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Have you got Dubai Hair?

Since moving to Dubai, does your hair look or feel differently? Is it drier than you remembered? Does more seem to shed in the shower or when brushing than used to? The team at Expat Echo Dubai hears this from those new to Dubai all the time, many of whom write to Ask Louise to inquire why that is. It seems a lot of expats living in Dubai want reassurance that they are not alone in this and to know how they can remedy the effects and maintain their lustrous locks. So we asked an expert to set the record straight, once and for all – what affect does living in Dubai have on our hair and what can we do about it?

The main source of tap water in many arid countries, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is desalinated water. Desalination is the removal of salt from seawater to produce drinking water. Over 70% of the water in the UAE is desalinated water. Whilst desalinated water is considered safe to drink, it can play havoc with our hair, scalp and skin.

A common complaint in the Arabian Gulf from both men and women is the loss of hair. Expats new to Arabian Gulf countries like Dubai, frequently complain of unusual hair loss within the first three to four months of arrival. Dry skin, hair and scalp, hair loss, brittle hair and split ends are common and mainly due to the use of desalinated water and the arid conditions.

How does desalinated water affect hair?
The chlorine (a harsh oxidiser added to water to kill bacteria) present in desalinated water dries the hair, making it brittle, lackluster and causing it to break. It can also cause harmful scalp build-up that leads to hair breaking off above the external root sheath. So what is frequently perceived as hair loss is in fact hair breaking off at the root. Moreover, this coating of the scalp creates an environment for the follicle that is not beneficial to the new hair trying to emerge. Active chlorine in the hair can cause hair to feel gummy when wet and straw-like when dry.
Chlorine can damage the cuticle and proteins of the hair. As an oxidizer, chlorine can cause the air and sun to oxidize hair and worsen the conditions mentioned above.

Did you know there is also Silica in the air?
Silica is a sand-like substance found in desert or volcanic areas such as Dubai. It is usually bound to calcium or magnesium and forms very hard, virtually insoluble deposits. Silica causes many of the same effects as those described above, that is causing the hair to feel dry, but it also weighs hair down and can cause the dandruff-like symptom of flaking.

How does air-conditioning affect hair?
Air-conditioned atmospheres are very drying, taking 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. Not to mention in often and even rapid successions.

What about climate?
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 aging. This is especially noticeable in expats who do not cover up in the sun and engage in sun bathing – their skin becomes prematurely lined and thin. The Gulf climate ruins the complexion, women in the Gulf age faster than those of the same age in other parts of the world.

What about nutrition?
Fresh food and vegetables have often traveled thousands of kilometers to reach the Arabian Gulf and their nutritional value will have depleted. It is generally advisable to take a good quality multivitamin in order to make sure the body gets an optimum supply of vitamins and nutrients.

Good hair starts with a healthy scalp!
Your hair grows from the scalp and depends upon it for its nourishment and well-being, similar to a rich fertile soil needed for plants to grow and flourish. So when the scalp becomes unhealthy it shows in the hair – dryness, dandruff, irritation, spots, inflammation, lank, greasy hair.

Choose a good quality shampoo and conditioner!
Ones that suites your hair type and remember there is no such thing as normal hair! Shampoo daily, washing your hair is singularly the best thing you can do for it. Although sebum has an excellent effect on the condition of the hair, it is made for each of us individually and its ability to lock moisture into the hair is second to none but it’s just not worth the negative price you have to pay by having sebum permanently covering your hair. Hair conditioners these days are so sophisticated and effective it is far better to wash your hair frequently and use a conditioner afterwards. Another important point is that some shampoos are very harsh, but these are the poorer quality ones. Good quality shampoos are designed to only remove excess oil from the hair and scalp, leaving the inter-cellular oil within the scalp tissues and in the spaces between the hair cuticles.

Article Written By Dubai Hair Doctor: Mike Ryan MSc IAT

One Response to “Have you got Dubai Hair?”

  1. Helen Evans says:

    To find out more about the effects of desalinated water on hair go to

    Permea Plus make hair products for hair washed in desalinated water and removes all minerals to prevent hair breakage.

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