Come rain or shine
Harmful UV rays can not only damage your skin, but your hair, too…
W e all know about the effects of the sun’s UV rays on our skin: a love of sunbathing can quickly turn into something more sinister if you don’t take precautions. Cancer Research UK (cancerresearchuk.org) reported 15,419 cases of melanoma skin cancer in the UK in 2014. When compared with stomach cancer (6,682 reported cases) and cervical cancer (3,224 reported cases), it seems that more of us need to take care in the sun.
Cancer Research UK reported 15,419 cases of melanoma skin cancer in the UK in 2014
When it comes to your hair, it’s also important to take precautions. Not only is your scalp prone to sun damage and skin cancer, but your hair itself can also suffer if not looked after. Moreover, it’s necessary to wear sunscreen at all times whether or not you’re directly exposed to the sun.
Although the strands of your hair provide some sun protection for your scalp, prolonged exposure to UV rays can result in sunburn, especially where your hair is parted. Treat your scalp like you would your skin, and use a product containing SPF to avoid sunburn – after all, a painful, red or flaky scalp creates an unhealthy environment for hair growth, and it doesn’t look too pretty either. If you travel light, and prefer taking just one product to the beach, try mixing in your usual cream sunscreen with equal parts water. Pour the formula into a spray bottle, pop it in your beach bag and use it to protect both your skin and your hair. You can even do this as part of your daily haircare routine, as Philip Kingsley explains in The Hair Bible, ‘If you want to maintain your hairstyle, mix some high SPF oil-free suntan lotion with your regular hairspray, half and half. Shampoo and condition normally and, whilst the hair is still wet, spray on the mixture, comb through for even distribution and style as usual. When dry, spray on some more’. For a high SPF, try Mustela Very High Protection Sun Lotion in SPF50+, or Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Sunscreen Lotion SPF50. For a non-greasy effect, try using powder sunscreen. It feels lighter than cream sunscreen, and it won’t make your hair or skin sticky, which is ideal for those of you who already struggle with an oily scalp. LUSH offers a powder with an SPF of 15, which is rich in naturally protective zinc oxide. If you happen to burn your scalp, Michael Price (author of Unruly Curls) advises, ‘Avocado can be a great, natural solution […] Follow this with a gently exfoliating hair mask, which will remove dead skin while also sealing in moisture’. Hairdresser and trichology expert Robert Eaton suggests giving your scalp ‘a gentle cleanse to remove any product, salt or chlorine build-up and then pop on a nourishing mask and massage it in. An aloe vera gel can also help soothe the burnt area. Avoid using products on your scalp especially any containing alcohol which can aggravate and dry out the scalp more’.
Now that your scalp is prepared for a day in the sun, it’s time to protect your hair. Although hair follicles are essentially dead once they’ve passed through the scalp, they can still become damaged through sun exposure. Robert explains, ‘It may sound the most obvious advice, but I always advise clients to cover their hair in the sunshine, either with a hat or a scarf. If you are exposing your hair, then make sure you use products with a UV filter, many shampoos and conditioners provide UV and anti-humidity protection. It doesn’t stop there either as many styling products also contain UV filters for extra protection along with leave-in conditioning sun protection sprays that hydrate the hair while protecting it from UV rays. While UV rays are damaging for the hair, so too is the heat which can dry out the hair and scalp. Make sure you keep your hair nourished with moisturising masks and leave in conditioners. Avoid extra heat sources such as styling tools which can contribute to the worsening of sun damage on hair.’ Although it’s advisable to use sunscreen on your scalp, it might seem a bit extreme using it all over your hair. Luckily, lighter and finer purpose-made formulas are available at all price points to keep your hair hydrated and strong throughout the day. Bumble & bumble’s Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer contains six featherlight oils to help soften, detangle, and protect the hair against sun damage; use it on damp hair before combing and styling to achieve optimum style. label.m’s Protein Spray comprises protein-rich jasmine, sweet pea, vanilla, soy and wheat to strengthen hair – it even features the brand’s exclusive Enviroshield Complex. Lastly, Soltan’s Invisible Cooling Head & Hair Suncare Spray offers an SPF of 30 for your hair and scalp to prevent damage and colour fading, whilst also conditioning your locks. Many of us look forward to achieving those natural highlights during summer, but is it really advisable to soak our hair in sunlight in order to attain a lighter shade? Robert clarifies: ‘There are so many hacks and tricks out there that are meant to help you lighten your hair in the sunshine, but I would always advise sticking to getting your hair colour lightened safely in a salon. DIY tricks may seem easy and safe but they can be damaging to your hair. Using lemon juice is a popular trick, but be warned that due to its acidity lemon juice can burn and damage your hair. Also remember that exposing your hair to UV rays can cause hair to become dry and brittle as the moisture is removed from the hair shaft. Dry hair is very porous and will try to take in moisture from the surrounding environment which can lead to frizz’.