country to country?

People living in urban areas are more exposed to pollution and are at a greater risk – there are studies that show that people living in higher traffic areas have more brown spots and pronounced wrinkles than those living in more rural areas. However, there is a need for everyone to be aware of pollution issues and take action to protect their skin regardless of where they live. Pollution levels are constantly changing so even if it doesn’t seem like you have a high pollution level right now, it can change drastically from day to day so it is important to make sure that you are protected at all times.

What are the key steps we can take to protect our skin from pollution?

It’s important to start protecting your skin from these environmental assaults now – and since levels of pollution vary globally day by day, this isn’t just a product for visiting Beijing or Mumbai, or even for those living in a heavily polluted city. It is important for everyone, every day. PREVAGE City Smart should be the last skincare product that you apply in your daily routine. Start with SUPERSTART Skin Renewal Booster, PREVAGE Anti-Aging Daily Serum and your favourite moisturiser before applying City Smart. Follow with PREVAGE Anti-Aging Foundation for a regimen that is designed to help correct, protect and perfect skin.

Can you explain how the anti-pollution component of City Smart works?

The Triple Action Protection technology works to protect, prevent and strengthen skin through three shields of protection within the City Smart formula, delivering younger, healthier, more resilient looking skin.

First, the Anti-Pollution Shield Technology forms an invisible protective barrier to help prevent harmful toxins and pollution particles from penetrating skin. Also a 100% Mineral Broad Spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen (micronised Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide) filters out UVA and UVB rays.

The second level is a potent, first-of-its-kind patent-pending Anti-Pollution Complex comprised of an exclusive antioxidant blend of Idebenone, the world’s single most powerful antioxidant, Green Tea, Thiotaine, Ferulic Acid and L-Carnosine, to neutralise free radical damage caused by pollution and UV exposure, including both oxygen-based and nitrogen-based free radicals.

The third is a DNA Enzyme Complex™ formulated with purified enzymes derived from Plankton, Arabidopsis Thaliana, and Ocean Bacteria extracts to help protect against free radical damage while strengthening and supporting the skin’s natural DNA repair process against oxidative stress.


Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE City Smart ($110) is available now. 

Five minutes with Benny Castles from WORLD

First thing’s first: scent is so personal; should we even be attempting to buy fragrance for someone else?

It completely depends on how well you know the gentleman in question, and of course how confident you might be in predicting his sensibilities. I think because of how personal fragrance is it makes an amazing gift, but it is important to include a gift exchange and tester strips of the fragrance in the wrapping so before the product is opened he might smell it first…and if it is not perfect, you can go back into the store and enjoy the whole fragrance buying experience again – together!

Is buying something that you personally like the smell of the best way to approach buying a fragrance for the man in your life?

There is certainly a school of thought that says – you’ve got to smell him so make sure you like it too! Part of fragrance is the attraction it may create, humans are attracted to one another through our own scent and so fragrance can assist and embolden this attraction. Keep in mind that men enjoy being told they smell nice and so if he sees a smile on your face and receives a
compliment he will enjoy wearing it. A gift that gives back!

Where do you start with the man who has never owned a fragrance before? How about the man who’s a bit of a connoisseur?

A man who has not paid any interest to fragrance is the perfect blank canvas, make sure to explain why the fragrance you have chosen is special, don’t expect him to all of sudden to turn
into a connoisseur. Explain that what you have bought him is the Bentley of fragrance and what he was wearing was the Diahatsu of fragrance – he’ll get it. If your gentleman is something of an expert, be sure to do your homework, what does he wear, which fragrance has he mentioned  recently, where does he usually shop – and be sure to rely on good service and knowledgeable shop keepers to assist you, explain all these things and let the team in store work their magic!

Do you have any easy tips to stop us from getting it completely wrong?
Only buy fragrance, if you think he’ll appreciate it. Some guys may not say it, but they love being educated and shown something new – by nature men are open to new ideas…but sometimes the Repco voucher, whilst boring and of no interest to you, is the right choice. Be careful with the kind of scent you buy, think about what flavours and foods he likes, the more you think about him, the better your choice will be. But in the end, go with your instincts don’t overthink or confuse yourself – more often than not it is first scent you are drawn to that is the right one. Another thing to keep in mind is the look and feel of the bottle, we are more inclined to enjoy wearing fragrance if we enjoy the visual aspect of the bottle and look forward to picking up off the shelf and applying, if the bottle goes against his aesthetic, it’ll sit in the box in the bathroom cabinet.