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A Guide to Protecting Your Hair From Sun Damage

A Guide to Protecting Your Hair From Sun Damage
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 6 min read

Most people understand how damaging the UV rays of the sun can be on your skin, but few know how badly they can detract from a healthy head of hair. Summertime has many flocking to the beaches and the pools, but the combination of sun, heat, chlorine, or saltwater will ravage your hair and leave it in need of some serious TLC.

The Impact of the Sun

The sun gives off both UVA and UVB rays, which are powerful enough to damage the DNA in cellular structures well beneath the outer layers of skin. When your hair experiences prolonged exposure to the sun's rays, the damage begins at the exterior cover of the hair strand, called the cuticle. Early signs of damage are dry and brittle strands, frizz, thinning, split ends, and discoloration. Your hair will become unmanageable, incapable of holding style or curl. If protective or repair steps aren’t taken, UV rays can penetrate the scalp and disrupt healthy cell function and hair follicle tasks of growing healthy new hair. Long-term effects of too much sun can lead to serious conditions of hair loss. You can use specially formulated medications to restore hair growth, but the best practices include proactive efforts to reduce sun damage to your hair. There are several things you can do.

Trim Your Hair

Did you know that hair grows almost 15% faster during the summertime? When you notice that your hair has a texture that reminds you of dry straw and the strands are dull and dry, you should schedule an appointment for a trim. If you wait too long, the split ends you have may move up the hair strands and create more serious damage. You don’t have to take a lot off, either. An inch or less can still be enough to get rid of dead hair and lighten the load on your scalp. Follow up with a product that addresses sun-damaged hair, giving the new ends a chance to be cleaned and moisturized.

Choose the Right Products

Hair that has seen too much of the sun is going to be dehydrated. Using products that replace moisture, both shampoo and conditioners, can bring back the hydration your hair needs to be strong and healthy. Try to avoid products that have added parabens and sulfates, looking instead for nourishing oils like jojoba, argan, or coconut. You are trying to protect and replace the natural oils in your hair, so coating them with nutrient-rich and hydrating ingredients is the key to slowing down or repairing the damage.

Try a Gloss or Mask

If your days are spent at the beach, the saltwater and sun exposure can make your hair look brassy. To avoid having to do a full-color routine, you can use a semi-permanent color or an in-salon hair gloss. This treatment will replenish the shine, seal the ends of your hair, and help your hair become smooth once again. If you want to stick to at-home treatment, you can make a hair mask out of natural ingredients. Avocados are full of nutrients and oils that will really plump up your withered stands. A treatment mask uses extracts and protective oils to tame down frizz, hydrate hair, and give your strands a healthy dose of instant nutrition. Healthy hair can stand up better to sun abuse, though you don’t want to get into the cycle of damage and repair throughout the summer.

Use a Head Covering

You might not win any awards for being a beach beauty, but wearing a swimming cap when at the pool or a nice straw hat while at the beach can save your hair. The idea of a hat at the beach sometimes conjures up images of older folks trying to protect their skin, but you know what they say about wisdom and old age. You are doing yourself a huge favor when you swallow your pride and grab the wide-brimmed hat for your day out. You protect your hair from serious damage, but you are also helping preserve your skin as well. Sitting under an oversized umbrella can also do the trick.

Avoid Heat Styling

A necessary evil for many people, heat styling can cause damage just as easily as the sun can. When you combine the two negative forces, your hair really suffers. Since it’s summertime, you could get away with the windblown and natural look, and by giving your hair a break from heat treatments, you reduce the risk of weakening your hair strands to the point where they are defenseless against the sun.


To save your tresses, you need to be proactive in limiting their exposure to the sun. Though this can’t always be helped, nourishing your hair, being gentle on the hair care routine, and shading your hair from the sun are great ways to avoid sun damage this summer.


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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.