New products claiming to be anti-dust are hitting store shelves—but are they doing anything new?

By Rachel Jacoby Zoldan
September 12, 2019
Getty Images/Xvision

Whether you live in the city or spend your time amidst fresh country air, the outdoors can contribute to skin damage—and not just because of the sun. (Related: 20 Sun Products to Help Protect Your Skin)

"Dust can promote free radical damage when it deposits on skin," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. One study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology shows that particulate matter—a.k.a. dust—causes oxidative stress in the skin. (See also: Is the Air You Breathe Your Skin's Biggest Enemy?)

Now, brands are jumping onto this notion and creating a litany of products with anti-dust claims on the label. But do you need to invest in a new skin-care routine? Here's what you need to know.

Wait, Why Is Dust Bad for Your Skin?

Air pollution and dust can worsen discoloration, breakouts, dullness, and eczema, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. "It can also cause inflammation," which equals redness, irritation, and increased sensitivity for the skin. (Related: Find Out How Pollution Can Affect Your Workout)

Keep in mind, of course, the particulate matter varies based on where you live, particularly whether you live in a more urban or rural area. Unsurprisingly, as the CDC notes, rural counties generally experience fewer unhealthy air quality days than large central metropolitan counties.

How to Offset Any Dust-Related Damage

"It is important to wash your face before bed to thoroughly remove dirt, oil, makeup, and particulate matter that accumulate during the day," says Dr. Zeichner.

Reach for a cleanser like Isoi Sensitive Skin Anti-Dust Cleansing Foam (Buy It, $35, amazon.com), which has skin-soothing properties courtesy of calendula oil, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin, all of which hydrate the skin and can help ward off irritation.

Another important way to protect skin from free radical damage caused by dust and pollution, according to Dr. Jaliman, is to use products loaded with antioxidants. "Most products labeled anti-pollution contain antioxidants," she says, "which deliver environmental protection and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and the overall texture of the skin." (Related: Here's How to Protect Your Skin From Free Radical Damage)

Dr. Jaliman recommends looking for formulas that contain vitamin C, resveratrol, and/or niacinamide for everyday use. Try Dr. Jart V7 Antioxidant Serum (Buy It, $58, sephora.com) or the Inkey List Niacinamide (Buy It, $7, sephora.com).

Minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and copper can also help. Both magnesium and zinc temper inflammation and help to keep pores unclogged, says Dr. Jaliman. Reach for Indeed Labs Mineral Booster Serum (Buy It, $25, ulta.com), which has a blend of all three.

Dr. Jaliman also recommends using a product that contains exopolysaccharide, a derivative of marine microorganisms that "protects your skin from external influences that can harm its texture and appearance." Try the new Dr. Sturm Anti-Pollution Drops (Buy It, $145, sephora.com), which is also chockfull of antioxidants thanks to the addition of cocoa seeds. (Related: Find Out How Pollution Affects Your Hair and Scalp Health)

The good news for your wallet: This anti-dust skin-care trend is really just a subset of the anti-pollution trend, so you probably don't need a whole new arsenal of products. If you already have a comprehensive skin-care routine—complete with a cleanser, antioxidant serum, and sunscreen—you're already protecting your skin against environmental damage, including air pollution and dust. If not? Consider this your motivation to up your skin-care game, especially if you live in a city.

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