There are no two ways about it, pollution is everywhere and affects everything. When pesky pollutants infiltrate the atmosphere, it impacts our health (and of course our environment) in a number of ways, potentially changing the way we breathe, our complexion, and perhaps most surprisingly, the appearance of our mane. To find out how to stop pollutants from altering our hair and discover more about this commonly ignored phenom, we tapped an industry expert who helped explain everything we never realized about hair pollution.
How Pollution Affects Your Hair
Though pollution might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you’re trying to figure out why, exactly, your locks look less lustrous, it’s an all too common culprit—especially in major cities. Though often ignored, air pollution penetrates the hair follicle and scalp, altering the hair in many ways—and all of them are negative. Jacqueline Flam Stokes, chief marketing officer for Klorane, explains that the damage done by pollution is also known as “pollu-aging” or, pollution-induced aging. This is something that “not only affects your health and skin, but also hair and scalp.”
“Everyday exposure to environmental stressors such as polluted air, smoke, car/factory emissions, and even indoor pollutants (pet dander, household cleaners, hard water or dust) have damaging effects,” she explains of common pollutant sources. You can spot hair that has been affected by pollution based on the ends, which Jacqueline notes often appear dull and heavy. “When the polluting particles cling to the hair they are abrasive, so the hair scales raise, not allowing light to reflect properly to reveal shine. Long-term pollution exposure can accelerate the appearance of white/gray hair and premature hair loss,” she explains.
As the skin under the hair, pollution also influences the scalp in a big way and can trigger the production of excess sebum. When this happens, hair follicles become blocked, which weakens hair growth at the root leading to thinning. The scalp can also “become dirty, smelly, and feel dry, itchy, and uncomfortable,” says Jacqueline. Keep in mind that if you’re dealing with an always-irritated scalp and it seems like nothing is actually working, pollution might be the underlying culprit.
(Aquatic mint is scientifically shown to help detoxify hair and scalp from pollutants, just like it serves as a naturally occurring detoxifier. Here, aquatic mint purifies water from toxic algae and heavy metal pollution over an 18 day period, as proven by the School of Environment at Tsinghua University, China and sponsored by the Klorane Botanical Foundation.)
To keep pollutants out of hair, Klorane has introduced the Aquatic Mint Collection, which relies on plant-based antioxidant-rich ingredients to purify the hair and scalp. According to Jacqueline, detoxifying and protecting the hair and scalp from “pollution, heavy metals, ozone, and cigarette smoke.”
The collection includes a biodegradable detoxifying shampoo, a protective conditioner, which draws out follicle-clogging pollutants without stripping, and adds a barrier against environmental residue, and a purifying mist that neutralizes any odors accumulated throughout the day, making it a must-have post-workout, on your commute, after leaving a restaurant/the kitchen, or anytime you might find yourself around smoke.
To prove the effectiveness of the Aquatic Mint collection against pollution, Klorane put their products through the test. They found that their detox shampoo removes 97% of polluting particles from the hair, that 96% of participants observed shinier hair after one use and +394% did after 12 applications, and that the purifying mist was able to neutralize hair and scalp odors for up to 6 hours—as judged on hair contaminated with odors from pollution, tobacco, and cooking.
A Natural Detoxifier
The collection is effective thanks to its namesake ingredient, aquatic mint, which is the species of mint with the highest level of antioxidant protection. “Growing abundantly in moist soil, along streams and river banks, aquatic mint is organically farmed and harvested in the southwest of France,” says Jacqueline, before explaining the method of harvesting the over-drive mint. “The pure extract of the plant is obtained using a patented solvent-free extraction method, taken from green chemistry, to obtain a 100% natural extract that is as effective as the actual plant,” she continues.
Unfortunately, try as we might avoid it, pollution is ultimately all around us, “and has immediate and long-term effects on the hair and scalp,” says Jacqueline. The first step to keeping hair healthy is to be aware of the problem in order to fight it. Think of pollution as the new UV—creating a protective shield around the mane to block it out or expel it is essential to maintaining optimal hair health.