How to Protect Your Hair and Scalp from the Sun
It's no secret that you should protect your hair from the sun, especially in the summer. Leaving your hair unprotected can lead to damage like brittleness and dryness while also resulting in a scalp burn from the sun. (Our hair isn't as protective of our sensitive scalp skin as we think—and this is especially true if we have thinning hair.)
This is why it's important to take a two-pronged approach to sun protection for your hair and scalp. This means using sunscreen and a heat protectant along with physical barriers like wide-brimmed hats and umbrellas to block the sun and provide UV protection for your hair and scalp.
Read on for tips to prevent UV damage to your hair, scalp burn from the sun, and what to do if you're already dealing with a sun-damaged scalp!
How Do UV Rays Actually Harm Our Hair?
We can all remember the days when we’d spritz on hair lighteners (natural or store-bought) before a day in the sun hoping for natural blonde highlights. Those "highlights" we got from the sun are actually hair damage, and they show why we need UV protection for our hair and scalps.
When the UV rays from sunlight hit our hair, they break down the proteins that make up our hair. In fact, a 2008 study found that UVB radiation results in damage to the integrity of our hair proteins, and UVA radiation results in changes to our hair color. Weaker hair strands due to UV ray exposure can lead to brittleness, breakage and dull, dry tresses.
It's important to protect our hair from the sun—and both types of UV rays—to ensure the proteins in our hair stay healthy and to prevent sunburn on our scalps.
How to Protect Your Hair from the Sun and Prevent Scalp Sunburn
1. Keep Your Hair Hydrated
Because sun exposure dries out your hair, it's important to keep your hair as moisturized as possible. Be sure to drink plenty of water before spending a day in the sun, and pack hydrating snacks like fruits and veggies with high water content. To target your hair specifically, try applying a deep conditioning product to seal in moisture prior to sun exposure.
For a luxurious, ultra-hydrating option, we love our Hair Redemption Restorative Butter Masque. Using our proprietary plant butter blend, Hair Redemption penetrates deeply into hair strands to instantly moisturize and repair while restoring silkiness and elasticity to taxed hair.
2. Shampoo Less Often
This one can be hard when it's super-hot out! After a day of sweating in the sun, nothing feels better than a cool shower. You can shower as often as you prefer, but be sure to limit your hair washes to every other day, at most.
Shampooing every day strips your hair and scalp of natural oils, and this absence of natural scalp oils can prompt your scalp to over-produce sebum. On non-wash shower days, try rinsing your hair thoroughly with room temperature water to remove dirt and debris without disrupting your scalp!
3. Apply SPF to All Exposed Skin
When we apply sunscreen, we tend to focus on our face and body from the neck down. But the thinner, delicate skin at our temples, ears and the part in our hair need some love, too! Be sure to apply sunscreen liberally to these areas. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, look for a water-resistant sunscreen labeled "broad spectrum" and with an SPF of at least 30 for maximum sun protection for your hair, skin and scalp.
4. Stay in the Shade (Or Create Your Own)
Staying in the shade under a tree, umbrella or patio trellis can offer sun protection for your hair and scalp! But don't let this lull you into a false sense of security about the need for sunscreen.
UV rays can reflect off of water, light-colored concrete and even sand! Staying cool in the shade offers a degree of protection, but be sure that you're still applying sunscreen to any exposed skin! And we recommend wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses for additional protection for your hair, eyes, ears and scalp.
Pro tip: If you love the feeling of sun on your skin, try avoiding the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when its rays are strongest. In the summertime, that leaves you with plenty of sun time while avoiding the strongest UV ray exposure!
5. Use a Heat Protectant on Your Hair
Heat protectant hair products create a weightless barrier between your hair strands and the source of heat, whether that's a flat iron, curling iron or the sun. Our No Remorse Heat Protection & Taming Spray forms a protective layer around each strand while nourishing vitamin E smooths frizz and flyaways. Best of all, it can be used on damp or dry hair, so pack it in your bag for quick hydrating hair touch-ups throughout the day!
Pro tip: Reapply No Remorse whenever you reapply your sunscreen to ensure your tresses stay protected all day!
What If You're Already Dealing with Scalp Burn from the Sun?
If you're reading this and you're already dealing with a sun-damaged scalp, no worries! There are steps you can take to minimize your discomfort now. Plus, now you know the best steps for protecting your hair and scalp from the sun!
To take the heat out of a sunburned scalp, try dabbing a little aloe vera on exposed skin. You can also try applying a product with menthol or a menthol derivative as an ingredient to help cool off a sunburn. Remember to rinse thoroughly with cool water after 10 to 15 minutes of application!
When you're dealing with scalp burn from the sun, it's important to use a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo formulated for sensitive skin. Our favorite shampoo for a sunburned scalp is our fragrance-free, dermatologist-tested Full Transparency Pure Revitalizing Shampoo, which is hypoallergenic and formulated to be gentle on sensitive scalps. When you lather up, gently work Full Transparency over your scalp using the pads of your fingers. Don't use your nails or a sharp scalp brush—this can further irritate a sun-damaged scalp! Follow up by working Full Transparency Shine Revitalizing Conditioner gently through your locks to restore shine, liveliness and moisture without irritating your sunburned scalp!
Tell Us: Have you dealt with a sun-damaged scalp? What are your favorite ways to prevent scalp burn from the sun? Share in the comments below!
Like what you read and want more hair-care content delivered directly to your inbox? Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters for the latest hair intel and exclusive promotions for your mature hair needs!Better Not Younger knows that it's important to protect your hair from sun and UV damage! That's why we formulated our entire line of products to address the unique concerns of mature tresses, including protection from environmental stressors like sun and heat that can take a toll on our hair. Whether you need a gentle shampoo for a sunburned scalp or a strong heat protectant for your locks, we've got you covered. Let us help you find the right products for your aging hair's unique needs!