Think spending hours in the sun has no effect on your hair? Think again. As much as you may adore your lighter, sun-kissed hair strands after a long beach vacation, lengthy exposure to UV rays may be doing more harm than good to your hair. Environmental factors—think: heat, pollution, humidity, and ultraviolet radiation—may cause damage to your hair. Ahead, we share obvious signs of sun damaged hair—plus, hair care tips and tricks to help prevent sun damaged hair and keep your hair in tip-top shape year-round.
HOW THE SUN CAN AFFECT YOUR HAIR
If your hair has prolonged exposure to the sun, the outside cover of the hair strand—called the cuticle—can become damaged from UVA/UVB rays. According to the Cleveland Clinic, fine, lighter hair is more at risk for damage since it lacks the thickness or pigment that can protect it from the sun’s rays. How do you know if your hair is sun damaged? Here are some signs to look out for.
1. Dry, Brittle Hair Strands
According to the Cleveland Clinic, damaged hair has a dry look and feel. It’s also harder to manage and style, and usually dries quickly.
2. Hair Discoloration
Have you ever spent hours in the sun only to notice lighter strands that look similar to highlights? This is common and happens to most—particularly if your hair is blonde or red—since melanin pigments that give hair its color are damaged upon exposure to the sun. Melanin absorbs the rays that lighten the hair fibers. When artificially-colored hair is exposed to the sun, the color evolves—fades and/or changes its shade—because the dyes in the hair fibers are altered under sunlight.
OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER
Certain places where you’re exposed to UV rays for a prolonged period—think: pools and beaches—can expose your hair to additional elements that can cause hair damage. Chlorinated swimming pools, for instance, can cause your hair to become dry and damaged. The damaged protein—or keratin—allows sun and heat to penetrate the hair more easily and result in a fragile hair strand. Not to mention, the smell of chlorine can linger on your hair long after you shower! Sadly, a dip in the ocean isn’t a much better bathing option. Sea water has a very high salt content, which can leave your hair matted and knotted. Grains of sand can also get tangled in your hair, making combing your hair an absolute nightmare!
Do you have color-treated hair? If so, it’s probably no surprise to you that your color-treated hair oftentimes needs special care. In fact, if your hair is bleached or highlighted, the harmful effects of the sun can be amplified.
HOW TO HELP PROTECT YOUR HAIR FROM SUN DAMAGE
So, what can you do to protect your hair from the sun’s harmful UV rays? It’s virtually impossible to avoid sunlight altogether, but there are some helpful hair care tips to follow to help reduce the risk of hair damage. We share three, below!
1. Cover Up Hair
Ahead of a long beach day, wear a hat or seek shade under an umbrella. Covering up is your best bet at minimizing the negative effects of over-exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays. Also, avoiding peak sun hours—10 a.m. to 4 p.m.—can make a difference, as can seeking shade when possible.
2. Rinse Your Hair Before & After Swimming
If you swim in a chlorinated pool or the salty ocean, be sure to first rinse you hair with fresh water so that it’s less likely to soak up all the salt or chlorinated water you’re about to dip into. What’s more, make sure to rinse out the salt and chlorine with fresh water as soon as possible after swimming!
3. Look for Hair Care Products That Can Help Nourish Hair
In addition to the conventional hair care products that can smooth, soften and bring out hair shine, look for products formulated to help nourish your locks. There are plenty of hair care products including hair masks, hair oils, hair mists, hair gels and mousses, depending on your preference and routine. These hair care products can help make hair noticeably soft, smooth and easy to untangle.