Proper Sun Protection for Your Hair

Last Updated on December 31, 2022 by Gaga

Human hair is very susceptible to damage when exposed to the sun. If your hair is dry, fine, or chemically treated, it will be more sensitive to sun damage than healthy hair. The chance of serious damage is more likely if your hair has been soaked in salt water and dried in the sun.

The pigment known as melanin, located in the hair cortex acts as a natural sunscreen. It protects the hair by filtering out the harmful sun rays. However, long periods of sun exposure can oxidize and degrade melanin granules, leaving your hair without its natural defense. That is why you must protect your sun-sensitive locks.


How Does the Sun Damage Your Hair?

Cute girl wearing a hat

The common unwanted effects of prolonged sun exposure on your hair include dryness, weakened structure, and color fading.

Dryness: Harmful sun rays destroy the protective coating of natural oils, making the hair look dull, dry, and porous. Sun damage is particularly noticeable on the outermost layers of the hair, called the cuticles. This layer receives the most damaging sun radiation. Once damaged, cuticles lose their ability to keep moisture inside the hair which results in excessive dryness.

The weakened protein structure: Lifted cuticles lead to increased porosity, split ends, and brittle strands. A damaged cuticle layer can’t protect the inner part of the hair shaft from external damage. The external aggressors, then, could reach the cortex and weaken protein bonds that are responsible for hair strength and elasticity. The outcome is an increased risk of hair breakage.

Color fading: Healthy hair cuticles reflect light and prevent UV rays from penetrating the pigment-containing inner cortex. A damaged cuticle cannot block UV rays from bleaching pigments in the hair cortex. The results are color fading and a lighter appearance of your hair.

Sun exposure reduces the color vibrancy of dyed hair as well as virgin hair. Gray hair is even more susceptible to damage when exposed to sunlight because white strands completely lack melanin in the follicle.

9 Simple Rules to Avoid Sun Damage to your Hair

1. Avoid exposing your hair to intense UV light. The sunlight is the strongest between 11 AM and 3 PM. When you’re going to spend the day outside, shield your hair and scalp from the sun by wearing a sun hat or a scarf. A quality sun hat creates shade to provide UV protection, but it still allows the hair and scalp pores to breathe.

2. When you plan to spend a day in the sun, wear protective styles such as braids to reduce hair exposure to the sun.

a girl with blonde braided hair

3. After each swim, use fresh water to remove the salt or chlorine from your hair.

4. Use sulfate-free color-safe shampoo and conditioner.

5. Use the lowest heat settings when drying and styling your locks to avoid further damage.

6. Apply a deep-conditioning treatment at least once a week to restore moisture levels and keep your hair strong and elastic.

a woman applying a deep conditioner

7. Use natural oils such as coconut, castor, or olive oil to provide gentle protection to your locks during periods in the sun. You can also purchase sun protection spray for hair made from UV protective oils such as AVEDA Sun Care Protective Hair Veil.

8. Avoid coloring your hair shortly before the summer holidays because the coloring process will make your hair more susceptible to sun damage. Also, because of sun exposure, you won’t enjoy your new color for a long time.

charming girl wearing a hat in the park

Sunscreens for Hair

UV-absorbing filters or sunscreens are infused into hair care products to neutralize the harmful effects of the sun’s rays on hair and to protect color pigments from fading.

To shield hair from sun damage, many companies offer complete product lines with sunscreens in their formulation. Their shampoos, rinse-off conditioners, masks, leave-in conditioners, and hairsprays contain UVA/UVB filters to provide a high level of sun protection.

To get full protection, use a wide-toothed comb to distribute the product evenly throughout your hair. You also need to re-apply it regularly throughout the day.

a woman applying sunscreen

Leave-in conditioning products with UV filters offer good sun protection and help retain moisture inside the hair.

Paul Mitchell Color Protect Locking Spray is made to protect your locks and prevent color fading when you are out in the sun.

A woman wearing a hat to protect the hair from the Sun

Scalp Sunscreens

Your scalp is quite sensitive to sun rays. Lack of protection from excessive sun exposure can cause dryness and sunburn. Make sure to apply a sunscreen spray to the sun-exposed areas of your scalp to prevent sunburns. 

Related product: Organic Scalp & Hair Sunscreen Mist by COOLA (SPF 30) is formulated with plant-based antioxidants and sunscreen to protect and nourish your hair and scalp.

After-Sun Hair Care

graceful blonde woman standing on sunny beach

1. After-Sun Shampoos

After-sun shampoos are designed to wash the hair after long sun exposure. These shampoos help to replenish lost moisture and wash out salt and sunscreen residue from your hair.

Some of the most popular brands include Redken Color Extend After Sun Shampoo, Kerastase Soleil Bain Apres Soleil After Sun Shampoo, and Bed Head Tigi Totally Beachin’ After Sun Shampoo.

2. After-Sun Hair Sprays

After Sun sprays are formulated to condition your hair and soothe your scalp after a long day in the sun. These sprays temporarily repair split ends, reduce breakage, and leave your hair soft, shiny, and manageable.

Related product: Sun Bum Revitalizing 3-in-1 Leave-In Conditioner Spray

How to Refresh Hair Color after Summer Holidays?

The best way to refresh your hair color after the summer holidays is to apply a hair gloss/glaze treatment. This treatment will impart shine and restore the tone of your original color until the next regular coloring service.

If you have blonde or gray hair, use a nourishing purple toning mask to get rid of brassy tones and keep your color bright.

A stunning woman using a hat to protect the hair

About the author

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Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.