How to Protect Your Hair and Scalp from UV Damage


The best ways to protect your hair and scalp from sun damage. (Photo: Trunk Archive)

When it comes to protecting your skin from the sun, there are plenty of options out there — sprays, oils, lotions, powders, and even clothing with SPF. But what about protection for your hair and scalp? Sure, a hat seems like the most obvious way to cover up, but it isn’t always an option — especially if you’re out in the water. To get the scoop on this special protection during the summer, I went to Anabel Kingsley, hair and scalp expert at the Philip Kingsley. Here’s what you need to know:

Just like your skin, your hair can burn. “Summer’s strong UV rays act on your hair in a similar way to bleach; they oxidize and degrade the disulphide bonds that hold it together, reducing cystine content and causing brittleness, dryness, breakage and lack of manageability,” says Kingsley. “Chlorine can be similarly drying, and as pool water often contains traces of copper, it may even turn blond hair green. Salt water is also bad news; being osmotic, it leaches water out of each strand, rapidly reducing moisture content and elasticity.” You might not always be able to feel the burn, but the sun’s rays will take a toll on your hair.

Don’t forget to protect your scalp. Kingsley says the scalp is an often-neglected area when it comes to sun protection and has a heightened rise of developing cancerous cells due to frequent UV exposure. She recommends applying sunblock to your part when you’re going to be spending a good deal of time outside and reapplying after swimming.  If you’re someone with fine or thinning hair, adding protection to your scalp is even more important. Kingsley recommends using a water-resistant zinc sunscreen.

Pick products with a UV filter. “The best way to shield your hair from such damage is by wearing a hat,” says Kingsley. “However, applying a hydrating hair mask containing UV protection before swimming or sitting in the sun will also be of great benefit.” Philip Kingsley created Swimcap Cream ($38) originally for the US synchronized swimming team. This waterproof leave-in cream protects hair from UV, salt, and chlorine damage. For everyday, look for a leave-in conditioning spray that contains UV filters. We also like Fekkai Pre-Soleil Hair Mist ($20), Sachajuan Hair in the Sun ($32), and Aveda Sun Care Protective Veil ($28).

Take care of a scalp burn. If you get a minor burn on your scalp, you can treat it the same way you would a sunburn elsewhere on your skin by using aloe vera. Make sure you keep the affected area out of the sun until it has healed by wearing a hat or headscarf. Kingsley also recommends staying away from heated styling tools, like blow-dryers and hair straighteners, until your burn has healed. “Brushing, especially near the scalp, must be done very gently to prevent pulling, scratching, and further irritation,” says Kingsley. If you have a severe burn, seek the advice of a medical professional to avoid infection and scarring.


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