Why Air Pollution Could Be Causing Your Hair Loss

When you think of air pollution, you probably think about protecting your respiratory system and maybe your skin. But have you ever considered that dust, smoke, and other emissions in the air are one of the reasons you could be losing your hair?  

According to a 2019 study presented at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology Congress,, air pollution has been linked with a decrease of the protein responsible for hair growth (called beta-catenin). According to study leader Hyuk Chul Kwon (via Allure), "The research found that when the cells on the human scalp were exposed to common air pollutants created from burning fossil fuels [known as PM10], the proteins in the cells that are responsible for hair growth and hair retention were significantly reduced." 

The study also found that three more proteins related to hair growth and hair strength were also affected by air pollution. Researchers noted (via Eureka Alert), "The levels of three other proteins (cyclin D1, cyclin E, and CDK2), which are responsible for hair growth and hair retention, were decreased by PM10-like dust and diesel particulate in a dose-dependent manner, meaning that the greater the level of pollutant, the greater the decrease in proteins was found."

Air pollution can lead to dirt buildup and dull hair too

While you may not see how beta-catenin, cyclin D1, cyclin E, and CDK2 reduce in scalp cells, something you may notice is dull, breakable, or lackluster locks. This could be caused by air pollution too, per Well+Good

Oxidative stress is a big concern when it comes to hair, as it is with skin health. According to trichologist and hair health expert at HairClub, Shab Reslan (via Well+Good), oxidative stress is brought on by pollution building up on the scalp. Also, as explained by trichologist at Philip Kingsley, Anabel Kingsley, per Refinery, "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." 

Furthermore, oxidative stress could also contribute to the aging process of the hair follicle, per a 2009 study published in The International Journal of Trichology. Now that you know how pollution could cause hair loss, hair damage, and hair aging, what can you do to protect your mane? 

Go back to the basics of proper hair care

Whether or not hair loss is preventable will likely come down to your hair care routine. Shampooing, conditioning, and rinsing your hair regularly is one way to remove any unwanted buildup. However, when it comes to air pollution, you may want to also include a clarifying or deep cleansing shampoo routine once a week. Be careful not to overdo it, though, as you don't want to strip your hair of its natural oils. This can leave it susceptible to breakage — and more hair loss. 

It won't hurt to invest in a hair serum or take up an oiling ritual too. Look for antioxidant-rich serums that combat oxidative stress. Whenever you can, throw on a wrap or scarf to cover your locks. It's a simple, effective method to prevent air-pollution-induced hair loss — not to mention a fashion statement all its own. 

Working from the inside out with proper nutrition and collagen supplements can do a lot for your hair too. Aim to get enough vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B, biotin, iron, and protein. "Vitamin C helps increase blood circulation throughout your body, including your scalp. When there is increased blood circulation to your scalp, there is greater stimulation of your hair follicles, which may help promote hair growth," shared New York-based cosmetic dermatologist, Michele Green (via Forbes). You can't entirely avoid air pollution. But knowing and practicing little ways to give your hair extra protection goes a long way.