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We all know that using sun protection on our skin is essential — whether or not we heed this advice is another matter — but little thought is given to protecting our hair from the sun. Recently, there’s been a surge of hair protection products on the market, claiming to not only protect the hair and scalp from harmful UV rays but also protect or even enhance the condition of your hair. But is hair sunscreen really necessary, or is this just another gimmick? Let’s shed some light on the issue…

A few facts

Hair itself cannot get cancer, that is obvious, but when our scalps are left unprotected, we run the risk of developing skin cancer. It’s thought that in the U.S, approximately 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer each day, and over 1 million are living with melanoma in America.  Sunscreen use is particularly low in men with only 15% applying it, as well as with non-Hispanic African-Americans and people with low incomes. It’s thought that only 30% of women use sunscreen, and often, this protection is only applied to their face, and not on the rest of their exposed skin.

Just like the sun affects our skin, it also affects our hair. It’s vital to protect our hair and our scalp from unwanted sun damage and harmful UV rays. Many hair protectants contain UV absorbers, but may not be sunscreens, and it’s crucial to get a product with both elements. What’s the difference? The UV absorbers coat the hair and deflect the sun’s UV rays, which minimizes the damage the sun does to our hair condition. But if a product doesn’t have SPF in it, it means that your scalp is left unprotected, which is a no-no.


Just like the sun causes skin damage, which then causes premature aging, the same can be said about our hair and scalp. Our scalp may not develop wrinkles, but its ability to maintain healthy hair follicles is reduced. Our scalp’s capacity to regenerate cells declines with age and our scalp becomes thinner and doesn’t retain moisture as well. Like with skin, sun exposure accelerates this process and leaves the scalp more vulnerable to sun damage.

Just like unprotected skin, unprotected hair can burn. When our hair is exposed to the sun, it causes the hair cuticles to open, resulting in loss of moisture and even melanin. The result of this is frizzy, dry, and weakened hair. The news doesn’t get any better for colored hair either. Exposure to the sun can cause unwanted fading and discoloration to occur. For example, if you have dyed dark hair, it may get lighter. This is because synthetic color pigments lift easily and faster in the sun than natural color pigments do.

By taking the simple step of using a hair protectant, your colored hair won’t need to be re-dyed as soon, and you won’t need to frequent your hair salon as often. So spending a little on a hair protectant could actually save you money overall. Win-win!

However, this doesn’t mean that those with natural hair color are off the hook either, as your natural color may lighten from the sun too. Of course, you also have a scalp that can be damaged and burnt, and your hair can just as quickly be weakened and dried by the sun. Overall, when you protect your skin with sunscreen, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of doing the same for your hair. We all want voluminous, healthy hair, and one of the best tips for doing this is by protecting the hair from sun damage.

We may not have given our scalp much thought before, but it’s important that we do so. Our scalp is skin that can get damaged, and we should take care of it too.