The Impact of Environmental Factors on Hair: Pollution, Heat & More

· 5 min read
Impact of Environmental Factors on Hair

Environmental Stressors and Hair: Understanding the Connection

Reviewed By Dr Kalpesh Kumar Maheshbhai Prajapati MBBS, DNB (Dermatology, Venereology, Leprosy)

Do you have to spend considerable amounts of time and money on hair treatments? All hair treatments are an assessment of how healthy your way of life is.

Our hair battles environmental stressors like pollution, harsh UV rays and more daily, all of which are hazardous to our hair health. It’s not always possible to deal with such factors by making lifestyle changes. Therefore, we must learn how to protect our hair from environmental stressors.

This article provides in-depth knowledge of environmental stressors that affect our hair health and healthy hair tips to protect our hair from damage caused by such factors.

Also Read: Tips to Restore Your Hair Health

The Effects Of Pollution On Hair: How Airborne Particles Can Damage The Hair

Exposure to pollution is a known risk factor for hair and scalp health. When the air is polluted from smog, greenhouse gases, toxic pollutants and allergens, it can result in excessive sweating, inflammation around hair follicles (folliculitis), hair weakness and dryness.

Air pollution affects the sebum secreted from the scalp resulting in oily scalps (hyper-seborrhea). This, in turn, creates conditions that cause seborrheic dermatitis, and scalp tenderness, all of which can lead to hair loss (alopecia), alopecia areata, and chronic telogen effluvium.

Protecting Hair From UV Damage

Radiation causes photochemical deterioration in the amino acids of the hair and produces free radicals. Free radicals further hurt hair proteins (keratin).

The hair pigment (melanin) that provides photochemical protection to hair proteins is also either degraded or bleached under UV and visible radiations. Therefore. protecting the cuticle is crucial for keeping the hair good. Thus, it's highly recommended to wear caps or scarves before stepping outside to protect your hair from direct exposure to UV rays.  

The Role Of Water Quality In Hair Health: Hard Water

Along with environmental stressors like pollution, the quality of water may also cause hair loss and breakage as well.

Hard water contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium. These minerals crystallise on the scalp and prevent the scalp from absorbing moisture, leaving the hair dehydrated and prone to breakage.

The Impact of Humidity on Hair: Tips For Managing Frizz And Flyaways

Human hair is very sensitive to humidity, so much so that some hygrometers use changes to human hair to measure moisture in the air. Weak hydrogen bonds are built throughout the summer between the humidity and hair strands, making them flat and frizzy.

A rich hair conditioner can come in handy in managing frizz and flyaways as it has lipids which can seal pores with nutrients rather than humidity. Conditioners can slow how fast hair soaks humidity. Also, hair oils can help prevent humidity from finding a temporary home in your hair.

How Cold Weather Affects Hair: Tips for Keeping The Locks Healthy in Winter

Extremely cold weather may further degrade hair and scalp health. Cold air causes the hair cuticle to rise. As an effect, moisture doesn’t stay locked into the hair. This explains why the scalp is more prone to dehydration during cold weather.

To keep the hair and scalp moisturised during winter, treat it twice a week with moisturising conditioners rich in fatty acids and humectants, such as soy protein and panthenol. Also, find shampoos that contain shea butter and natural essential oils, such as bergamot and lemongrass. As they help to unclog the hair cuticle so moisture can be easily absorbed.  

Heat Styling And Hair: The Risks Of Blow Dryers, Curling Irons, And Flat Irons

The right hairstyles improve our looks and personality. Hairstyling includes subjecting our hair to the use of heating tools like blow dryers, curling irons, and flat irons. While these tools help achieve the perfect look, they may cause significant damage to our hair as well.

Heat Styling And Hair

The tools can reach temperatures of up to 450°F that can damage the hair cuticle, which protects the hair from mechanical and chemical damage, making them brittle and dehydrated. And hair that is brittle and dehydrated breaks easily.

The Impact of Chemicals on Hair: From Hair Dyes to Chlorine in Pools

Various shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, and serums include ingredients like ammonium lauryl sulphate (ALS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), parabens, alcohols like isopropyl and propanol, artificial fragrances and more. These ingredients strip off the natural oil from our hair and clog the pores, making them sensitive and ultimately causing premature ageing and hair loss.

Additionally, hair dyes contain chemicals like para-phenylenediamine (PPD), hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and more. These chemicals can alter the hair structure and make it brittle, depriving it of its innate shine.

Further, chlorine exposure, even in low concentrations, can cause severe harm to hair health. Chlorine has an oxidizing impact that may induce dryness and itchiness after prolonged exposure.

Tips for Maintaining Healthy Hair: Protecting and Nourishing The Hair

Genetics, lifestyle, environmental stressors and our overall approach to hair care are all critical to protecting and nourishing our hair. Here are a few essential healthy hair tips for maintaining healthy hair.

  • Consume a diet rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Besides fruits and vegetables, add flax seeds, yoghurt, and dry fruits to your diet as well.
Tips for Maintaining Healthy Hair
  • Engage in oiling and masquing. Add essential oils to your hair care routine and utilise the benefits of hair oil.
  • Use an anti-dandruff lotion or anti-dandruff hair oil to treat stubborn dandruff build-up.
Anti Dandruff Shampoo
  • Always apply shampoo on the scalp and conditioner on the tips of the hair.
  • Condition after shampooing as it keeps the hair smooth, lustrous, and manageable.
  • Choose hair care products without harmful chemicals and crafted specifically for your hair type.
  • Invest in heat protection serum and hair fall serum of your choice if you use hot styling tools.


Maintaining healthy hair and scalp while battling daily exposure to excess sun smoke, dust, harmful gases, particulate matter, hard water, and other environmental stressors is difficult. While it's not always possible to change our way of life, we can take a few measures like keeping a good diet, using genuine ingredients, avoiding heat styling etc., to ensure our hair health.

Free Doctor Consultation

However, it is best to consult a doctor for hair care, as a doctor can recommend a few additional steps you can take to fight the ever-persistent environmental stressors based on your hair type and needs.

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Kalpesh Prajapati