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Yes, Your Hair Needs Sun Protection Too

Read on for 13 products to protect hair and scalp from the sun's harsh rays
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When our skin gets sunburned, it's painfully obvious. We're left with hot, it-hurts-to-move skin that is fire engine red and can sometimes be blistered. When our hair gets damaged by the sun, it's not so easy to recognize. We likely notice the straw-like ends and faded color, but we often blame things like our addiction to heat styling tools, our love of mermaid hair color or only getting trims when we absolutely have to.

Why Hair Needs Sun Protection

When the experts say that we need to use sun protection from head to toe, they don't just mean starting at your forehead. Your scalp and hair also need protection.

Hair may not burn like skin, but hair (and the scalp) should always be protected because the sun dries it out and lightens it, says hairstylist Carolyn Aronson, CEO of It's a 10 Haircare. When the hair shaft gets dry, it opens up the cuticle, which can cause split ends and breakage. Context Founder David Arbuthnot warns, "Exposing your hair to harmful UV rays could actually cause significant damage that can reduce hair health."

Those with color-treated hair should be especially careful because the sun's rays can mess with color, causing it to fade or become brassy, says Aaron Grenia, co-founder of IGK Hair Care. Furthermore, bleached or dyed hair tends to be more porous, which makes it more susceptible to damage and dryness.

In terms of hair types, Arbuthnot says that thin or very fine hair can be more prone to damage. Additionally, Aronson points out that hair that has any sort of chemical treatment (highlights, Brazilian blow-dry, relaxing, etc.) can be more at risk.

Cover image via Imaxtree

Image via Imaxtree

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How to Protect Hair
Hats are a good start, but they won't protect from UV light reflecting off surfaces onto skin and hair, says Grenia. And as the weather becomes harsher and hotter, things such as chlorine and salt can exacerbate problems, says Arbuthnot.

To protect hair from the sun, the spray sunscreen you use on your body is an option, but some might find it too greasy. Your best bet is to look for hair and scalp sunscreens that contain UV filters to keep locks protected. The experts we spoke to suggest leave-in treatments because they're designed to be applied all over the hair. Shampoos with UV filters are another easy way to up your sun protection.

You'll want to use hair sunscreens every day to keep strands looking their best. That includes when you're indoors and in cooler weather. "Just like with skin, even if you're not in direct sunlight, you still want to have protection because even a little exposure can add up over time," Grenia says.

As for protecting the scalp, actual sunscreen might be the best option on days you'll be getting a lot of sun exposure (hello beach trips), says Nelson Chan, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Nelson j Natural Salon in Beverly Hills. "UV protection for hair normally is not as effective as UV protection for the skin," he says. Chan suggests using sunscreen on the scalp and part lines if you're going to be basking in the hot summer sun.

Image via Imaxtree

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Repairing Damaged Hair
If you accidentally forget to apply hair sunscreen, you can try repairing hair, provided the damage isn't so intense that hair has started breaking. To get strands back to their former shiny glory, use moisturizing masks and hair glosses. Just note there are exceptions. Those who have multicolored hair, such as highlights, will need to get the color redone, Chan says.

Now that we know just how important it is to safeguard strands from the sun is, keep reading for the best scalp and hair sunscreen products with UV protection.

Image via Imaxtree

In case you didn't know, all IGK products have ingredients that offer UV protection. This water-resistant option is perfect for all-over use. It basically acts like a swim cap for hair because it protects against salt, wind, sweat and chlorine in addition to the sun. Plus, it keeps color looking freshly done. The formula was actually inspired by waterproof mascara and relies on natural waxes to create a water-resistant barrier over the hair.

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We're familiar with makeup primers, but hair primers? Not so much. This multitasking pre-styler tames frizz, softens and safeguards from UV rays and heat styling. The secret is six lightweight oils, including coconut oil and sweet almond oil, which help tame hair as opposed to weighing strands down.

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