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SKIN TIP: How to protect your skin from pollution

April 27, 2015 Charlotte Cho

Key to looking refreshed: A few minutes of down time with a good magazine and charcoal mask.

The first thing my Korean friend said to me when we found each other in the lobby at the Soko Glam headquarters in NYC on Wednesday: "You look really tired.”

I sighed. He didn't mean to be rude about it. I didn’t mind. If living in Korea has taught me one thing, it’s that most people there -- even acquaintances -- tell you what's on their mind,  even if it isn't the most flattering comment.

Besides, his comment was true. Not only was I extremely tired, but my entire body felt fatigued. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of juggling between Soko Glam and esthetician school (the year is about to end, which means finals!). If it’s a choice between sleep or doing blackhead extractions and scouring the market for new curations for Soko Glam, I will gladly lose the sleep so I can do what I love!

Admittedly, there are some some days that are just a lot to handle. There have been one or two times the last few months that I've fallen asleep on my bed, fully clothed (and with my makeup on -- yikes). Seriously, I’ve been the worst! But living in a city with a lot of harsh environmental factors like New York doesn’t help.

I love this city, but my skin doesn’t love the pollution so much. Your skin is like a mirror for that kind of stress, and that day I met my friend, my face reflected as much.

There are many studies on how air pollution is directly linked to signs of premature aging of the skin. While sun exposure (those darn UV rays) is the leading cause of aging, pollution is also a huge factor in the creation of fine lines, pigmentation and loss of elasticity.


This infographic does a really good job of breaking it down:



So what’s in the air can actually have harsh effects on your skin - especially for you city dwellers.

Here’s how to cope:

Double cleanse. I’ve previously blogged about the benefits of using an oil cleanser and water based cleanser every morning and night. Oil cleansers are key here, because pollutants mainly consist of oil-based debris. To effectively remove it from your skin, you need an oil-based solution! Think of it as treating like with like. 

Clarify. After cleansing, follow with a toner that resets your pH balance, to restore your skin to its naturally acidic state. This refreshes your skin by helping to remove any remaining debris, as well as hydrates and prepares your skin for the rest of your skin care routine that may involve serums and essence. Try following with a mask made with absorptive ingredients such as charcoal and clay to draw out impurities.

Exfoliate. Another option after cleansing is to use sugar scrubs and peeling masks to help remove dead skin cells. This helps ensure that the skin care products you use after (moisturizers, serums, etc.) that contain antioxidants can penetrate easily so they can really work for your skin! Give them a fighting chance to beat free radical damage. 

Use any products you know work with your skin and you know you love! So long as they're designed to do these basic functions, you'll be good. If you're not quite sure where to start or you want to spring clean your routine, I curated my current product picks for dealing with pollution and will help you cleanse, clarify and exfoliate here. (Psst...It's a limited edition value set for only $40 (and a value of $59), so don't miss out!)



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About Charlotte

Soko Glam co-founder and chief curator. Licensed esthetician sharing the love of all things K-beauty.

About Sokoglam

Bringing the best in Korean skin care, beauty, and culture Stateside since 2012. Discover, shop, and learn with us.