Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
We know you're basically a sun-protection pro by now. But, as proud of you as we are, there is one vital area you're likely not giving enough attention: your scalp. "The danger of a scalp burn is the same as a sunburn to the rest of our bodies — namely, premature aging and skin cancers," says Dr. Robert Dorin, D.O. diplomat of the American Board of Hair Restoration. The worst part? Even those of us who are diligent about spraying that SPF on our heads can run the risk of a seared scalp; turns out, some of our fave hair products and styles might actually be making our noggins more susceptible to sun damage and burns.
According to Dr. Dorin, the number-one product culprit behind scalp burn is anything that makes your locks mesh together — meaning pomades, wet gels, and pastes. "These products make the hair clump and wind up exposing more surface area of your scalp," Dorin says. That's also true for how you style your 'do, too. That ruler-straight middle part or those cool, separated braids may look awesome, but they're really just creating a big ol' bull's-eye on your scalp for the sun's rays.
It's not all bad news, though. Protecting yourself is actually super simple. "The use of a barrier protection, such as hats, scarves, umbrellas, or sunblock, is the easiest way to protect yourself from scalp burns," Dorin says. The big issue with SPF? It can get messy between your strands. To combat this, Dorin suggests reaching for a powder SPF, like Peter Thomas Roth's Instant Mineral Powder SPF 40.
If you do wind up getting a burn on your head, Dorin says to reach for a sulfate-free shampoo, and whatever you do, no scrubbing. "If you scrub your scalp where the burn occurred, it will hinder recovery," he says. "Use lukewarm to cool water to rinse, and then apply a natural, not silicone-based, conditioner. This will help re-balance scalp moisture." A spray version of aloe vera can also help soothe your skull.
The moral of the story: Don your favorite fedora, skip the clumpy hair products, and always carry some SPF before you head outdoors. You'll be scalp-burn-free all season.
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