Q & A- Sunscreens and the Hair

Question:  I’m now a believer and use  a sunblock everyday on my  face, neck and  hands.  I’ve been seeing ads for  shampoos and conditioners  with  sunscreens.  Should I   use them  to protect  my hair from UV damage?

Answer:  Hair is made of keratin, which is also found in  skin.  But the keratin in hair is dead– which is why you can cut it without pain.  And because the  hair shafts  are dead, UV rays  cannot cause cancerous changes. However UV rays can  still damage the hair.  Shampoos and conditioners with sunscreens   are  just rinsed out and cannot   offer  protection.   Spray on sunscreens  would  have to leave a thick  greasy film in order to genuinely block UV rays.  FYI You will notice that hair care products with sunscreens don’t  provide an SPF.  This is because   their protection cannot be measured the way it  can be with the skin. 

However, sunlight can definately affect the  hair.  It can  create flattering highlights in natural hair , but can  turn  hair coloring products brassy.  Color  treated or  relaxed  hair ( eg  Brazilian or Japanese hair straightening)  can become dried out and fragile from a day at the beach.  You need to protect the hair from  heat, sunlight, chlorine from a pool or even salt from the ocean. 

Sun protection  for the hair starts  low tech  with a  hat.  A  big, tightly woven straw hat will offer   protection to  your hair, face, neck and shoulders.   I love  my Tilley hats that  provide a 55 SPF and  some  models are also repel bugs.  After a  long wet spring  which is a bug paradise, this feature is especially welcome in my area this year. After a day in the sun,   wash your hair with a shampoo formulated for color treated hair and apply a leave on a conditioner for 2-3 minutes. If you use  a double  process to  lighten  your hair, think about and nice big umbrella  for   a hair friendly day at the beach.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *