The Dirtier The Air, The Gentler The Cleanser

The logic behind this school of thought: our skin is already vulnerable; clean it in the kindest way.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The logic behind this school of thought: our skin is already vulnerable; clean it in the kindest way.

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There’s a general mindset that we must eliminate every speck of dirt with the most potent cleanser. Especially since the World Health Organization says 90 per cent of the global population now lives with high levels of pollutants.

We are not against cleanliness, but as the skin is an organ (the largest one, too) and not a toilet that needs overzealous cleaning, how we clean it affects its ability to do what it’s supposed to do: protect us from the elements – including pollution. Especially pollution.

So why is bad air worse than, say, the sun? Pollution, on its own, induces more oxidative stress. It also amplifi es the negative effects of UV rays.

That’s why cosmetics companies have been looking at anti-pollution cleansers differently: to clean better, it’s better to clean gently – because an already weakened skin barrier needs to be soothed, not further aggravated. To do that, a lot of the focus has been on textures – myriad richer textures (get this: rich doesn’t = oily), from oil to foam and milk to water – that are designed to glide over skin to remove what shouldn’t be there while protecting and boosting what should. – JE

Chanel has been an early advocator of anti-pollution vigilance. Its latest cleansing range, Antipollution (which replaces some of its current cleansers), has four products. Each emollient cleanser has a different texture and is aimed at what you need rather than your skin type. They are colour-coded: orange = oil; blue = watery. All except the foam cleanser will remove full-face makeup.

1 Cleansing Oil is a very watery oil that emulsifies with water but doesn’t lather. $64

2 Cleansing Cream-tofoam gives a creamy lather for zero drag on skin. Use it in the AM or as part two of your double-cleanse in the PM. $64

3 Cleansing Milk-to-water is like a milky micellar water, and designed to be used like one – with just a cotton pad. $64

5 Cleansing Milk-toOil is a thicker milk that transforms to a comforting oil texture which drier or mature skins will like. $64 Japanese holistic brand Three’s anti-pollution cleansers are designed for weakened skin which has become reactive to urban living. Both have bay leaf oil, a natural antibiotic and sanitiser to detox, deepclean and reduce reactivity.

4 Cleansing Oil’s smooth and highly spreadable texture is the best of all the oil cleansers we have tried. $68

6 Clearing Foam with soap nut extract and olive oil is a soothing wash for even the most reactive skin. $58