Environmental Factors that affect hair
Prolonged exposure to the sun dries out hair and disrupts the cells of the cuticle causing hair to become brittle and prone to breakage. The hot desert sun dries out and fades the hair and long term exposure will turn the hair brittle and cause it to break off. Without sun protection the scalp can experience sun damage. A desert climate can have special hazards that attribute to the loss of hair and faster ageing.
In addition to the sun and the hot climate, the use of the tap water in many countries poses a big problem for our hair.
Tap Water and Hair
The main source of tap water in many countries is desalinated water. Desalination is the removal of salt from seawater to produce drinking water using chlorine. While desalinated water is considered safe to drink, but causes many problems for hair, scalp and skin.
Dry skin, hair and scalp, hair loss, brittle hair and split ends are common due to the desalinated water and the use of chlorine. Chlorine is put in water to kill bacteria then calcium compound is added to help control the chlorine levels.
Active chlorine can cause hair to feel gummy when wet and straw-like when dry and can damage the cuticle and proteins of the hair. Chlorine can cause hair to feel dry, brittle and cause hair to lack shine.
The other mineral in desalinated water is calcium. Calcium leaves the hair feeling dry and weighed down and builds up on the scalp causing flaking of the scalp giving the appearance of dandruff. Calcium can choke the hair at the mouth of the follicle causing the hair to break off, and then coats the scalp, blocking further new hair growth.
So how do minerals and chlorine attach to the hair?
The hair, scalp and skin have an electrical charge and that charge is negative. Minerals and oxidizers are charged positive. When a positively charged mineral comes in contact with our hair, scalp, or skin, it attaches on like a magnet.
Desalinated water affects hair by causing harmful scalp build-up and leads to brittle and breaks off right above the root.
So how exactly is damage caused?
1. A healthy strand of hair has smooth cuticles.
2. Hair damaged by the harsh climate and has open cuticles.
3. Minerals from desalinated water stick to the hair inside the open cuticle.
4. The mineral crystals grow and cause the protective cuticle to break off. This exposes and damages the inner cortex, causing the hair to break off.
Silica and hair
Silica is a sand-like substance found in desert or volcanic areas and tends to float around in the air. It is usually bound to calcium or magnesium and forms very hard, almost insoluble deposits. So how does silica affect our hair?
Silica causes many of the same effects on the hair as calcium. It leaves hair feeling dry and weighed down. It also can cause dandruff-like symptoms of flaking and will leave white flakes all over your hair. Build up of silica can choke the hair follicle and cause the hair to fall out.
Another damaging factor that affects hair is an air-conditioned atmosphere. This is very drying and this will take away the moisture from the hair, which is extremely damaging. The hair is also constantly exposed to extremes; hot conditions outdoors and very cool air indoors.