Pollution – and the free radicals it generates – is a big culprit when it comes to premature skin ageing: wrinkles, pigmentation, breakouts, and dry, rough skin.

Your skin isn’t totally helpless though. It’s able to defend itself against the damage from everyday pollution, from exhaust fumes to haze, blue light, UV rays and more, mopping up the day’s free radicals as you sleep. The problem is that it’s hard for the skin to keep up with the never-ending cycle of damage-repair-damage. 

South Korean beauty brand Hera found that when skin is overwhelmed by all the repair it has to do nightly, it becomes too exhausted to restore itself fully. 

Park Seon Mi, senior researcher at Amorepacific Brand Science Lab, says when the Hera research team observed skin cells carrying three days of accumulated environmental damage, they found that these cells looked like they belonged to an older person, as even the littlest residual damage caused skin to age faster.

That led to the search for an ingredient that could help skin battle the damaging effects of pollution. And its discovery was almost accidental.

In the lab, scientists cultivate cells to keep them alive outside the body for their experiments. The researcher who was doing this became curious about how a cell culture solution could do this so well. The team discovered the reason was a high amount of a chemical compound called pyruvate, in the solution.

Pyruvate, which also exists in the body, is crucial to skin-cell survival. It works like a battery for cells, boosting their energy so they can function well. When there isn’t enough pyruvate, skin ageing increases and skin becomes poorly protected.

Its secret lies in how fast it works in boosting skin energy – like a burst of energy because of how easily it’s absorbed by the skin. The result: cells need less time to get to work to repair the day’s damage, and get the job done faster too.

Further research found that it’s a powerful free-radical fighter, removing active oxygen by up to 90 per cent, making it a top antioxidant. It’s also an anti-ageing all-rounder, helping to slow down collagen degradation, encourage cell production and keep skin plump with youth, so you look younger.

hera youth serum

Hera decided it would make pyruvate its star pollution fighter, using it in its new Youth Activating Cell Serum ($120 for 40ml; $100 for refill), to help skin work efficiently. In short, the serum clears out the damage induced by harmful urban factors like pollution and UV, from the skin daily, preventing it from accumulating and overwhelming skin. 

To complement pyruvate’s anti-ageing benefits, the serum contains other Hera signature ingredients that strengthen skin and mimic the key functions of our cells, preserving, recharging and rebuilding them, which in turn restores skin’s vitality and radiance. These help maximise skin energy, which helps in skin repair and skin health.

Credit: @Herabeauty_official

To complete, hyaluronic acid and collagen of low molecular weights plump, hydrate and firm skin, keeping the complexion looking youthful, healthy and radiant. Use it in the morning and night, as the first serum after toner and essence, to strengthen skin and repair pollution damage. Apply your other serums after, followed by moisturiser.

This article was first published in Her World’s May magazine.