Pollution is the buzzword in skincare for 2016, thanks to new research into exactly what it does to your skin. It’s not all doom and smoggy gloom though, as it’s easy to protect yourself with the latest air defences.

So, why is everyone talking about pollution?

Clearly nobody ever thought dirty air was great for skin, but now we know exactly why it can add years on to you. A quick science fact — air pollution is made up of particles that love latching onto your skin. Some bind to the fats in your skin, while others are tiny enough to slip in through your pores.

How bad can it be?

Very. First of all, pollution attacks the skin barrier; so your first line of defence is breached. Moisture drains away and skin gets dry and rough. A weakened barrier also leaves you wide open to skin allergies, so you can suddenly react to products you’ve been using for many years.

Is pollution going to make me look old?

I’m afraid it is. Pollutant particles trigger free radicals, which cause the same sort of ageing that too much sun can lead to. It’s not just a case of early onset wrinkles either. Pigmented spots in the forehead and cheeks which were thought to be caused only by sun exposure can also be caused by pollution.

I don’t live in Delhi. So I’m okay, right?

Obviously the more polluted the air you breathe, the greater the ill effects. However, research shows 90 per cent of people living in built-up areas are breathing polluted air. It doesn’t just come from gridlocked traffic or factory fumes either. For instance, cigarette smoke (including the passive variety) is packed with pollutant particles. Plus, research is now looking at indoor sources of air pollution, from stoves and fireplaces to foam insulation and even computer printers!

Sun and smog — double trouble

SPF itself won’t protect you from pollution, but skipping it will make the UV damage worse. Why? Well, UV and air toxins work as a team, which means a combination of sun exposure and polluted air caused more damage than the two individually. Therefore put on a sunscreen even in cold months.

How can you protect yourself?

1. Cleanse
Step one has to be shifting pollutant particles that sit on your skin’s surface or lodge in follicles. Deep cleansing removes more dirt than just washing.

2. Exfoliate
Getting rid of the dead, dulling, polluted cells on your skin surface is another must. Go for a product that’s gentle enough to use at least three times a week.

3. Treat
We’ve moved beyond the cliche of a mud pack and cucumber slices — high-tech masks are huge for 2016. Defending masques not only boost the skin barrier while it’s on the face, but also blocks receptors that pollutants normally lock onto in between treatments.

4. Antioxidants
Anti-oxidants are vital for neutralising the free radicles unleashed by pollution. Wear a day cream packed with antioxidant vitamins, and add in a vitamin C serum. As well as being a potent antioxidant, it helps curb and even reverse age spots triggered by pollution. Antioxidant oral supplements will also protect your skin as well as improve your general health.

5. Block it
Foundation blocks the amount of pollutant particles that can latch on and penetrate into your skin.