Health and Beauty We examine the trends underlying the growth of the global marketplace in health, beauty and hygiene. Our analysts will point the way forward by highlighting critical innovations and behaviours that are driving industry evolution.

Pollution: A Business Opportunity for Cosmetics Ingredients (Part 1)

Maria Coronado Robles Profile Picture
Maria Coronado Robles Bio

Antipollution cosmetics, a well-established trend in Asia Pacific due to the dangerous levels of air pollution, is now going global, driven by a growing consumer desire for a healthy look. Western consumers are increasingly looking for cosmetics with benefits that not only fight the signs of ageing but also protect against pollutants. Growing urban pollution awareness in the West and global middle-class expansion in the East will shape the purchasing patterns of antipollution products over the coming years. This translates into big worldwide opportunities for leading cosmetic brands. Aware of this, ingredients manufacturers have moved quickly to capture the emerging opportunities that pollution brings to the market.

City air and premature skin ageing

A recent study conducted by L’Oréal points out the link between atmospheric pollution and premature skin ageing, especially in people with sensitive skin. According to this research, people living in very populous cities have lower levels of vitamin E and squalene in sebum compared to those living in rural areas. Urban pollution – and especially particulate matter with sizes of about 2.5 microns (PM2.5) and 10 microns (PM10) – seems to be one of the main threats to skin health. These fine particles are coated with polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals and other contaminants, which, in contact with the skin and hair, are capable of penetrating deeper layers, inducing collagen and elastin breakdown and the release of free radicals. Pollutants can cause cellular damage, dryness, inflammation and pigmentation, which are strong signs of premature skin ageing.

Unsurprisingly, cities in Asia Pacific, such as Shanghai and Beijing in China, New Delhi and Bangalore in India, and Karachi in Pakistan, are on the list of the most polluted cities in the world. According to the World Health Organization, over 99% of the urban population in China, India and Pakistan are regularly exposed to PM2.5 concentrations higher than those recommended.

Particulate Matter Mean Annual Exposure In Selected Countries

Source: [PM10 Emissions: Euromonitor International from EEA, Eurostat, OECD: PM 2.5 from World Bank]

Diversification the secret for success

Anti-pollution ingredients are widely used in a wide variety of products in Asia Pacific where the worrying levels of air pollution were the inspiration for the development of these products. Asian brands such as Boroplus in India, Hua Niang and Fumakilla in China as well as Etude House in Korea and Shiseido in Japan pioneered the trend. Increasing consumer’s awareness of the effects of air pollutants on skin health and appearance is driving the demand for anti-pollution products worldwide. However, marketing of a product differs across regions. In China with the highest pollution levels in the world, health concerns are driving the trend while in the West premature skin-aging caused by pollution is the main sales driver.

Antipollution claims initially carried by facial skin products such as Lancôme City Miracle, REN Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist and Olay Total Effects are now increasingly advertised in skin cleansers, sun protection, hair care products and colour cosmetics. Sun protection products such as Clarins UV Plus Anti-Pollution SPF 50, Shisheido UV Urban Environment Protection SPF 40 and Vichy UV Pro Secure Anti UV Anti-Pollutant SPF 50 PA+++ are now addressing both pollution and UV protection. Besides sun protection, companies are now also marketing cleansing products claimed to be able to remove pollutants from the skin, such as Tata Harper purifying cleanser, Ponds men’s pollution-out all-in-one deep cleanser or the Dermalogica’s new Daily Superfoliant. Other antipollution products gaining traction in the market are standard shampoos and colour cosmetics. Henkel just launched in February 2016 its Schwarzkopf Extra Care Purify and Protect, a hair care range of products specially designed for Asia, while Bourjois launched its City Radiance foundation back in January. In order to take advantage of the new antipollution wave, cosmetics companies such as Sampar with its Smart Skin in the City line, Estée Lauder's with its Clinique City Block line, Unilever with its Pond’s Pure White Cleansing line or Clarins with its new Hydra-Essentiel Range are now launching entire product lines completely dedicated to combatting air pollution, driven by increasing consumer demand.

The number of antipollution products reaching the market is increasing and this trend is expected to continue. However, not all products claimed to fight the effects of pollution are equally effective since the anti-pollution activity of a cosmetic product depends on its anti-pollution ingredients. Although consumers are currently demanding proof of safety and efficacy of the products they buy, the vast majority are still not able to fully understand complicated scientific terms and they generally relay on products that meet regulation and certification requirements.


For further insight, please contact us at

Interested in more insights? Subscribe to our content

Explore More

Shop Our Reports

Uncovering C-Beauty: Growth Strategies and Market Outlook

C-beauty brands outperformed the market in China in the last five years, particularly in skin care and colour cosmetics. Benefiting from strong digital…

View Report

World Market for Beauty and Personal Care

The looming factors of high inflation, rising unit prices and strained supply chains became significant challenges for beauty and personal care, resulting in a…

View Report

Global Inflation Tracker: Q2 2023

This report examines inflation levels and drivers globally and in key countries. Global inflation is moderating, although volatility in the energy markets and…

View Report
Passport Our premier global market research database with detailed data and analysis on industries, companies, economies and consumers. Track existing and future opportunities to support critical decision-making across all functions within your organisation Learn More