Does Your Hair Need Antioxidants, Too?

Antioxidants are protective powerhouses for skin, and it turns out, they can be the same for your mane. Here's what you need to know about antioxidants in hair products.

Woman with healthy hair
Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty

Every day your hair essentially goes into battle.

"Hair is one of the most absorbent natural materials in the world," says Rolanda Wilkerson, Ph.D., the principal scientist for Procter & Gamble Beauty. So it's easy for free radicals—the destructive, unpaired electrons that come from UV rays, pollution, and the metals in shower water—to bind to it. Once those free radicals have infiltrated, they "can degrade the protein that keeps hair strong," says Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist and the brand president of Philip Kingsley.

To make matters worse, dust and pollution can build up on your scalp, exacerbating dryness and flaking. "This oxidative stress can also put your scalp's microbiome out of balance, allowing fungus—which causes dandruff—to flourish and release an irritating by-product that induces damage in the skin," says Wilkerson.

That's where antioxidants in hair products come in. "They pair themselves to the free radicals, neutralizing them so that they can't injure your strands further," says Kingsley. For example, A study in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology found that an antioxidant extracted from artichokes also protects hair from UV rays and even helps seal off the hair's cuticle, keeping it strong.

Antioxidants in Hair products
Head & Shoulders/Save Me From/Philip Kingsley/NARINTORN PORNSUKNIMITKUL/EYEEM/GETTY

How to Add Antioxidants to Your Hair Routine

You want to incorporate hair products with antioxidants into both your in-shower and styling routines.

Kingsley recommends Philip Kingsley Bond Builder Split End Remedy (Buy It, $49,, which has sunflower seed extract (an antioxidant) and UV filters.

Find the aforementioned artichoke antioxidant in Save Me From Pollution Assault Tip to Root Hair Reboot treatment (Buy It, $30,

You can also use a product with zinc pyrithione. "Although it's not an antioxidant, it helps counteract the issues that free radicals spur," Wilkerson says. "It inhibits the growth of the damage-causing fungus on the scalp, which can reduce dandruff, dryness, and even hair loss." Try Head & Shoulders Supreme Soothing Leave-On Scalp Cream (Buy It, $13,

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