Air pollution poses a major threat to global health. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), ambient or outdoor air pollution has increased the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases in recent years.
New research shows that air pollution can also put your scalp and hair at risk. Scientists discovered that exposure to harmful air pollutants called Particulate Matter (PM) can result in hair damage and loss.
What is Particulate Matter?
Particulate matter (PM) is composed of "small particles and liquid droplets made up of a wide range of acids, including nitrates and sulphates, organic chemicals, metals, and soil and dust particles." Their microscopic size enables them to settle on different parts of the body causing disease and irritation.
PM is produced through the burning of fossil fuels including petrol and diesel. Industrial activities such as construction and manufacturing of cement, ceramics, and bricks also produce PM.
How can PM affect your hair?
Dehydrates your strands
Daily exposure to pollutants can suck moisture from your hair making it frizzy and brittle. Dust, dirt, and grime in the air can also make your hair fibres dry and rough.
Dulls your locks
Pollutants that settle on your hair can leave your strands dull and limp. Tiny particles can embed themselves in your hair cuticles causing your hair to lose its natural shine.
Causes scalp irritations
Particulates can cause itchiness and redness in your scalp. Excessive scratching due to itchy scalp can damage your hair roots and lead to premature ageing and hair loss.
Recent studies show that people suffering from dandruff have higher levels of oxidative stress. Dirt, heat, and sweat are all found to increase oxidative damage making the scalp dry, flaky, and more prone to dandruff.
Triggers premature baldness
Scientists exposed human scalp cells to different levels of dust and diesel and found that both pollutants decreased the level of the beta-catenin protein essential for hair growth and retention. In fact, the greater the level of pollutant, the greater the decrease in beta-catenin which in turn, heightens the chances of hair loss.
Leads to split ends
Aggressive pollutants and excessive heat can damage your hair cuticles and cause hair fibres to split and unravel. Split ends can leave your hair looking flat and dull.
Causes hair fall
Pollution can cause your scalp to become sensitive and oily. The secretion of excess sebum from the scalp can lead to greasy roots which clog pores, block hair follicles, and increase hair fall.
How can you protect your hair?
Constant exposure to air pollution can manifest in hair breakage and scalp irritation. The risk of hair damage is even greater if you live in highly polluted countries such as the Philippines.
Using an effective shampoo for hair loss can repel pollutants that weaken your roots. Regular haircuts help control split ends and keep your hair thick and healthy. Avoiding unhealthy hair practices such as excessive blow-drying and improper hair colouring can also keep damage at bay.
Although air pollution can take a major toll on your tresses, proper maintenance combined with the right products will keep your crowning glory healthy and luscious.
A Travel, beauty and lifestyle blog with the occasional afternoon tea by Angelina Belle
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