We all know the damage the sun can do to exposed skin, but experts say it can also affect our hair.
“If your hair is exposed to the sun for long periods of time, UVA and UVB rays can start to damage the outer layer of the hair called cuticle,” said hair stylist and colourist Frederic Bataclan of Loft Hair Lounge in Toronto. “The sun is very natural but it can make your hair very dry. Too much of one thing can be bad for you.”
The Cleveland Clinic adds the sun’s rays basically act like bleach. “Bleach reacts with the melanin in hair and removes the colour in an irreversible chemical reaction. Bleach also damages the hair’s cuticle and protein, which is called keratin,” dermatologist Dr. Wilma Bergfeld said.
READ MORE: 9 ways to fix dry, damaged hair
Signs for hair types
The most common signs of sun damage include discolouration of your ends, as well as your overall hair colour getting lighter (even if you don’t have dye in it). People may also have dry, brittle, overly-tangled, broken or whispy ends. “And lots of frizz,” he explained. “Sun-damaged hair also won’t hold the style as long and dries a lot quicker than healthy hair.”
He adds people who have lightened hair (either through highlights, balayage or ombre), will experience the most sun damage.
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“They will find their toners don’t last as long due to the sun,” he continued. For people who have blond colour, the sun can turn it golden or brassy. For people with “fashion” colours like red, green, blue or multicolours, their hair will fade a lot faster in the summer.
“People who have brunette hair will find their hair looks quite dull.”
If you have fine hair, Bataclan said your hair will be flat and lifeless during the summer, and people with thin hair may experience irritated scalps or even a sunburn.
“If left untreated, the hair will slowly break off due to dryness,” he adds. “The hair will be very tangled and unmanageable.”
He adds people who don’t treat sun-damaged hair are often forced to cut it off until it grows back into a healthy state. “People with already thinning hair will accelerate the process of thinning.”
How to treat sun damaged hair
To start, Bataclan recommends a liquid keratin treatment. “It helps revitalize and protect your hair from the sun and lasts for up to four months.”
You can also use serums that have jojoba oil or hair products that already have SPF in them. “Lastly, try to put a mask once a week during the summer. It will help to add moisture back into the hair that you’ve lost from the long exposure from the sun.”
There are also products, like primers, that come with UV protectors — this can also help with taming frizz and detangling dry hair.
Bergfeld said you should also avoid hot irons, rollers or chlorinated water in swimming pools. “If you bleach or highlight your hair, you’ve damaged the hair already,” Bergfeld explained. “To add to that by swimming in a chlorinated pool, or sitting out in the sun, you’re going to have very significant hair breakage.”
Bataclan also recommends wearing a hat, and Bergfeld adds avoid peak sun hours just like you would do for your skin.