Climate change is visibly changing our world. From unprecedented global warming to severe storms, droughts, and increasing health risks, it affects everyone and everything. But does that include the hair on our heads?
Excessive burning of fossil fuels, – oil, natural gas, and coal – deforestation and agriculture have significantly impacted the climate. Large amounts of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, but there are fewer trees to capture that CO2. As a result, the days are getting hotter and humid, with less healthy air to breathe.
Extreme heat can change the structure of the proteins that make up the hair and damage the cuticle. It can make the hair dry, brittle and prone to breakage. It will also leave a person with visible split ends, which can cause further damage to the hair as they work their way up.
Humidity means more moisture in the air, but that’s not necessarily good for your hair. Proteins in the hair do not absorb the water molecules evenly, which causes the hair strands to swell up and bend irregularly. Frizzy hair is the result. Additionally, humidity makes the hair more susceptible to breakage.
Climate change also affects the quality of the air we breathe, filling it up with allergens and pollutants. And, air pollution, in turn, also damages hair growth proteins. The greater the exposure to these pollutants, as happens in urban areas, the greater the problem. Dust motes and pollutants also settle on the skin of the scalp, which clogs the pores and deprives them of an adequate supply of oxygen.
According to Prof. Dr Fuat Yuksel, a plastic surgeon at Longevita, climate change has a negative impact on skin health. “Warmer climates have increased the incidence of skin infections. Air pollutants can also trigger flare-ups of skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. It can also increase the risk of autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus. All of these affect the skin and the hair attached to it.”
Climate change can affect hair in different ways and increase the incidence of baldness. Hats and umbrellas can provide short-term protection, but heat, humidity, and pollution will continue to increase as a result of climate change. Therefore, there’s a need to address the large underlying problem of climate change itself.