How does Pollution affect Hair's Health?

Find out why pollution affects hair's health and what you can do to avoid it.

Hair suffers daily from environmental pollution and you may not be aware of it. However, you may have noticed dull, dry, brittle hair. Researchers have recently found a correlation between pollution and hair loss causes. Let's exchange on the causes and consequences of pollution on the hair.

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Air pollution: World's main issues in the last 50 years

91% of the world's population lives in areas where air quality does not meet the limits set by the WHO (World Health Organization).  Every day, whether living in the city or the countryside, we are exposed to multiple forms of pollution: atmospheric micro-particles (dust, exhaust gases, tobacco, factory discharges, agriculture...), hard water, chemical hair care products... Everyone is inevitably targeted and consequences are often visible on the skin and on the hair.

Hair, sponge of the environment

Now, our hair has the memory of an elephant! That's how we can discover if top athletes are doped, or how Napoleon died (poisoned with arsenic). All this, thanks to a single stripe of hair. Hair keeps trace of all the external agents we are subjected to, the products, food or drugs we ingest. Evidently, the same thing happens with pollution particles that surround us.

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The first consequence of polluted hair: dull and brittle hair

The first visible consequence of polluted hair: the polluting particles in the hair, attach to the hair fibre, forming layers of polluting molecules. These molecules accumulate with time and finish by asphyxiating it, leaving the hair dull. A study carried out in vitro by PHYTO Paris Laboratories confirmed that a 5-day contact with a pollutant reduces the brightness of the hair by 43%.

This study also showed that these pollutants agglomerate so well in the fibre that they make hair an ideal biomarker of chemical exposure to pollution! Shocking, isn't it? 

Additional consequence: the hair is more porous, and the scales open up. This process creates a loss of water and keratin. The hair, without a hydrolipidic film made up of water and sebum, is no longer protected, nourished nor moisturized. Once the cycle is completed, split ends appear numerous, and the hair becomes damaged and brittle.

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The second consequence of polluted hair: scalp unbalance

Not only the hair fibre but also the scalp is inevitably affected by pollution molecules. In response to this aggression, skin and scalp produce more sebum to rebuild the hydrolipidic film faster. As a result: the overproduction of sebum suffocates the follicle, giving you a greasy scalp and flat and sticky hair. Your hair gets dirty faster, you wash it more, and finish by accelerating the production of sebum even more. It's the vicious cycle you'd never want to get into. 

A less visible consequence of polluted hair: oxidative stress and inflammation

Another less visible, but most important impact of pollution happens internally to the scalp. Polluting agents generate oxidative stress, which could cause more or less significant inflammations on the scalp. The internal health of the hair itself is impacted: the quality of the new fibre being formed is altered, its growth may be slowed down and dandruff conditions can be triggered in the event of inflammation.

The ultimate consequence of polluted hair: hair loss

In 2019, researchers at South Korea's Future Science Research Centre wanted to find out whether air pollution could be linked to hair loss. To do so, they studied cells in the scalp - called dermal papilla cells - that attach the hair to the scalp. They control the creation, growth and loss of hair.

24 hours after exposing these cells to particles of pollution, they noticed that the production of β catenin - the protein responsible for hair growth - dropped drastically, as well as the production of 3 other proteins responsible for hair growth and retention. Hyuk Chul Kwon, the director of the study, explained that this "research explains the mode of action of air pollutants on follicle cells, showing how the most common air pollutants lead to hair loss."

What to do to avoid having polluted hair?

Now you know more about the harmful effects of pollution on hair. 

Hair suffers both esthetically - it becomes dull, flat and sebum migrates more quickly to the fibre, but also internally, right from the roots, affecting not only the health of current hair but also new growth.  Given this, it's urgent to adopt the ideal hair detoxifying routine with the least chemical impact! PHYTO Paris invented PHYTOD-TOX, the range for polluted hair that purifies, clarifies hair and protects it from pollution exposures.


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