This Anti-Pollution Skincare Ingredient Will Be the Next Big Thing in Beauty


(Image credit: @sasha.mei)

Every day, our skin is faced with an onslaught of environmental aggressors. This is essentially an umbrella term for anything that can cause harm to the skin over time. It includes things like UV rays, infrared radiation, blue light, and air pollution, which cause oxidative stress to the skin, meaning they can break down collagen and elastin and lead to premature signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. So, how can we protect ourselves from these environmental aggressors and the oxidative stress they cause? Easy. We can use antioxidant-rich skincare products. 

The primary function of antioxidants is to neutralize free radicals, the unstable compounds that environmental aggressors like UV rays produce. "Free radicals can damage cellular structures, like DNA, lipids, and proteins, and contribute to the appearance of aging skin," says board-certified dermatologist Brendan Camp, MD, FAAD. Using effective antioxidant skincare products is an easy way to prevent these free radicals from wreaking havoc on the skin. 

While there are many antioxidant ingredients you can turn to—including vitamin C—one, in particular, has been making waves in the beauty industry lately. Its alfalfa. Also known as Medicago sativa, it has garnered attention from brands and consumers alike for its anti-pollution effects. Ahead, learn all there is to know about this buzzy ingredient and shop some of the best protective products. 


(Image credit: @maryljean)

What Are the Benefits of Alfalfa in Skincare? 

Aside from the aforementioned antioxidant benefits that can stave off free radicals and oxidative stress, Camp says alfalfa is rich in vitamins and minerals that offer calming effects. "It's an excellent ingredient to add to your skincare routine," he says. "Not only will it stave off premature signs of aging, but it will also aid in easing redness and irritation due to its high concentration of nourishing vitamins and minerals." Talk about a multitasking ingredient. 


(Image credit: @claire_most)

According to Camp, alfalfa is getting so much buzz for a few reasons. "Alfalfa is trending because people are always looking for something new and different to give a boost to their skin," he says. "In addition, as a naturally derived ingredient, it ticks the 'organic' or 'natural' skin care box."

That explains why it's often used in retinol alternatives, such as serums that include bakuchiol. While the latter works to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles (much like retinol), alfalfa provides antioxidant benefits and keeps irritation at bay. These retinol alternatives are touted as a gentle and natural substitute for retinol, which can often cause harsh side effects like dryness, peeling, flaking, and redness. 


(Image credit: @bellathomas)

What Skin Types and Concerns Is It Best Suited For?

Since alfalfa is first and foremost a protective ingredient, Camp says it's "best for the prevention and treatment of aging skin." So, it doesn't matter what skin type you have; if you're focused on preventing or minimizing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots, this ingredient can benefit your skin. 

Board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, agrees, noting even sensitive skin types can use this ingredient without fear of consequences like irritation or redness. She also says that it can be used daily. 

As always, experts recommend patch-testing new skincare products, just in case. "As with any new skin care product, it is a good idea to patch-test it on the inside of your arm if you have a history of contact dermatitis or sensitive skin," Camp says. 

The Best Alfalfa Skincare Products to Shop Now

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Kaitlyn McLintock
Associate Beauty Editor

Kaitlyn McLintock is an Associate Beauty Editor at Who What Wear. Although she covers a wide range of topics across a variety of categories, she specializes in celebrity interviews and skincare and wellness content. Having lived in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, she recently relocated back to her home state of Michigan where she works remotely. Prior to Who What Wear, she freelanced for a variety of industry-leading digital publications, including InStyle, The Zoe Report, Bustle, Hello Giggles, and Coveteur. Before that, she held a long-term internship and subsequent contributor position at Byrdie. When she's not writing, researching, or testing the latest and greatest beauty products, she's working her way through an ever-growing book collection, swimming in the Great Lakes, or spending time with family.