How to protect your hair from pollution with these anti-pollution hair care products

9th May 2024 | Author: Katherine O'Shea

Pollution isn’t just bad for your health, it can ruin your skin and even lead to hair loss. Here’s how to protect it

It’s easy to underestimate the impact pollution can have on your scalp and hair health. You may be surprised to learn that not only can it cause you to suffer itching and inflammation, but could even lead to hair loss.

One study found pollution contains what’s known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which can trigger the production of free radicals and degrade hair.

People living in cities were found to have fewer and weaker hair fibres than people in rural areas because these unstable molecules attack healthy skin tissue and can negatively impact your body’s defense mechanisms.

In this guide, we explain the link between pollution and hair loss, explain how to protect hair from pollution and give hair tips for polluted areas.

FURTHER READING: Expert tips on how to stop or regrow thinning hairYou’ve heard of combination skin but do you have combination hair?

Effects of pollution on hair growth

How to get rid of dandruff for goodShutterstock

When it comes to the skin on our heads, there’s a unique composition of bacteria and yeast that’s integral to its health and function.

Your scalp and hair follicles have their own microbiome, which is a community of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that protect skin (and the gut) from germs.

If you have an imbalanced scalp microbiome you’ll likely to have issues including, but not limited to:

  • dandruff
  • itchy skin
  • dermatitis
  • eczema

Pollution can play a major role in causing this imbalance but what do we mean by “pollution”?

Pollution is defined as inhalable particles that have a diameter that’s 10 micrometers or smaller. This includes car exhaust fumes, cigarette or vape smoke, as well as dirt, grime, and even pollen. These tiny particles have been found to bind to the surface of the hair, infiltrate the hair follicle, and settle on the scalp.

Recent research has shown that when hair is exposed to polluted air for 24 hours, levels of key growth proteins – beta-catenin, cyclin E and CDK2 – drop significantly. The longer the exposure, the greater the reduction in proteins and the greater the impact on your hair growth and health.


Pollution tests have also revealed that hair fibres exposed to higher-than-average pollution have shown more damage to the hair cuticle, cortex, and keratin proteins that make up your hair. The impact of this pollution on hair is weakened hair strands, making hair more brittle and prone to breakage and dryness.

The impacts of pollution on your scalp aren’t great either. Pollution deposits that make it to your scalp can cause your scalp to become irritated.

The pollution reaching your scalp can also cause excess sebum production (so more grease) and dandruff, both of which clog your hair follicles, weakening your hair at the root and making it more likely to break or fall out.

Signs of hair pollution damage

The signs of pollution damage include:

To protect your scalp and hair from pollution you’ll need products with ingredients that repair, strengthen and balance your scalp ecosystem.

These can be detoxifying shampoos, antioxidant hair care, scalp treatments for pollution damage, anti-pollution products, and purifying hair products, among others.

FURTHER READING: Damaged hair? What it looks like and how to repair itItchy, sore scalp? Here’s how to fix problems with your scalp and boost hair health

How to protect your hair from pollution

When it comes to pollution and hair loss, prevention is better than cure. That’s why your first step should be antioxidants for hair care.

Antioxidants are substances that protect your cells against free radicals. They work to improve hair growth by keeping your scalp and hair healthy.

Klorane Aquatic Mint Cleansing Shampoo

£10 | BUY NOW 

Klorane Aquatic Mint Cleansing ShampooKlorane

The use of aquatic mint in shampoo has been shown to get rid of 97% of polluting particles.

This detoxifying shampoo from Klorane is a great option because it uses Mentha aquatic L – a species of mint known for its high content of polyphenols (plant compounds), with proven antioxidant properties.

It’s also super affordable and the use of mint has a cooling effect on your scalp which can help boost circulation.


Grow Gorgeous Defence Shampoo

£8 | BUY NOW

Grow Gorgeous Defence Anti-Pollution ShampooGrow Gorgeous

Another great option is this detoxifying shampoo from Grow Gorgeous.

This defence shampoo helps to remove any impurities that have built up in your hair.

It also protects your hair from pollution with its blend of tara tannins and sunflower sprout extract,  which helps to moisturise your hair.

Elsewhere, there’s green tea which is an antioxidant-rich extract that will help soothe your scalp and has protective properties.


Oribe Power Drops Hydration Anti-pollution Booster

£54 | BUY NOW

oribe power drops hydration anti pollution boosterOribe

A great way to protect your hair from pollution is to use a formula with hyaluronic acid like these power drops from Oribe that work as an anti-pollution booster.

The hyaluronic acid acts like a sponge, holding on to moisture and creating a barrier around your cuticles.

The watermelon, lychee, and edelweiss flower ingredients defend your hair from oxidative stress and photoageing (damage from the sun).

These drops also protect against damage caused by pollution because they help to prevent micro-particles from gripping your hair.


Grow Gorgeous Defense Anti-pollution Leave-in Spray

£9.60 | BUY NOW

Grow Gorgeous Defense Anti-pollution Leave-in SprayGrow Gorgeous

For extra hair protection from pollution, you can use this Grow Gorgeous Defence Anti-Pollution Leave-in Spray.

It’s particularly great if you live in a city or urban area because it protects against environmental aggressors, such as UV rays and air pollution.

This anti-pollution leave-in spray will also help to protect your hair from your heated styling tools.


Scalp treatments for hair pollution damage

You use skincare on your face to build a strong skin barrier and protect your body from the entry of pollutants and the skin on your scalp needs the same amount of love and care.

Looking after your scalp is key to protecting yourself from the negative effects of pollution on hair growth, as well as encouraging thick and shiny hair generally.

Monpure Nourish and Stimulate Scalp Mask

£53 | BUY NOW

Monpure Nourish and Stimulate Scalp MaskMonpure

We love this scalp mask from Monpure because it includes aloe vera, camellia tea oil and silk peptides, which all help to nourish your scalp and follicles.

This formula also contains antioxidants and vitamins that neutralise the effects of oxidative stress.

There have been multiple studies to show that camellia tea extract is effective at dealing with urban air pollutants, so it’s a great urban haircare solution.


Monpure Follicle Boost Hair Density Serum

£83 | BUY NOW

Monpure Follicle Boost Hair Density SerumMonpure

Another great ingredient to protect your scalp from pollution is Vitamin C.

Haircare products to improve hair growth include Vitamin C because it’s an antioxidant that’s shown to have anti-pollution benefits, and counteracts oxidative stress.

Vitamin C has also been shown to improve skin barrier function and reduce the skin’s oxidative stress levels generally.

If you’re worried about the effects pollution is having on your hair growth then using a serum like this one from Monpure can boost your hair density.

In addition to Vitamin C, it uses retinol to speed up your cell turnover and decongest your hair follicles, alongside pumpkin seed extract to prevent hair loss and thinning of your hair.


How to repair your hair affected by pollution

Sometimes you can’t limit your exposure to pollution and it’s about repair, rather than protection.

In this case, you’re going to need a solution that gets rid of particles from your hair because regular shampooing and conditioning won’t be enough to remove pollutants.

Noughty Tough Cookie Strengthening Shampoo

£6.99 | BUY NOW

Noughty Tough Cookie Strengthening ShampooNoughty

Hair products with antioxidants protect your hair from pollution and this detoxifying shampoo from Noughty Haircare has not one, not two, not three, but four antioxidants that help to reset your hair to a healthy state.

This shampoo is a great option for polluted areas because the wheat bran extract also helps strengthen your hair and protect it from further urban pollution damage.

The extra anti-pollution bonus with this shampoo is that 5% of sales are donated to Fund4Trees to help conservation.


Monpure Strengthening Essence Conditioner

£36 | BUY NOW

Monpure Strengthening Essence-ConditionerMonpure

When it comes to repairing hair damaged by pollution, vegan silk peptides work well to not only repair fragile or damaged hair strands at the root but to also help to protect your hair against future harmful pollutants and bacterial adhesion.

You’ll find vegan silk peptides in this Monpure conditioner, which will help rebuild the strength of your dry and pollution-damaged hair.


K18 Damage Shield conditioner

£39 | BUY NOW

K18 Damage Shield conditionerK18

The K18 Damage Shield Conditioner uses peptide technology that’s been designed to replicate the natural properties of keratin peptides found in hair as well as a ceramide blend designed to strengthen the hair’s lipid barriers.

This helps make hair more resilient and resistant to damage.

It’s a rinse-out conditioner that is “pH-optimised.” This means it minimises how much the cuticle in the hair swells during washing which helps to keep hair smooth and boost shine.

K18 Damage Shield protective conditioner then uses polysaccharides to protect hair against UV rays, styling, and “environmental aggressors” for up to three days. Or at least until it’s washed again.


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