We all learned in high school chemistry and biology classes that if you mix substances together they’ll react to each other. There are good reactions, bad reactions, and neutral reactions. Some compounds don’t care much about each other and don’t react, some are terrible and explosive. It’s all science.
Your hair is also science.
Your hair has building blocks and compounds and physical traits to it that differ and react to external factors. These can be physical factors such as "too-tight hair ties", chemical factors like dying, bleaching, and perming, or environmental factors like sun exposure and air pollution.
Yeah, air pollution. The climate crisis is quite literally wrecking havoc on your hair strands.
But how so?
To understand the science of reactions with hair we have to first comprehend the science of hair strands itself.
Hair is strands of keratin fibers that are built of three main compounds; proteins, lipids, and melanin.
The proteins are your foundation. It’s determines your hair’s strength, flexibility, and greater overall health. Lipids influence the shine, softness, and manageability of the hair. Melanin acts to determine the color of your hair. These all work together to create three main layers; the cuticle, cortex, and medulla. The cuticle is the outermost wall of the strand of hair and protects the inner two layers, it’s also what sees the most damage since it’s the front lines of defense against those environmental factors mentioned. Cortex is a layer in and determines the strength, color, and texture of the hair strand, and the medulla is the core of the strand. Many people with light or blonde hair don’t even have a medulla. These compounds which create these layers then repeat thousands of times which gives you a head full of hair.
Unless we stress it out.
Now that we understand what hair actually is and is made up of it’s easier to understand how the environment is causing damage to it.
Most common environmental hair stressor is sunlight. UV radiation isn’t just bad for your skin cells but also for your hair. UVB rays penetrate hair into the cortex and cause the protein and melanin to breakdown. UVB breaks important bonds that maintain hair strength, the more the bonds break, the more your hair breaks off. UVB is more harmful to hair than UVA since in comes in first, UVA follows as secondary damage.
UVA sweeps in after the bonds break to clean up the lipids and melanin causing a lightening pigment. This is why “sun bleached hair” is a thing.
When you spend a long time in the sun you cause a decrease in all the compounds responsible for healthy hair and result in increased hair friction, breakage, brittleness, dullness, and poor manageability.
The sun is always present, there isn’t much we can do to reduce the sun but there are things to do to protect the hair.
Head coverings such as scarves, bandanas, and sun hats will protect the hair cuticle from being subjected to UV radiation as well as protective hair care like Dip Sun Shield Conditioner Bars which have a hair sunscreen in them perfect for outdoor sports, swimming, and beach trips.
Even though we can’t reduce the sun, there are environmental factors the wreck havoc on hair which we can play a role in reducing. Air pollution.
Air pollution can be difficult since there are so many different compounds found in different areas based on your particular pollutants.
These pollutants have the ability to bind to the hair’s surface and even down into the follicle which can inhibit hair growth and the texture of your hair. Sever air pollution can cause hair loss, scalp irritation, dandruff, and even pain at the root of the hair. Pollution is significant factor in causing oily or greasy roots and weakening the hair.
There are ways to combat it though. Both include combating it with product. Hair care chemists are creating products equipped with sunscreens, correct cleansing agents, and exfoliators to lift and remove those pollutants. These ingredients are working on your hair to combat the impact while our other option is to work on the environment itself. While this may feel like a large change to undergo, there’s a whole underground network of sustainability pushing for better made products, more care for the environment, and working together to buy better and buy less. Companies are coming out with plastic free hair care options and sustainable hair care which work just as good if not better than the bottled stuff and the bonus is it reduces environmental impact too.
We’re stressing out the environment and it’s stressing out our hair in retaliation.
At dip, we are hair people first, environmentalists second. That's just the way it is, but we think that's a really really good thing. We focus on the "why" and not just the trend of sustainability. We think that is crucial when it comes to formulating hair care that is meaningful both to people AND the planet.
- Tags: chemistry of hair care environmental impact on hair hair care science of hair sun damage sun protection sun shield conditioner bar