After this double-vortex doozy of a winter, who doesn’t want to break out the bathing suits and sandals? But, all this spring thinking — and browsing through sun-care products online — has us wondering: Do we need to protect our hair from the sun?
We talked to Dr. Amy Derick, an Illinois-based dermatologist, and Dr. Chris Adigun, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University, to find out. As it turns out, UV rays not only alter the appearance of our hair, but can damage our scalps as well.
“As for sun protection for the actual hair shaft, there is no medical reason for UV protection for hair itself (as it is not a living part of our body), but there are cosmetic benefits to the sun protection, especially for chemically processed hair,” Dr. Adigun says. “UV rays can disrupt chemical processing and pigment, in permed and colored hair.”
A 2008 study on UV damage to the hair found that excessive sun exposure degrades protein and pigment in the hair shaft and that protecting the outermost part of the hair shaft, like with a UV filter product, is important for maintaining its keratin fiber.
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“UV light causes photochemical impairment of the hair shaft, with UVB radiation responsible for hair protein loss and UVA radiation responsible for color changes,” Derick says. “One way to protect the hair from UV damage is by using hair-care products with UV filters. Another solution is to protect the hair from the light by wearing a hat while outside.”
While protecting the hair from sun can certainly help pursuits of Gisele Bündchen-in-a-Pantene-commercial glory, Adigun reminds us that it’s important to remember that our scalps need protecting as well.
“It is critical to protect your scalp from the sun. Skin cancers arising on the scalp are not uncommon, including basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and malignant melanoma,” she advises. “If a person has a receding hairline, bald areas, or just diffusely thin hair, then daily sunscreen and/or a hat is highly recommended.”
Both spray and mineral powder formulations can be applied to the roots of the hair and can penetrate the scalp skin for UV protection, Adigun notes. Mineral powder directly on the dome? Think of it as the new (and scalp-protecting) dry shampoo for festival season and summer days.
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