The Truth About What Pollution is Doing to Your Hair

Are you doing enough to protect your hair?

woman with healthy red hair protect hair from pollutionphoto credit: shutterstock

If you’ve been listening to your dermatologist, you dutifully apply sunscreen every day before going outside and you make sure to avoid the sun during peak hours. But when was the last time you gave the same consideration to your hair? Just like the sun’s UV rays are damaging to your skin, they’re also damaging to your hair.

Why you need a daily hair care regimen

In fact, the damage may even be worse. “[Hair] is a dead fibre. Skin can repair itself but the hair cannot,” says Lavinia Popescu, vice president of product development at Moroccanoil. “With hair, when it’s damaged, it’s damaged.” And keep this in mind: the health of your hair can reveal a lot about your overall health.

Moroccanoil celebrity colourist Lorri Goddard sees first-hand the damage that our hair is subjected to on a daily basis. “One of the messages that the line is really helping to support is that this is like a skincare regime,” she told Best Health at the New York City launch for Moroccanoil Color Complete. Popescu agrees: “Just like you apply sunscreen everyday–it’s the same idea–you need to protect your hair daily.”

Being able to offer that daily protection, specifically for colour-treated hair, is the basis behind the new Moroccanoil Color Complete line. Consisting of two professional in-salon offerings and three at-home offerings (Color Continue Shampoo, $26; Color Continue Conditioner, $27; and Protect & Prevent Spray, $30), the hero behind each product is ArganID, a technology exclusive to Moroccanoil that is able to infuse argan oil into the cortex of the hair for deep nourishment. A second proprietary technology called Colorlink (found in the shampoo and conditioner) rebuilds the keratin structure of your hair to help trap colour within, while simultaneously forming a protective shield that prevents colour washout.

Moroccanoil Color Complete hair care linephoto credit: moroccanoil

“We want to make people’s lives easier—at least when it comes to their hair routine,” says Moroccanoil co-founder Carmen Tal. And since an estimated 75 percent of North American women colour their hair, a line specifically for colour-treated hair is a natural fit.

The new line combats all sources of colour degradation including oxidation, heat styling, mechanical damage (think: brushing) and chemical damage. (These everyday habits actually do major damage to your hair and nails.) While most people who colour their hair regularly are aware of the damage heat styling, brushing and colour-processing can have on their locks, less is known about the environmental effects.

What pollution is actually doing to your hair

Oxidation (a result of free radicals created from UV rays and pollution) is one of the main culprits behind brassy, lackluster hair. “If you have degradation of colour, it’s because of two reasons: one, keratin [is damaged] and two, oxidation of the dyes,” says Popescu. “For example, red becomes orange.” Oxidation damages the keratin protein structure that exists to protect your hair. When the keratin is damaged, your hair becomes more porous. Think of it like little holes in each strand of hair; when these holes exist, your hair loses the good stuff (think: hydration) and makes it easier for the bad stuff (like free radicals) to get in. This is exactly what the ArganID and Colorlink technologies in Moroccanoil’s new Color Continue Shampoo and Conditioner help to treat and protect against.

The effect air pollution has on skin and hair is just starting to become well known; much like UV damage a decade ago. In severe cases, pollution may even accelerate hair loss. According to a 2015 study conducted on patients in India (where air quality is particularly bad), pollution can contribute to scalp irritation, redness, itching, excessive sebum secretion, dandruff and hair loss. Researchers have dubbed it “sensitive scalp syndrome,” and say it’s the result of exposure to increasing levels of air pollution. Worried about the air quality where you live? These are the 10 worst cities in Canada for air pollution.

So, what’s the solution?

While a wide brimmed hat can help shield your hair from UV rays, it won’t do much to protect your hair from pollution. That’s where Moroccanoil’s new technology comes in.

“We have a special mechanism now where we can attach [protection] to the hair fibre,” says Popescu about Quat 50, an ingredient in Moroccanoil’s Protect & Prevent Spray that forms a thin protective layer around hair fibres to help absorb damaging UV rays. “Apply in the morning and you have 8 hour UV protection,” says Popescu. Another ingredient in the spray is sunflower extract—a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals generated by pollution. It’s also very moisturizing for your hair, which helps keep the keratin strong, adding another barrier of protection against environmental aggressors. But don’t expect the benefits to stop there. “It has always been very important to us that any product we create has versatility,” says Tal. In addition to its protective elements, this spray is a leave-in conditioner to detangle the hair and boost shine. Talk about multitasking!

A few tweaks to your diet couldn’t hurt either. Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids provide some much needed hydration for both your skin and your hair, and antioxidant-rich foods like berries and leafy greens will help your body fight the damaging effects of free radicals. Here’s more on the best foods for your skin and hair.