With global temperatures on the rise, the weather is getting increasingly difficult to predict. Between horrendous hurricane seasons to the powerful polar vortex, people everywhere are experiencing the effects of extreme weather. And with these wild variations in temperature and humidity comes a difficult set of hair and scalp stresses. We sat down with Dr. Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and author of Feed You Face, to find out just what extreme weather does to your hair and how you can prevent intensive damage. Read on for our breakdown of this climate phenomenon.
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Air Pollution Leads to Hair Breakage
Air pollution just adds fuel to the fire when it comes to climate change. Your everyday environment has a massive impact on your hair health, and increased air pollution can have serious and lasting effects on your strands and scalp. “Recent research shows that increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation from more sunny days, along with pollution, can damage hair fibers, leading to weaker strands and easy breakage,” Dr. Wu explains. “Pollution can also trigger scalp sensitivity, which includes symptoms such as itching, prickling, and/or burning pain.”
Extremely High Temperatures Come With an Increased Risk of Cancer
Recent years have seen an uptick in the number and intensity of super-hot days. With these warmer temperatures comes an increased risk of sun exposure and the side effects that come with it. “Extreme high temperatures and sunnier weather may encourage people to spend more time outdoors, potentially leading to an increased risk of skin cancer on the scalp,” says Dr. Wu. This risk is amplified if you have fair hair or consistently part your tresses in the same place. Make sure to take the proper precautions when you spend time outdoors. You may want to consider protecting your scalp and strands with a hat or an SPF product.
Low Temperatures Lead to Dryness
In general, your scalp is super-resistant to lower temperatures. “In fact, many women use a ‘cold cap’ when undergoing chemotherapy to help prevent hair loss,” Dr. Wu explains. But that doesn’t mean that cold weather is good for your hair. “Hair itself can become dry and brittle in cold weather if the humidity is low,” Dr. Wu continues. “Wind and low humidity can make your scalp dry, your hair brittle, and your skin flaky, red, and irritated.” With weather events like the polar vortex increasing in frequency, you’ll want to add a moisturizing treatment into your routine.
Changes in Humidity Can Have Serious Side Effects
Your skin and scalp are super sensitive to environmental changes. While cold, dry weather can lead to scalp flaking and hair breakage, sudden increases in humidity can also have serious side effects. “Warm and humid weather events, such as hurricanes, can stimulate the growth of bacteria, virus, and fungus infections,” Dr. Wu warns. Seborrhea, a type of dandruff, is caused by yeast overgrowth on the scalp. According to Dr. Wu, this condition can worsen when the weather is humid and warm.
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Daily Precautions Make a Difference
While wild weather is certainly cause for concern, there are some simple steps you can take to limit the impact these extreme events have on your hair and scalp. Dr. Wu suggests a hat or a headscarf on super sunny days. “If a hat isn’t your thing, try to put sunscreen on your part,” Dr. Wu recommends. “Look for a gel, mousse, or powder formula.”
When it comes to increased humidity, anti-frizz products are your go-to. These products help seal your hair and repel moisture, protecting your scalp and keeping those strands frizz-free. Drier weather requires a different approach. Dr. Wu recommends moisturizing conditioners and masks to combat the effects of low humidity.
Air pollution presents a different problem altogether. “If you live in an urban area or are otherwise exposed to pollution, try to wash your hair as soon as you get home to minimize the damage,” Dr. Wu explains. She also recommends sticking to a healthy diet to keep your hair and scalp strong.
Dr. Wu recommends high protein consumption to assist the keratin-based structure of those strands, as well as omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, almonds, and flaxseeds) to help lubricate the hair and scalp.
For all our natural hair readers, HERE is how to protect your strands under extreme weather conditions!