Sunburnt hair is a thing – here’s how to prevent it

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Viola Levy
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UV protection isn’t just for skin. But you knew that already, right? (Of course you did.) Those blasted rays can wreak havoc on your hair too.

Whether it’s burnt partings or frazzled strands, many of us are so preoccupied with putting sunblock on our face and bodies (and so we should), it’s easy to forget that our hair and scalp also need protecting from those damaging UV rays, too.

Our hair can also get ‘sunburnt’ as System Professional Education Expert, Sophie Ruggerio explains. “UVA rays are aging, they penetrate deeper into the hair structure and destroy colour pigment causing colour fade and weakens the protection of the hair. UVB rays burn the surface of the hair, damaging the cuticle layers and breaking down the protein (keratin) and lipids in the hair, causing the hair to become weak and fragile.”

She continues, “Signs of sun damage to your hair include colour fading, hair that feels frizzy and brittle, together with  split ends and even thinning of the mid lengths and ends.”

So what can we do to prevent wear and tear? “Products that repair, nourish and protect hair from both UVAs and UVBs are a great place to start,” Ruggerio advises. “Treat your hair how you would your skin! It’s that simple.”

She also advocates styling products with added sun protection. “Hair oils are ok to use in the summer, as long as they offer the UV protection filters such as the System Professional Solar Sun Oil (£17), which contains broad-spectrum UV protection, whilst working to deeply nourish and condition.”

If you don’t want anything that’s too heavy (especially if you have fine hair), Malibu SPF30 Clear Hair and Scalp Protector (£3.99) is a lightweight formula that doesn’t turn hair into an oil slick. Just mist a little along your parting and through your tresses throughout the day.

Elsewhere, luxury brands are stepping up their game when it comes to sun protection for hair. There are brilliant can-do-all products such as Sachajuan’s protective Hair in the Sun cream (£20), with a lightweight formula featuring a co-polymer called UVQ (made with coconut oil and cinnamon) along with sea algae and proteins that absorb UV rays.

And if you’re dipping in and out of the sea, take extra precaution as you would with your skin, as the water acts like a magnifying glass where the sun is concerned. Philip Kingsley’s brilliantly-named Swimcap (£17) is an ingenious strand saviour, with elastin and castor oil that’s water resistant and protects against salt water and chlorine as well as UVs.

If you don’t want to spend a fortune on hair sun care, then fret not: there are some suitable DIY alternatives to try. Kerluxe Hair Restoration Consultant Dr Sajjad Khan suggests this method. “During hot summer months, mix SPF 30+, oil-free sunscreen into your leave-in conditioner. Apply it before styling your hair: it provides complete protection against moisture loss and sun damage. Ultimately the best and most efficient way to protect your hair from the sun is to cover it when you are outside for a long time.”

Dr. Khan has some further advice for preserving hair in the long-term. “Don’t forget to deep condition your hair during the summer months to prevent sun damage. A deep conditioner will help restore your hair’s durability and colour. For those who have fine hair prone to breakage, use a protein-based product as the Kerluxe Aquavol Conditioner (£40), an intensely hydrating conditioner that locks in moisture, helping protect against damage.” 

Finally, make sure you treat your skin and strands to a soothing hit of aftersun as the evening draws in. Read about which ones are worth stocking up on.

Image: Gian Cescon / Unsplash