How Anti-Pollution Products Could Give You Your Healthiest, Shiniest Hair Yet

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins
It's pretty impossible to avoid pollution. Smoke and particulate matter from motor vehicles and industrial facilities, as well as infrared light and UV all contribute, but to combat the complexion-ravaging effects, antioxidant ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid are becoming incredibly popular in skincare.
As Dr Murad, board-certified dermatologist, associate clinical professor of medicine at UCLA and founder of Murad skincare, previously explained to R29, the result of pollutants embedding themselves into the skin manifests in a number of different ways: "Firstly, pollutants trigger the immune system to produce excessive melanin which causes pigmentation, skin darkening and inflammation. Secondly, pollutants weaken the skin barrier, causing lines and wrinkles." It's no wonder, then, that pollution is one of the major sources of concern for both health and beauty.
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If pollution has the ability to make changes to our skin, can it do the same thing to our hair? Haircare brands would have you think so, bringing to market 'detox' shampoos with pollution-busting ingredients like exfoliating sea salt crystals, intensely lathering sodium phytate and plant extracts to remove pollution particle build-up from scalp and strands. But how much do we really need anti-pollution haircare?
"In terms of your hair, pollution can make it look dull and lacklustre, and feel coated and heavy," explains Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at Philip Kingsley. "Pollution, such as dust, dirt and daily grime, affects the hair and scalp in a similar way to the skin on our face. It makes hair dirty and can also increase the likelihood of scalp problems, such as flaking and itching, as well as blocked follicles and the formation of pimples. Shampooing regularly is the best way to prevent pollution from affecting your hair and scalp. Apply a similar thinking to your hair and scalp as you do to your skin, as what benefits one will most likely benefit the other."
While a deep cleanse can be beneficial (especially if you use lots of products or are prone to oily roots), Sam Burnett, owner and creative director of London salon, Hare & Bone warns against overdoing it – even if the thought of pollution-logged lengths makes you want to wash your hair daily. "Despite pollution causing a build-up of dirt, over-washing will strip the scalp and hair's natural oils," adds Sam. "This will dry out your ends, which could cause hair to break and increase split ends, especially when styling." His advice? Introducing a clarifying or deep cleansing shampoo into your haircare routine alongside your usual shampoo once a week. Sam rates KMS Head Remedy Deep Cleanse Shampoo, £15, for chipping away at pollution grime and oil. Also try Klorane's Anti-Pollution Detox Shampoo, £8 (the star ingredient is aquatic mint, an active ingredient said to gently remove any build-up and prevent clogging), and TRESemme Cleanse & Renew Deep Cleansing Shampoo, £5.49, which, like many anti-pollution skincare products, enlists vitamin C – essentially a shield against pollutants.
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While it's difficult to block every single strand from the effects of pollution, which can include dullness, dryness and a weighed down feel, Sam advises investing in lightweight styling products, as they are less likely to clog your scalp or sit heavily on the hair, making it look greasy.
Even though it's mainly your scalp that needs attention where pollution such as particulate matter is concerned, if your hair is dyed, especially blonde or grey, it pays to invest in sun protection to prevent fading and brittleness. "Just like pollutants, such as smog and chemicals in the air, UV rays are instrumental to hair and scalp damage," explains Sam. Alongside your usual styling cream, oil or serum, Anabel suggests veiling a hair-specific SPF, like Philip Kingsley Daily Damage Defence Conditioning Spray, £18, over towel-dried lengths post-hair wash. Also try Sachajuan's Hair In The Sun, £20, and Aveda's Suncare Protective Hair Veil, £22.50. "Porous hair is more likely to become stained by environmental pollution, such as smoke fumes," adds Anabel, "so it's important to use styling products that contain UV filters. To also help reduce porosity, seal the outer hair cuticle and increase shine, use a weekly pre-shampoo conditioning treatment, such as Elasticizer."
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