10 top tips to shield your hair and scalp from sun damage

Enjoying the sunshine is one of the best parts of summer, but did you know that prolonged exposure to the sun's rays can harm your hair and scalp?

Just like your skin, your hair and scalp need proper protection from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Sun damage can cause dryness, breakage, colour fading and even lead to scalp conditions like sunburn or dandruff.

Don't worry! With these 10 simple and easy-to-follow tips, you can shield your hair and scalp from sun damage, keeping them both healthy, vibrant and radiant all summer long.

@chemist4u Look after your hair & scalp this summer!🌞 #pharmacisttips #chemist4u #summerhair #scalpcare #hairhealth #hairhealthytips #scalphealth ♬ Kulture Klub (Sped up Version) - Lucy Tun

How sun can damage your hair and scalp

Although the sun's rays can feel pleasant when shining on your hair and scalp, prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to damage.

Understanding how sun damage occurs is crucial in taking the necessary steps to protect your hair and scalp.

The sun emits UV radiation, consisting of UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deeply into your skin and hair, while UVB rays primarily affect the outer layers. These rays can cause various types of damage.

The sun's rays can strip your hair of its natural oils and moisture, leaving it dry, brittle and prone to breakage. As a result, your hair may appear dull, frizzy and lacklustre.

Additionally, if you've noticed your hair colour fading after spending time in the sun, it's because UV rays can break down the pigments in your hair, leading to colour fading or even a change in hue. This effect is particularly noticeable in coloured or chemically-treated hair.

Your scalp is also at risk of sun damage. Excessive sun exposure can cause sunburn on your scalp, resulting in redness, tenderness and flaking. This can be uncomfortable and may even worsen existing scalp conditions like dandruff or psoriasis.

Moreover, UV radiation weakens the protein structure of your hair strands, reducing their elasticity and making them more susceptible to damage from heat styling, chemical treatments and everyday wear and tear.

Lastly, the sun's rays can contribute to the premature ageing of your hair. Over time, sun damage can make your hair thinner, coarser and more prone to greying. It may also lead to a loss of hair density.

1. Wear a hat

Wearing a hat is an easy and effective way to shield your hair and scalp from the sun. It acts as a physical barrier, providing shade and reducing direct exposure to the sun's rays.

Choosing a wide-brimmed hat ensures broad coverage, protecting your scalp, face, neck and shoulders.

To enhance sun protection, opt for hats made from tightly woven fabrics like straw, cotton or polyester, as they offer better UV protection. Avoid hats with a loose or open weave that allows sunlight to pass through.

If possible, consider hats with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating, as they’re designed to block UV rays.

2. Use heat defence spray

Using a heat defence spray is a vital step in safeguarding your hair and scalp from sun damage.

These sprays create a protective barrier against heat styling tools and offer additional UV protection. By reducing heat damage, they keep your hair healthier and more resilient.

Heat defence sprays also help retain moisture in your hair, preventing dryness and brittleness caused by sun exposure. Applying them is easy, and they often provide styling benefits such as hold, volume, shine or smoothing effects.

Look for a heat defence spray with UV-blocking ingredients or a high SPF rating to ensure you protect your hair from the sun.

3. Protect your scalp

Protecting your scalp from the sun is just as important as shielding your hair and skin. The skin on our scalp is sensitive and can easily get sunburned or damaged.

First and foremost, apply sunscreen specifically designed for the scalp, ensuring it has a high SPF. Be generous when applying it to exposed areas, including the parting line and any thinning or balding spots.

Explore hair care products specifically formulated for the scalp, containing ingredients like aloe vera, tea tree oil or antioxidants that promote scalp health and provide some level of sun protection.

4. Stay in the shade

Seeking shade provides a natural barrier against the sun, reducing direct exposure and minimising the risk of sunburn and other sun-related issues.

By staying in the shade, you decrease your overall UV exposure and lower the chances of sunburn on your scalp and other exposed areas.

Additionally, being in the shade is more comfortable, especially on hot, sunny days. Reducing sweating can avoid scalp irritation, too.

Staying in the shade helps protect the moisture balance of your hair and scalp, preventing dryness, brittleness and damage to your strands.

Whether you're at the beach, park or simply spending time outdoors, make it a habit to seek shaded areas or create your own shade with umbrellas, hats or sun shelters.

5. Hydrate

Proper hydration keeps your hair moisturised, reduces dryness and brittleness, and improves its resilience against sun-induced damage. It also maintains the natural moisture levels of your scalp, preventing dryness and discomfort.

Drinking enough water throughout the day helps regulate body temperature, minimising scalp irritation caused by excessive sweating. Hydrated hair is more elastic and less prone to breakage.

6. Wash less often

By reducing the amount of times you wash your hair, you’re allowing the natural oils produced by your scalp to act as a protective barrier, keeping your hair moisturised and strong.

This helps prevent dryness, brittleness and colour fading. Washing less often also means less heat styling, minimising the risk of heat-related damage.

Opt for gentle and sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner when you wash your hair to maintain its moisture balance.

7. Don’t skip the conditioner

Conditioner provides hydration and moisture to your hair, preventing dryness. It helps detangle and improve manageability, reducing breakage while combing or styling.

Some conditioners even offer UV protection, acting as a shield against harmful radiation. Additionally, conditioners restore essential nutrients, strengthen the hair shaft and enhance overall hair health.

Make it a routine to use conditioner after shampooing, focusing on the mid-lengths to the ends of your hair.

8. Try a hair mask

If you want to take it one step further than conditioning, try a hair mask, like Garnier Ultimate Blends Hair Food Coconut Oil 3-in-1 Hair Mask Treatment or Seoulista Blondi Locks Hair Treatment Mask.

Hair masks provide deep hydration and nourishment, replenishing moisture lost due to sun exposure. They repair and restore damaged hair, improving its strength and resilience.

Hair masks also deliver essential nutrients to promote hair health and protect against environmental stressors. Additionally, they can soothe and moisturise the scalp, reducing discomfort caused by the sun.

Incorporate a hair mask into your routine once or twice a week, especially during periods of increased sun exposure or if your hair feels dry and damaged.

9. Swap your brush for a comb

Combs are gentler on your hair, reducing the risk of breakage when detangling. They create less friction, helping to preserve the integrity of your hair strands, especially when they’re dry or damaged.

Combing with a wide-toothed comb evenly distributes natural oils produced by your scalp, providing a protective moisturising barrier against the sun.

Additionally, combs allow better airflow to your scalp, preventing heat buildup and potential discomfort. Choose a wide-toothed comb with smooth edges and use it gently to detangle your hair.

10. Let your hair dry naturally

To shield your hair and scalp from heat damage, it's beneficial to leave your hair to dry naturally. By avoiding heat styling tools and vigorous towel drying, you can protect your hair from heat-related harm.

Allowing your hair to air-dry enhances its natural texture, reduces frizz and flyaways, and saves you time. Remember to gently squeeze out excess water and refrain from rubbing your hair vigorously to prevent potential damage.

Ginger/red hair in the sun
Taking steps to ensure your scalp and hair is protected in the sun is very important. By following these 10 top tips, you can effectively shield your hair and scalp from the damaging effects of sun exposure.

Whether it's wearing hats, using heat defence sprays or seeking shade, each one plays a significant role in safeguarding your hair and scalp from harmful UV rays.

By prioritising hair and scalp protection in the sun, you can enjoy the outdoors with confidence, knowing that they’re shielded from any potential damage.

Alexandra Moses - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 19 January 2024
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