By Dr Pushpa K R , Dermatology
How does the world around us affect our hair? In more ways than you think actually. Seasonal changes and pollution has their big or small impact on our body,
As the world expresses its concern over the harmful effects of ultra-violet radiation that we are continuously exposed to as a result of the depletion of the ozone layer, our hair is also suffering and asking for help.
The sun cannot really burn hair but sun exposure will damage your hair’s natural protective film. According to a recent study, after just three days of sun exposure, the scale-like cells (Cuticle layer) that cover each individual hair shaft begin to pull off. This makes your hair, dry, dull, fragile and brittle.
Invest in a hair conditioner that contains a sunscreen. The sun’s heat will activate the conditioner, softening your hair, while the sunscreen will prevent UV rays from causing damage to the strands. If your hair is colour treated, be especially sure to use a leave-in conditioner with sunscreen to prevent colour fade.
You could also try using safflower oil; it provides your hair with much needed fatty acids, and don’t forget to visit your Trichologist who will help you in preventing hair damage due to sun exposure.
Hair that has been dyed or highlighted (stripped of its natural colour) is especially prone to UV damage. Colour-treated hair is already damaged and the sun will make the cuticle even rougher. This makes the hair more fragile and dried out. Stay away from hair lightening products. Most contain some form of peroxide or metal and can cause severe damage to your hair, not to mention such undesirable effects such as orange, green, or pink hair. Even worse, if the product does contain metal and you then perm your hair, it may literally turn your hair into mush and wash down the sink.
Although a chelator, (an ingredient in some shampoos), can help remove some of the metals residing on the hair shaft, they are not strong enough to remove metal deposits that have penetrated the shaft.
Be careful in the sun. Try to use hats, scarves or products with sunscreens to help protect you against the drying effects of the sun. However, make sure that these are not too tight as they may cause hair to rub off (friction alopecia). Similarly, keep braids and ponytails loose.
While the idea of the wind rushing through your hair seems very romantic, it might not be the best treatment for your hair. The most obvious effect of wind is that it encourages the rubbing of hair together, which, in turn, can cause tangling, and matting. Undamaged or cosmetically conditioned hair is less likely to tangle.
Humidity affects the hydrogen bonds in the hair and to a lesser extent, the salt bonds. The higher the humidity, the more these bonds are broken. Hence, the more moisture in the hair, the more the hair will stretch.
The breaking of either disulphide bonds or salt/hydrogen bonds will affect the waviness of the hair and make it more susceptible to further damage. Straight hair becomes wavy, wavy hair becomes straighter. It is relative humidity that determines the amount of moisture in the hair.
Both chlorine and salt water makes the hair dry and also discolor it. High chlorine in the swimming pool binds to the hair and give it a greyish or a green cast. Mineral deposits in salt water, in combination with sunlight, severely dehydrate hair and turn it brassy.
After a day at the pool, use a scalp cleanser that is designed to remove toxins from your hair like chlorine as well as auto emissions and other environmental pollutants. Thoroughly wet your hair before you dip in the pool and add a bit of conditioner too. Wash your hair immediately upon exiting the pool. You should consult a Trichologist as a precautionary measure to prevent further damage to hair.
If you notice that your hair has become dry, coarse, discoloured and breaks easily, then it is time to consult a Trichologist and get your Tricho-check done.
Prevention is better than cure!