Pollution Damage Can Make Your Hair Dry, Dull, and Lifeless—Here’s How To Protect Against It

Photo: Getty Images / Diamond Dogs
When your hair is dry, dull, and tangled, it can be easy to place the blame on products and lifestyle habits. But the real culprit, according to pros, could be pollution damage. Exposure to air pollutants can compromise your hair quality and irritate your scalp, and with environmental pollution steadily increasing in many regions around the world, it’s safe to assume you’re at risk—which is why pros want you to tweak your routine to include preventative and reparative elements.

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.

Experts In This Article
  • Colin Ford, education director at SACHAJUAN, a minimalist haircare company
  • Shab Reslan, trichologist and hair health expert at HairClub.
  • Simon Ostler, Simon Ostler is the co-founder of Climaplex, a haircare line focused on protecting and repairing strands from environmental pollution.

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.

oribe power drops
Oribe Gold Lust Power Drops Damage Hair Repair Booster — $58.00

Oribe’s power drop is the perfect concentrated serum needed to rebuild dry, damaged hair. Made with linoleic acid and biotin, this serum strengthens the strands, restores elasticity and reduces breakage. A must-have when living in a pollution-heavy environment.

moon juice super hair
Moon Juice SuperHair Daily Hair Nutrition Supplement — $60.00

Replenish deficiencies with this multivitamin that targets stress with adaptogens and protects the hair follicles with botanicals and micronutrients. What’s good from within, helps what’s good from the out.

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.

briogeo scalp revival
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Scalp Scrub Shampoo — $42.00

The Briogeo charcoal + coconut oil scrub exfoliates the scalp, lifting away buildup and impurities that may clog hair follicles. It’s made with key vitamins and minerals that truly promotes hair health while balancing scalp hydration. Can’t go wrong with it!

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).

living proof repair live-in
Living Proof Restore Repair Leave-In — $30.00

The leave-in conditioner restores damaged cuticles and protects against future damage, soothing the strands in the process. Their key ingredients include seed butter and silk proteins, forever conditioning the hair and leaving a natural shine.

verb leave-in mist
Verb Leave-In Conditioner Mist — $20.00

This conditioner mist enhances elasticity and tames frizz, allowing you to detangle hair much easily while conditioning damaged ends. It’s full of antioxidants to help improve hair strength and minimize fly-aways.

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).

climaplex spray
Climaplex Multi Benefit Hair Styling Spray — $10.00

Suitable for everyday hair care routine, Climaplex’s styling spray will improve all hair types conditions, giving you a blow dry-like feel that’s both nourishing and voluminous.

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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