Have you ever felt like your hair color was fading? Or have you noticed your strands becoming increasingly dry and brittle the more time you spend outside in the sun? You’re not imagining things. While we usually associate the sun’s damage with our skin, there’s actually another part of our body that gets targeted: the hair. Fact is, it can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays just like your skin. Now that summer’s upon us, the risks of sun damage are even greater so it’s absolutely necessary to protect it as well. Luckily, we’re giving you everything you need to know about sun damaged hair and what you can do to prevent it.

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The sun can affect your hair in different ways. One of the more obvious ways is that it can actually change its color. It does this by degrading the pigment in your hair, known as melanin, causing the color to fade.¹ Besides discoloration, the sun also damages and degrades important proteins in your hair, causing dryness, reduced strength, roughness, decreased luster, stiffness and brittleness.¹ UV rays can also attack the cuticle, the outside cover of the strand, which ruptures the outer layers and causes split ends. Because hair cells are technically dead, these sun damaged strands will stay in this state until new hairs with more pigment can grow and replace them. Another important note is that fine or light-colored hairs are more vulnerable to sun damage. Darker hairs are thicker and contain more pigment, which offers some more natural protection against the sun’s rays.
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So what can you do to prevent sun damaged hair? First off, make sure to wear a hat when you’re going out in the sun. For maximum protection, find one that has a broad brim so that it can also help protect your face, neck, and ears. Next, you can also consider adding to your sunscreen collection. Nowadays, there are sunscreen products on the market formulated just for your hair. These can range in style from sprays to leave-in conditioners. To stay safe in the sun, you can also use the free app, Sun Index. Available for iOS or Android, it can tell you how long you can stay outside before getting a sunburn. It’s also equipped with lots of other sun safety features, like sending you reminders when it’s time to reapply sunscreen.

  1. Santos Nogueira, A.C., et al (2004). Hair color changes and protein damage caused by ultraviolet radiation. J. Photochem Photobiol B. 74(2-3): 109-117. Retrieved June 8th, 2018