You spend a ton of time making sure your hair looks great. You take great pains to avoid heat damage when you style. But did you know that the sun is one of your hair’s biggest threats? How does the sun damage hair, and is there anything you can do about it?
The good news is, there are steps you can take to keep from getting sun-damaged hair. Let’s take a look at how the sun’s rays can cause hair damage and how to best combat it!
How it Happens
You know that damaged hair strands are often dry and brittle. You may experience hair breakage, and frizzy hair can be a damage-related problem. But how does the sun damage hair? It all has to do with radiation, as you’ll read soon.
Just like your skin, sun-damaged hair will not only feel dry, it will also look dry. You may find that you can’t style it. If you have color-treated hair, or fine strands, you will be at a higher risk for sun-damaged hair.1
UV Rays 101
You’ve no doubt heard of ultraviolet, or UV rays. You know they can damage your skin. UV rays are often responsible for premature skin aging, for example. Well, these same rays can also do damage to your hair. Here’s a quick look at the different kinds of UV rays.
- UVA rays – These rays can damage the DNA of skin cells. In fact, tanning beds commonly give off UVA rays, which can increase the chances of health problems.
- UVB rays – UVA rays are the main cause of sunburns.
- UVC rays – UVC rays are the most potent in terms of energy. However, they can’t penetrate our planet’s atmosphere. So they can’t harm your hair.2
How UV Rays Affect Your Hair
As it turns out, both UVA rays and UVB rays cause sun-damaged hair. UVA rays lead to changes in hair color and weaken your hair shaft. UVB rays break down proteins in the hair shaft. This makes your hair brittle and dull. It also leads to breakage.3
You might think you’re getting a gorgeous, sun-kissed look when your hair lightens in the sun. But that yellow (or “golden”) shade may be the result of sun damage. UV rays oxidize amino acids in your hair. This often leads to yellowing of the hair, also known as “photo-yellowing.”
Also, the outer layers of the hair can rupture and detach when exposed to UV radiation. This can weaken your strands, leading to split ends.4
How to Protect Yourself from Sun-Damaged Hair
One of the best ways to avoid damaged hair from sun exposure is to protect the cuticle. This is the outermost layer of the hair shaft. Look for shampoo containing UV filters. These can help protect the hair from both UVA rays and UVB rays.5
Shampoo and conditioner containing argan oil may also protect your from sun-damaged hair. Argan oil has been used for years as a skin moisturizer. But it also helps lock in moisture in the hair shaft. This can help keep it from becoming brittle due to skin exposure.6
Olive oil and coconut oil could also help keep you from suffering sun-damaged hair.7
Both olive oil and coconut oil are capable of blocking up to 20 percent of UV rays.
You’ll find several types of hair care products that contain both of these nourishing oils. Keep in mind, though that anything that doesn’t have a UV rating is not suitable for protecting your skin from UV rays.
Other Tips to Avoid Damaged Hair Due to Sun Exposure
There are other things you can do to help protect yourself from sun-damaged hair.
- When you go outside on a sunny day, cover up. Stay under an umbrella and wear a hat to help protect your hair.
- If you’re going to be in the water, make sure you rinse that pool or sea water thoroughly from your hair when you get out. Both can make your hair more vulnerable to sun damage.
- Also, make sure you use a conditioner that is right for the kind of hair you have. For example, a volumizing conditioner will work best for people with fine hair.8 A deep conditioner – one you keep in for 20-30 minutes, is good for people with dry hair.
- There are also shampoos for color-treated hair.9 These could help prevent breakage and fading due to sun exposure.
Your stylist may have other hair care options to help keep you protected from the sun.
Don’t Let the Sun Scorch Your Locks
When you’re out in the sun, slathering on sunscreen from head to toe, don’t forget your hair care. Protect it from sun exposure by using products with UV filters. And that cute floppy hat? Put it on, and help protect your natural hair from the sun’s damaging rays.
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