How do allergies affect your hair? And how can you reduce the impact of allergens?
Can allergies affect your hair? And what about pollen? Find out why allegies and your hair are connected, and how you can reduce the impact.
In the last two weeks, Google searches for “allergies and hair” seeing an enormous 9,900% uplift, coinciding with a high pollen count across the UK. Cliphair’s qualified hair expert Lynn Chambers and Brenda Lee explain the surprising way different allergens can affect your hair.
From seasonal hay fever to food allergies, Lynn explains how allergens can either present themselves through your hair, or how your hair can worsen allergies and offers advice on how to treat this. Lastly, celebrity and trends writer Brenda will suggest how to protect your hair and scalp with a few selected trendy hairstyles.
How are allergies and hair connected?
Allergies cause systemic inflammation, which can result in a flare-up of other conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis, all over your body – including your scalp.
As an allergy can cause a flare-up on your scalp, this has a direct impact on the health of your hair, by restricting its growth and, in extreme cases, resulting in temporary hair loss.
How do seasonal allergies affect your hair?
While more common seasonal allergy symptoms typically include dry eyes, itchy throat and sneezing more than usual, your scalp and hair are just as likely to be impacted by a high pollen count.
During the summer, when the air is drier and pollen levels are higher, your scalp will naturally struggle to hold onto moisture, possibly resulting in a dry and flaky scalp.
Pollen will also collect in your hair during warmer months, a process that results in an exhausting build-up for your scalp. This will not only exasperate any hay fever symptoms but irritate your scalp even more, resulting in persistent discomfort and, in some cases, reduced hair growth.
How do food allergies affect your hair?
Food allergies are linked to hair thinning, loss and an increased predisposition to alopecia. Although this may sound worrying, this is definitely not a guarantee for everyone with food allergies. If your food allergies are severe and result in you having a nutritional deficiency, as you are unable to eat certain foods, then this will directly impact your hair’s health.
Your hair needs certain nutrients and vitamins, such as vitamin D, iron and zinc, to grow properly. Those who are allergic to certain food groups will need to supplement the vitamins they subsequently miss out on, to prevent hair thinning, breakage and hair loss.
What other allergies affect your hair?
It’s not just food or pollen that can have a direct impact on your hair’s health. Certain chemical ingredients that are found in hair care products are also known to cause an allergic reaction in some people. From fragrances to nickel and other metals that are typically found in hair dyes, many of us are sensitive to these ingredients without even realising it.
Unfortunately, most of us won’t know if we are allergic to certain ingredients without first being exposed to them, so this is why it is advisable and, sometimes even compulsory, to do the recommended patch tests before applying a new product on your hair and/or scalp.
How can you tell if your hair is being affected by allergies?
The most common signs to look out for that indicate your hair is either being affected by allergens or your scalp is dealing with an allergic reaction, include:
- Itchy, red and inflamed scalp
- Stunted hair growth
- Excessive hair loss
For seasonal allergies
If you notice your usual symptoms even when the pollen count is low, or even when you’re not exposed to the allergens, it may be a sign you have unintentionally brought pollen into your home via your hair.
The best and easiest way to remedy this is to simply wash your hair with a purifying shampoo, which will efficiently cleanse your hair and rid the strands of any leftover pollen. It may also be advisable to wash any clothes or sheets you’ve worn or slept on too.
What can you do to reduce the impact that allergens have on your hair?
There are easy steps to take to reduce the impact of seasonal allergens. Wearing a hat and keeping your hair tied up and away from your face helps prevent pollen and dust from working their way into your hair.
You should also avoid “sticky” hair products, such as oils, mousses or creams, as they provide a perfect base for pollen to easily stick to. If, however, this is unavoidable, then you should at least rinse your hair in the evening, so you can avoid bringing pollen into your bed.
If you have a food allergy and you notice your hair is visibly thinning or you are losing more hair than usual (but keep in mind, the average person loses up to 100 strands of hair every day!) then you should consult a doctor.
A doctor will be able to provide specific advice on what vitamins and nutrients you could be missing out on and whether you will need to take supplements to make up for this and help your hair look and feel healthier.
Can changing the way you style my hair prevent pollen build-up?
The way you style your hair can help prevent pollen build-up. mentioned above, using hats or hair scarves can be a good choice – this will also help protecting your scalp from direct sunlight and harmful UV rays. But sheltering your hair from sun and pollens doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to miss out on looking cool – it’s the summer after all!
If you have medium to long hair, you can also use this as an excuse to try out some plaited hairstyles, such as Dutch braids or the French plait. These hairstyles will also work on shorter hair, such as shoulder length.
People with longer hair can also experiment with braided buns and the most recent trend: the spiky bun (as seen on different celebrities). Another popular braided hairstyle for the hottest season is the fishtail braid.
These types of hairstyles are also part of a larger category known as “protective hairstyles” – which protect your strands and, in some cases, tuck your ends in to shelter your tresses from external damaging agents such as wind, pollution, and pollen.
Photo by Ali Pazani