Just like you need to protect your skin from UV rays, the most important summer hair tip is to protect your hair and scalp from the sun.
Ultraviolet A, or UVA rays, have the longest wavelength and can burn the overlapping parts of hair’s outer cuticle, causing locks to look lifeless, brittle, and dry. They can then penetrate the cortex, disturbing the cells that give hair strength and elasticity and damaging pigments that give hair its natural color.
Ultraviolet B, or UVB rays, can also penetrate the cuticle and cortex, damaging hair fibers, causing dryness, and fading color, both natural and processed.
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Your scalp is vulnerable to UVA and UVB rays, too, and those with fair skin and fair hair are especially vulnerable. An unprotected scalp is easily sunburned, and in cases of severe sunburn, temporary or permanent hair loss is possible. In addition, skin cancer of the scalp is one of the least-diagnosed and deadliest forms of melanoma.
So what to do? To protect your hair and scalp from UVA and UVB damage, you can use either a physical or chemical filter.
These protect the hair by coating the hair’s surface and reflecting UV rays. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two of the most popular physical filters used in sunscreen products, and they work by repelling radiation at all wavelengths, including infrared waves, preventing burning and hair damage.
These absorb UV light and prevent them from penetrating and damaging the hair. A chemical sunscreen, Octyl Methyoxycinnamate is easily mixed into gels, lotions, creams, and waterproof products, making it a popular ingredient in hair products.
Banana Boat Sunblock Spray, Quick Dry Sport SPF 30, Shiseido Refreshing Sun Protection Spray for Body & Hair (SPF 16) and Clarins Sunscreen Care Oil Spray for Skin & Hair (SPF 30) all work double duty, protecting both skin and hair.
While physical and chemical filters can help protect the hair and scalp, no product can fully counteract the effects of UV rays on your hair and scalp, so whenever possible, cover up! Instead of a baseball cap, try on a classic scarf, wide-brimmed hat, or a trendy turban. A stylish straw fedora can add a casual-chic accent to an outfit, but because the sun can shine through, make sure to wear sun protection underneath.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.