Is Dubai ruining your hair?

Hair loss, dandruff, dull colour, dryness: the health of many people’s hair deteriorates when they move to the UAE. Nyree Barrett finds out how to fix the problem


‘I have a bald patch,’ my friend whispers, lifting up her carefully placed ponytail to reveal a spot of scalp. ‘I’ve always had such lovely hair, but since moving to Dubai it’s been frizzy, and now I’m losing it! Why?!’ she asks desperately.

Hair loss, frizzy locks and dull colour are problems for many here, and the most obvious culprit is the desalinated water. Although most desalinated water is soft, word on the street is that our water here is hard (which means soap won’t lather properly in it) and that it’s pumped with chlorine. ‘Experts say the high levels of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, nitrate, potassium and sodium can lead to hair loss and skin allergies,’ explains Dubai-based hair expert Maria Dowling.

The weather is also an aggravating factor. First up, hot and sweaty conditions mean most of us shampoo our hair every day, which, as Claude Hachache from Toni & Guy points out, ‘strips the scalp of its natural oils and causes dehydrated, brittle hair’. Also, sun, chlorine and air conditioning are all drying on the hair, and heat and humidity can make hair look frizzy. ‘In the heat, the cuticle tends not to lie as flat as it should, so it doesn’t reflect the light as effectively,’ explains Maria.

Most are quick to blame Dubai for the problem, but it can also be down to health issues. Hair loss can take up to three months to show, so if you’ve just moved to Dubai it’s unlikely to be related to conditions here. Stress is also a huge factor. ‘Our hair is part of our bodies, so if we’re stressed, the hair is as well,’ explains Claude. ‘If someone suffers physical or emotional stress, there’s an increased chance of associated hair loss, although this is nearly always temporary and hair usually grows back after six months.’ The problem could also be hormonal, so if you’re suffering from serious hair loss, see a doctor to check your thyroid and hormone levels just in case.

Expert advice

Maria Dowling at Mariadowling salon (04 345 4225)
• ‘Dull locks can be a sign of a sluggish metabolism and poor diet. Get to the root cause by drinking more water and eating peanuts, wheatgerm and brown rice, which contain pantothenic acid – this helps to boost hair moisture and shine.’

• ‘It may sound obvious, but wear a hat to protect the hair from the sun. Or try a lightweight cotton scarf and tie it turban-style for fast glamour.’

• Got green hair from spending too much time in a chlorinated pool? Maria recommends working a dollop of ketchup through your hair and leaving it in for 10 minutes before shampooing. Yes, really.

Elaine Quinn at Ted Morgan salon (04 430 8190)
• ‘Use products with protein to keep hair strong. Try Redken Extreme Shampoo and Conditioner [from Dhs55 at].’

• ‘I know it’s not for everyone, but I wear a swimming cap when in the pool to protect my hair from chlorine.’

Claude Hachache at Toni & Guy salon (04 324 4900)
• ‘Deal with hair loss from the inside out: take multivitamins, especially those prescribed for hair growth, such as betacarotene.’ Try Priorin, which contains millet, pantothenic acid and L-cystine, a component of keratin; Dhs266 at most pharmacies.

• ‘Install a water filter to soften the water, or rinse hair with bottled water after washing.’ Full-on water filtration systems can be expensive, but try So Safe Shower Filter, which attaches to your shower; Dhs100 at Carrefour.

Summer saviours

We check out the latest products that promise to pep up your hair

Caviar and gold haircare
Time Out loves to debunk gimmicks, so when we heard about shampoos and conditioners containing gold and caviar, we snapped them up to see if the luxurious ingredients actually make a difference. We hate to say it, but our hair has never felt softer. Miriam Quevedo’s Extreme Caviar Shampoo contains caviar as well as brewers’ yeast, coconut, olive oil and UV filters to make hair look unbelievably shiny. Another favourite is the brand’s Gold Mask, which contains real gold alongside imperial orchid, bio argan oil, hydrolysed keratin and green tea. After using it, our hair was soft and supple and no longer needed a
blow-dry, which is always a plus during the sweaty Dubai summer.
Caviar Shampoo for coloured hair, Dhs140; Gold Mask, Dhs195; both available at Beauty Bay, Oasis Centre (04 515 4300)

L’Occitane Summer Protection Gel Mask Conditioner
With the rising temperatures forcing us into the pool more often, it’s time to take some action to protect our sun- (and salon-) bleached locks from chlorine and sun damage. L’Occitane’s summer hair protector looks like funny green goo; sure, the tub is pretty and the brand expensive, but the product inside is not particularly inviting. However, as soon as we slapped it on our scalp, the minty smell – that would be the angelica, lavender, geranium, mint and eucalyptus – woke us up. Most importantly, did it ‘protect our hair from the damaging effects of UV rays while restoring and preserving colour’? We think so – well, it smells nice at least.
Dhs155 at L’Occitane, The Dubai Mall (04 339 8148)

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