Anti-pollution and the beauty industry: Part I

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Anti-pollution and the beauty industry: Part I

Related tags Pollution Skin Air pollution

Anti-pollution has sped to the top of the industry’s agenda in recent years, particularly when it comes to skin care. Here, we present an analysis of the trend.

In this four part mini series, adapted from CosmeticsDesign’s recent presentation on the topic at the in-cosmetics Asia event, we take an in-depth look at all aspects of the trend: from its origins, to the science behind the trend, to where we’re at now, to predictions for its future.

Part I: where did anti-pollution come from?

Pollution has long been a consumer concern in Asia, with the region home to several of the most polluted cities in the world, including New Delhi and Bangalore in India, Karachi in Pakistan and Shanghai and Beijing in China.

Pollution is now increasingly also making headlines in the west,​ and according to various recent reports,​ is proving a massive problem across the continent of Africa too.


Anti-pollution personal care encompasses all products which offer the skin protection against the impact of airborne pollution: indeed, the trend is now broadening its scope, and is often called the ‘protection’ trend.

When it comes to pollution, consumers place a particular focus on particulate matter (PM), which evidence has shown to cause the skin to age prematurely. These are oxides of nitrogen and ozone. Other pollutants, such as heavy metals and pollen, are also the focus of many anti-pollution skin care products.

Consumer interest: converting to sales

According to a recent Clarins survey, 19% of US consumers, 36% of of Europeans, and 37% of Asian consumers identify pollution as a major source of aggression of the skin. More than anything, anti-pollution is being driven by consumer interest and demand.

This consumer interest does seem to be converting into purchases. Consumer Insight firm Consumer Asian Intelligence notes that the Korean drugstore chain Olive Young saw sales for anti-pollution products rise 50% in April and May this year, compared to sales for the same period 2015.

Types of products

The trend includes some products which are solely focused on offering protection against pollution, but more often, multifunction protection products which offer anti-pollution as an additional benefit are now hitting the shelves.

The trend spans categories, with cleansers, face creams, hair care and sun care all key areas seeing a rising numbers of products that make anti-pollution claims. Multinationals, including L’Oréal, Shiseido, Unilever and Procter & Gamble, are playing a central role in bringing the Asian trend to an international audience.

Anti-ageing evolution

Anti-pollution taps into the well-established global consumer demand for anti-ageing products, and in some ways is beginning to takeover as an evolution of that trend.

It is also bolstered by the rising consumer interest in health and wellness. Many ingredients manufacturers are being quick to develop anti-pollution solutions that are also natural or organic, taking steps to preemptively cater to the naturals trend - rather than retrospectively create alternatives to synthetic active ingredients, as has so far been necessary for other areas of the industry.

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