Air Pollution: How Does it Affect Your Curls and Scalp?

How many times have you heard the word anti-pollution? It’s often seen on skin care or hair care product descriptions and claims. You may read it and think  — “That sounds great, an added benefit!” — but what does this term really mean for hair care? Well, there’s a lot behind this term, and it’s still developing within the beauty industry as experts research and examine new findings. 

The concept of anti-pollution can be broken down into multiple categories, but today we’re here to walk you through the basics behind this trendy word — which is fairly new to the world of hair care.

What is air pollution?

Let’s start by defining the pollution part of the word anti-pollution. Air pollution is caused by multiple sources, including the burning of fossil fuels, exhaust from vehicles, industrial manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and the energy used in homes. Chemicals and gasses are released into the air when fossil fuels, like coal, CO2, and gas, are burned (Bosley M.D.). The release of these chemicals and gasses into the atmosphere results in direct consequences to both the earth (have you heard of global warming?) and to the individual person. A person’s body can be affected by air pollutants both internally and externally, and it can lead to serious health consequences, including cancer and skin conditions (Bosley M.D.).

Now, what does this have to do with your curls? Great question! Air pollution can also result in your curls and scalp being affected to some extent.

How does it affect your curls and scalp?

Air pollutants can affect both your strands and your scalp in the following ways:

  • Result in a dull hair color
  • Make curls appear “dirty”
  • Weigh down curls
  • Build-up of air pollutants on scalp can lead to follicle damage, which can contribute to dandruff, hair loss, and scalp irritation
  • Can speed up hair aging
  • Air pollutants can trigger excess sebum production in your scalp, which can block your hair follicles and result in weakened hair growth

Seems a little overwhelming doesn’t it? Don’t worry as there’s no need to panic! There are steps you can take to help minimize the effects of air pollution on your curls.

How can you protect your curls and scalp from air pollutants?

Here are some things you can do to help protect your curls and scalp from air pollution.

  • Cover your head - Wear a hat or scarf over your head when you’ll be outside for extended periods of time. Just make sure that the hat or scarf is breathable and doesn’t put tension on your scalp.
  • Put your hair up - Pulling your hair back will protect the unexposed portion of your curls.
  • Use lighter products - Avoid (or use with care) products that leave your curls with a tacky surface (pomades for example) because a tacky surface makes it easier for pollutants to stick to your strands.
  • Be gentle with your curls - Air pollutants can weaken your curls, so it’s important to be extra gentle in how you handle your curls to avoid any more damage.
  • Eat a balanced diet - An overall balanced diet and getting your body the nutrients it needs will help promote healthy hair growth.
  • Moisturize your hair - Air pollutants can be drying to your hair, so it’s important to ensure your hair is getting the moisture it needs.
  • Use nourishing products - Make your curls less susceptible to environmental risks by using products that will fortify and strengthen your strands.

Implementing parts of this list into your routine can help minimize the extent to which your curls are affected by air pollutants and encourage healthier curls overall. Now, you might be wondering, “To what extent are my curls affected?” Another great question! Let’s take a look at just how much of an effect our curls can experience.

To what extent are your curls affected by air pollution?

From the most basic standpoint, your curls can be affected by air pollutants, but particular circumstances are needed for the effects to become extreme. High concentrations of air pollutant particles on your curls would be needed to result in adverse effects. If we were to reach this level of air pollution concentration, we would be looking at issues a lot bigger than hair care (Evans). However, since we’re aware that our curls can in fact be affected by air pollution, it doesn’t hurt to start taking some preventative measures.

Anti-pollution is a term we will continue to hear about both in and outside of the beauty industry, and we hope this blog provided you with a basic understanding of the background behind the term.

We encourage you to keep an eye on the term “anti-pollution” within the beauty industry as new information on its effects is shared and discussed. 

Is anti-pollution a claim/benefit you currently look for in your curl care products? Share below!



Evans, Trefor. "Tress Stress: How the Environment Affects Hair." Cosmetics & Toiletries, March 2019.

"4 Ways Air Pollution Affects Your Hair Health." Bosley M.D.

Dancer, Rebecca. "Hair Loss & Air Pollution: What to Know + 4 Hair Care Tips." Mindbodygreen Lifestyle, April 2020.

Jul 22, 2022

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