Without proper defenses in place, pollution builds up on the scalp. And this, explains trichologist and hair health expert Shab Reslan, leads to oxidative stress that can cause hair to appear dull, flat, and lackluster. What’s more, in the same way pollution damage speeds up skin aging, it can also speed up hair aging and cause your strands to go grey more quickly.
According to Simon Ostler, co-founder of Climaplex, a hair-care line focused on protecting and repairing strands from pollution, other common signs of pollution-related hair damage include excessive shedding, increased tangling, split ends, and difficulty holding curls and other styles. Even more alarming, studies have found that prolonged exposure can lead to even more damaging side effects like build-up-induced alopecia, breakage, and slowed hair growth.
Because these signs of environmental damage aren’t that unique, your hair could be suffering the consequences without you even knowing it. Keep reading for how to hack your regimen accordingly.
How to prevent and combat the effects of pollution damage on hair
1. Include more antioxidants in your routine
Pollution causes free-radical damage, which is at the core of the changes in your hair texture. Antioxidants are key for protection, as they gobble up the free radicals in order to keep your hair healthy. With that in mind incorporate more topical and oral antioxidants into your daily routine for protection.
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2. Exfoliate weekly
While regular shampooing is great for keeping buildup at bay, weekly scalp exfoliation takes things one step further to get rid of any leftover grime as well as dead skin cells, excess oil, and product residue. This is a particularly important step for anyone living in a bigger city, where environmental pollution tends to be more concentrated, says Reslan. Just be careful not to overdo it—overwashing strips the scalp and hair of its natural oils, leaving ends dry and prone to breakage and splitting. A single weekly scrub should be all you need.
3. Protect your hair and scalp from the sun
Look for styling products containing UV filters, which will help reduce porosity and protect against color fading and brittleness. Or opt for a hair-specific SPF spray like Shiseido’s Ultimate Sun Protection Spray ($40) or Coola’s Scalp & Hair Mist ($26).
5. Use silicone-based leave-ins
Reslan suggests using silicone-based leave-in treatments that will coat the cuticle layer of the hair and shield it from humidity and debris, like Living Proof’s Restore Repair Leave-In Conditioner ($30) and Verb’s Leave-In Conditioning Mist ($20).
6. Incorporate anti-pollution products into your routine
If environmental pollution is of particular concern to you, swap out your regular hair products for anti-pollution formulas, like those from Climaplex. Formulated by an expert team of chemists, the brand’s products use a special reparative technology and are able to remove unwanted toxins while simultaneously protecting against future pollution and damage, Ostler explains. Their formula works in two stages: first, to reconstruct broken disulfide bonds within the hair cuticle, and then to rebuild the outer layer of the cuticle to strengthen and protect. Ostler recommends the brand’s Multi-Benefit Styling Spray ($10) in particular, which can be used on all hair types to refresh or restyle hair and protect against pollution, heat and other environmental aggressors.
Here’s how to do a scalp-cleansing treatment at home:
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