Anti Pollution Skincare – How Does it Work?

Ep 28: Anti-Pollution Skincare – How Does it Protect Your Skin?

Dr. TWL: Hi guys, this is Dr. Teo Wan Lin, accredited dermatologist practising at TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre, and welcome to my podcast Dermatologist Talks- Science of Beauty. Today’s episode is going to be about sonic cleansing, anti-pollution skincare, as well as the effects of airborne pollution on skin. We are going to start with the most fundamental step in a skincare regimen – cleansing.

This episode is made possible by FOREO. The LUNA 3 and the UFO2 are home facial devices by FOREO. The LUNA 3 is a ‘two-in-one’ device with an enhanced T-sonic Facial Cleansing brush and firming massager for the face and neck. The UFO 2 is the latest smart mask treatment that combines dermal technologies with Korean mask formulas for a home facial treatment. The UFO 2’s Hyper-Infusion technology uses your skin’s natural reactions to heat and cold as well as T-sonic pulsations that boosts absorption of active mask ingredients.

Chelsea: Talking about cleansing, I have always wondered, Can you over-cleanse? I tend to have oilier skin especially in the T-zone. In Singapore’s hot and humid climate, it’s pretty tempting for me to cleanse my face every time it feels oily.

Can I cleanse my face multiple times a day? What is the ideal number of times I should cleanse?

Dr. TWL: This is a question I get quite a lot. It seems intuitive, but it really isn’t. That’s because of the influence of lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the individual’s preferences for cleansing routines as well. In terms of the recommended frequency of cleansing, I would suggest cleansing your face twice a day as a baseline. If you do sports in between, and you have combination or oily skin, it’s perfectly alright to cleanse right after the sporting activity. Provided you are using a gentle cleanser that respects the skin barrier. That is typically one that is pH balanced. One should avoid the alkaline cleansers because these tend to disrupt the skin barrier.

Gentle cleansing

For example, amino acid surfactants are gentle on the skin barrier as a daily cleanser. This is as opposed to traditional sulphate-based cleansers. However, what I don’t recommend for individuals who suffer from dry skin, or if you have combination skin and your T-zone is the one that is predominantly oilier than the rest of your face, is to use a lathering cleanser more than twice a day. It is very important because if you have dry skin or combination skin where your cheeks tend to be quite dry, if you increase the frequency of cleansing because of sports, and use a lathering cleanser, then it can predispose you to developing skin sensitivity, which is a form of eczema.

Chelsea: Ah I see, so the type of cleanser really makes a difference here. On the topic of gentle yet effective cleansing, FOREO LUNA 3 is a facial cleansing massager that utilizes T sonic pulsations for a deeper cleanse to wash away dirt, oil, sweat, makeup from your pores. How the T sonic waves work is that they are essentially sound waves. They pulsate really quickly to gently shake loose dirt and makeup residue.

Can you tell us a little bit more about FOREO’s sonic cleansing?

Dr. TWL: I have reviewed the FOREO LUNA 3 personally and find that it is solidly designed in a way that fulfils the criteria of an ideal sonic cleansing facial device. Notably, Foreo’s patented T-Sonic technology has technical specifications of up to 8,000 pulsations per minute. With 16 sonic pulsation intensities that allow you to control the power level. This is important because of the effectiveness in removing microparticulate matter from environmental pollutants that settle on skin – an essential part of anti pollution skincare. The silicone brush heads are extremely soft and gentle on skin. Which is an important criteria of an ideal sonic cleansing device to minimise skin sensitivity.

What I wish to highlight is that there is now a better way to cleanse that’s proven by dermatological science. Sonic cleansing is an effective method of removing physical debris – the mixture of sweat, oil, grime, that is a breeding ground for microorganisms and bacteria. Sonic cleansing is able to dislodge these physical particles without stripping the skin of its inherent moisture, or disrupting the skin barrier.

Chelsea: Speaking of Sonic cleansing, lots of people throw around the term ‘double cleansing’. It’s also a staple in many skincare routines.

What is double cleansing and what are its benefits?

Dr. TWL: Double cleansing has traditionally been the recommendation as an effective way to dissolve makeup pigments on skin. Including oil-soluble pigments such as eye liner, mascara. If that follows with a lathering cleanser which leaves your skin feeling cleansed. The problem with double cleansing alone, is that it may not physically dislodge all the particles that are on your skin. We do know that there is evidence that pollutants that settle on your skin from the environmental exposures, do alter the skin microbiome. This is what we call the microbiome signature. These pollutants can also affect the entire skin aging process known as the skin exposome concept.

Chelsea: You mentioned before that the type of cleanser we use matters when it comes to determining how frequently we should cleanse our face.

Can you explain what the different types of cleansers are, and which ones we should be using?

Dr. TWL: Back to the question of how to manage if you need to cleanse your face more than twice a day. For the additional cleansers I feel that it is important to use one that is ultra gentle. It’s really important to understand that the process of cleansing isn’t about leaving your skin feeling squeaky clean. Rather, allowing the cleansing solutions to emulsify the residual debris, pigments, oil, in order to be physically removed with water.

It’s really about restoration of the skin microbiome. This is as opposed to the idea of washing your dishes clean, so there are 0 particles on it. That’s not the way facial cleansing works. Emulsifying cleansers can help to dissolve the pigments and debris without stripping the skin barrier dry, as opposed to a lathering cleanser. Emulsifying cleansers tend to be oil-based. Micellar formulas can also fulfill this function, except it can still be drying for individuals with very sensitive skin.

It’s also very important that the process of cleansing doesn’t damage the skin barrier. Which means it should leave a humectant or moisturizing layer on skin. Amino acid cleansers are much gentler than traditional sulfate based cleansers. This is as they have a lower pH which maintains a healthy skin barrier. For example, the FOREO Micro-Foam Cleanser is an amino-acid based cleanser which respects the skin barrier.

Chelsea: Well actually the FOREO Micro-Foam Cleanser ticks all the boxes for a gentle cleanser. Use it in combination with the LUNA3 to help massage the formula into the skin. Moving on, the term ‘anti-pollution skincare’ has been very popular in the skincare and beauty world recently. It’s common knowledge that pollution can be bad for our health, but can it also affect our skin?

Can you tell us more about how pollution affects our skin?

Dr. TWL: The effects of air pollution on skin have recently gained interest in the dermatology community. We are aware of the respiratory and cardiac issues and effects of airborne pollution. But descriptions of its effect on skin by researchers are recent. The key thing here is that we need to understand that there are certain biochemical and biophysical effects of airborne pollutants both indoors and outdoors. These will impact the skin metabolism inflammatory processes and oxidative stress. Which means that the skin is going to be less able to respond to the free radical damage that occurs on a daily basis. Such as damage due to other environmental factors and from biological aging itself.

Chelsea: For example, I’ve heard that tobacco smoke can really affect the quality of our skin. Tell us more about the scientific evidence behind this.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the type of pollution that can be dangerous for our skin?

Dr. TWL: Polyaromatic hydrocarbons, ground level ozone – these are well described outdoor pollutants and their effects on skin have been researched. Primarily, the issue here is that there will be proportionate delivery of pollutant levels to the skin. These will go on to activate cell metabolism inflammatory processes. In certain cellular studies performed on human epidermal keratinocytes that have been exposed to environmental ozone, it was found that it activates certain cytochrome genes.

The is the same when one has exposure to tobacco smoke. What we observe is that this results in the production of free radicals, also known as reactive oxygen species involved in oxidative stress processes. One must also bear in mind that there are certain interactions between the airborne pollutants and ultraviolet light. All these directly correlate to the level of antioxidants present in your skin. For example, after exposure to ozone, there is a reduction in vitamin C and E levels observed in the upper epidermis – which is the top layer of skin – in mouse models, and similar findings are also seen in humans when tests are done over the forearm area.

So what exactly does pollution do to our skin? Does it age our skin? What is the scientific evidence behind that?

Dr. TWL: The acceleration of skin aging is also of concern here. What we do know is that the risk of acquiring sunspots, or lentigo, were actually higher after exposure to particulate matter 2.5. Furthermore, the skin aging analysis was also studied in relation to indoor pollution in a Chinese study. Whereby the group using solid fuels indoors, actually had increasing risk of causing wrinkles on the face and fine wrinkles on the back of the hands. There were also observations of other signs of skin aging such as an increase in laxity of the eyelids and cheeks.

Additionally, one must not forget that the skin microbiome – being of great interest these days in the skincare and cosmeceutical research industry – is also affected by exposure to airborne pollutants. A study done in Germany, found that there was a difference in the microflora present on skin that was exposed to ozone, versus skin that wasn’t exposed to this airborne pollutant. What we found was that there was a decrease of almost half reduction in the skin microflora in the group that had exposure to the airborne pollutants. However, we are still unsure about how this really translates into the effects that traffic related pollutants have on the skin microbiome.

How about if I have acne-prone oily skin, how does pollution affect that?

Dr. TWL: Another interesting aspect that we should consider is the effect of pollution on acne and excess production of oil, or hyperseborrhea. The studies so far have determined that the impact of pollution can directly increase the breakouts of acne. Additionally, it is attributable to one of the acne exposome factors.

Can pollution aggravate skin conditions like eczema?

Dr. TWL: In a recent review in terms of the impact of pollution on eczema, it is noteworthy that an increase in particulate matter pollutants aggravates symptoms of eczema in several studies. So I think it’s important to understand that while we have this growing body of evidence now demonstrating the interactions of pollutants with skin, our understanding of how pollutants may activate skin metabolism and inflammation has also contributed to our attempts to treat this sort of pollution related damage with anti pollution skincare. It’s important to then process how all these interventions directly impact the cellular pathways. In order to counteract the effects of air pollution through anti pollution skincare.

Anti-pollution skincare devices

This means that well-designed sonic cleansing devices such as the FOREO LUNA 3 has the added benefit of removing particulate matter such as environmental pollutants from skin, which augment traditional cleansing methods. This is especially relevant given the current maskne phenomenon arising from mask-wearing as well. Bacteria play a important role in the development of various dermatological disorders and the scientific literature does suggest that sonic cleansing can be part of adjuvant treatment.

Summing up

Chelsea: So, today we’ve answered essential questions about one of the fundamental steps in skincare- cleansing. Touching on the importance of a gentle cleanser that respects the skin barrier. We’ve also learned about the benefits of adding sonic cleansing to your cleansing skincare regimen, and how it has the added benefit of functioning as an anti pollution skincare intervention by removing the microparticulate 2.5 matter from the surface on your skin. After today’s episode we now also know the dangers of pollution on skin. And how a good cleansing regimen can minimize oxidative stress from environmental pollutants. 

Well that’s it for this week’s episode on Dermatologist Talks: Science of Beauty. Find out more about the LUNA 3, UFO 2, and other skincare devices on, or @foreo_sg on instagram. You can follow Dr. Teo on instagram @drteowanlin where she posts updates on the latest podcast episodes. Also, be sure to check out our website at

This podcast episode is sponsored by FOREO SWEDEN as a joint collaboration to create scientific educational content relevant to skincare and dermatology. Images produced as part of editorial collaboration consistent with site policy.

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