Beauty Versus the World

The environment can wreak havoc on your looks. Here are 10 ways to prevent a natural (beauty) disaster.

Beauty Versus the World

From the moment you wake up to when you hit the sheets, “we’re always battling the elements,” says Anne Chapas, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. “And when we’re exposed to too many environmental assaults on a daily basis, our body’s natural protection process breaks down.”

So, what’s a girl to do to stay pretty (besides live in a cave)? Here are some simple solutions to help your skin and hair weather whatever Mother Nature brings your way.

Culprit: Water
About 85 percent of American homes have hard water (which basically means super-high levels of minerals), The United States Geological Survey finds. And according to the Environmental Working Group, traces of chlorine, used to disinfect the public water supply, are in your tap and your shower. Plus, copper found in the very pipes that pump water into your tub can make beautiful blonde hair go bad.

Issue: Blonde hair that turns (eek!) green; straw-like strands for any hair color
“Hard water typically contains large amounts of calcium and magnesium,” explains Leslie Baumann, M.D., a dermatologist in Miami Beach, and author of “The Skin Type Solution,” “These minerals sit on hair and strip its natural oils, making it feel rough and look frizzy.” And whether from a quick dip in the pool or repeat rinses under your very own spray, chlorine acts similarly. “Chlorine is hydroscopic so it absorbs moisture,” says Philip Kingsley, a trichologist (hair and scalp expert) in NYC and London. “If it dries on hair, it literally draws out moisture, causing hair to become brittle and dull.”

Since bleached strands are more porous and have little color, the effects of harsh chemicals and oxidizing are more noticeable than on darker shades. Contrary to the common belief, it isn't actually the chlorine that turns blonde hair green. Oxidized metals in the chlorinated water bind to the protein in the hair shaft and deposit their color. The metal that produces the green tint is copper (which turns green when it oxidizes, much like the copper Statue of Liberty).

Remedy: Dr. Baumann suggests switching your regular showerhead to one that contains a filtration system that can remove harmful heavy metals and chemicals. (Think Brita for your hair.) If the damage is already done, reveal softer, shinier strands—and a brighter blonde—with this DIY treatment from Christopher Cilione, senior colorist at Oscar Blandi Salon in New York City: Mix equal parts white vinegar with shampoo in a small bottle; lather into hair, rinse, then shampoo and condition. “The vinegar is acidic and able to break down layers of mineral deposits coating hair,” explains Cilione. Don’t feel like being your own DIY beauty mix master? Use a clarifying shampoo every other week instead.

John Masters Organics Herbal Cider Hair Rinse and Clarifier, $17
Jonathan Beauty Water Shower Purification System, $95

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