Especially if you get your hair colored...
By now, you don’t need anyone to tell you about the importance of sunscreen. Without it, you’re susceptible to an increased risk of sunburn (ouch), visible aging (no thank you), and skin cancer (scary). But there’s still one area you probably neglect: the top of your head.
"The skin on your scalp is prone to sunburn just like the rest of your body and should be treated with the same degree of respect," says Irene Gladstein, MD, founder and medical director at ENHANCE Aesthetic Arts in New York City.
Not only does stepping out sans UV protection leave you susceptible to cancer, but it can also lead to hair loss, oxidation, and breakage. "Your hair could get dry and brittle," says George Papanikolas, Matrix celebrity colorist. "Burning the scalp can also cause damage to the follicle and potential hair loss."
Plus, that perfect shade you achieved at the salon could look completely different after a day in the sun. "Color-treated hair has a higher chance of fading, as the color molecules are more delicate and sun exposure will cause them to oxidize," says Papanikolas.
How to protect your hair and scalp from sun damage
The best way to keep your color intact and your scalp safe from sunburn? With a hat, of course. But be sure to opt for one that offers UPF protection. If a hat doesn’t exactly go with your outfit or swimming plans, the next best thing is to generously apply sunscreen to exposed parts of the scalp and yes, even your hair.
"Cover all exposed areas of the scalp, look for SPF with broad spectrum protection, and reapply every hour or two, more often if you're in the water," says Dr. Gladstein.
If you plan on spending any time poolside, you should also be mindful of chlorine. "Sun, salt and chlorine are common culprits when it comes to hair damage," says Dr. Gladstein. "Don't forget to rinse your hair out as soon as you're done with water activities."
Fortunately, using sunscreen for your hair doesn’t need to be a greasy nightmare, especially thanks to nourishing mists, creams, and pre-sun products that offer protection from the sun’s harmful ways without sacrificing your style.
Papanikolas says using a product specifically for your hair will yield the best results, all while offering an extra level of protection. "It will make your styling much easier and protect you from UV rays and heat damage," he says.
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