Brunette woman at the beach wearing a straw sun hat

Summer’s almost here again, and we’re all looking forward to getting our tans on and chilling in the sun. However, as much as we love sunbathing, swimming and all the other activities that summer brings, your hair can suffer when it comes into prolonged exposure with the sun.

Here’s our handy guide on how to protect your hair before you spend time in the sun, and what to do if you find that your hair’s feeling straw-like after a summer holiday.

What does sun damaged hair look like?

There are several signs that you’ve got sun-damaged hair. Firstly, its colour may begin to lose its vibrancy and lustre; you may also notice that your colour becomes lighter and brassier, as excess sun exposure can bleach your hair.

You may also notice that your hair has become dry and brittle, it’s frizzy, it’s more tangled after washing, and you have more split ends than usual.

How does the sun damage hair?

Sunlight consists of ultraviolet light (UV light). These UV rays are technically invisible radiation, and they damage human cells - including the cells on your scalp and the ones which make up the structure of your hair, as they cause the cell structure to weaken or break down.

Woman in a white swimming costume swimming in the sea

How to protect your hair from sun damage

Prevention is better than cure - so if you’re about to head off on holiday and you want to minimise sun damage, here’s how to give your hair the VIP treatment while you’re having fun.

Cover your hair with a hat or scarf

Covering your head during the hottest part of the day is a good idea for two reasons - it can help protect you against dehydration and heatstroke, and it protects your hair from damaging rays. If you don’t want to wear a wide-brimmed hat, wrap a scarf around your hair or use an umbrella.

Woman wearing a straw sun hat looking out across the sea

Protect your hair when you’re swimming

Seawater and chlorinated water can dry out your hair, so wear a swimming cap if you’re planning on spending some time in the water. Alternatively, try to avoid putting your head under the water - but if you’re set on mimicking The Little Mermaid, make sure you rinse your hair afterwards and apply a leave-in conditioner.

Use a sunscreen on your scalp and hair

You can apply a small amount of sunscreen to your scalp - but bear in mind that it can make your hair look greasy, so start with a small amount and build up if you need more.

You can also invest in a hair sunscreen to protect your tresses - they protect your cuticle by creating a barrier between your hair and the sun’s rays. Hair sunscreens work differently to the normal sunscreens you use on your skin, and don’t prevent skin cell damage, so don’t be tempted to swap them out and use a hair product on your skin.

Wash your hair gently with soothing products

If you’ve had a hectic day on the beach, it can be tempting to scrub at your strands when you’re showering in the evening - but you could be doing more harm than good. Use a moisturising shampoo and gently rub it into your lengths, being careful to avoid tangling up your roots, and finish with a hydrating conditioner. If your hair feels a little dry after washing, use our hair protecting spray to strengthen and nourish your strands.

Woman washing her hair with a mild shampoo in the shower

How to heal sun-damaged hair

Avoid heat styling

We all know that heat styling can cause harm to your hair - and if your hair’s feeling a bit frazzled, you’ll be more susceptible to breakage and dryness caused by heat styling. After washing your hair with lukewarm water, let it dry in a microfibre hair wrap or old cotton t-shirt, and don’t rub it to speed up the drying process. Brush gently, and if you must use a hairdryer, use it on the lowest setting, stop when your hair’s 60% dry, and let it dry naturally.

Use a hydrating hair mask

Use an intensive hair mask to inject hydration back into your strands and restore its softness. Our Detox & Repair Masque is formulated with Cannabis Sativa seed oil and nourishing Avocado Oil to remove impurities and help revitalise tired, stressed hair. Leave it on for up to 5 minutes then rinse well with cool water.

Book in a haircut

If you’re at your wits’ end and can’t stop obsessing over your split ends, book in a trip to your stylist. You may lose some length, but you’ll also remove damaged hair and give your hair a chance to regrow - and the damage won’t spread further up the hair shaft.

Lock in hydration with a serum

You can use any of our hair serums on wet or dry hair, so lock in moisture and help defeat frizz by adding sparingly to wet hair. Spread through your lengths, avoiding your roots, and blow-dry on your hairdryer’s lowest setting.

Hydrate your hair while you sleep

Our no-mess Overnight Miracles range is designed to visibly repair your hair while you’re in bed, and they quickly absorb into your strands, leaving you with softer, smoother hair. Our Repair & Renew Hair Mist is suitable for fine, thin hair, and weightlessly nourishes while smoothing the appearance of split ends. If you have thick hair, our Repair & Renew Hair Lotion absorbs overnight and repairs surface damage in just one use - plus, it won’t leave a trace on your pillowcase.

Woman reaching out to hold someone's hand as she walks along the beach at sunset

Does the sun lighten hair?

Hair can often become lighter after continued exposure to the sun because sunlight bleaches out the melanin (this is the pigment that contributes to your natural hair colour) contained within your locks.

There are other ways to lighten your hair if that’s the look you want to go for - without overdoing your hair’s exposure to sun! Here are some alternative ways to lighten your hair.

Which hair types are most vulnerable to sun damage?

Fine or thin hair can be more susceptible to sun damage; especially if it’s a lighter shade of brunette or blonde. This is because fine, light hair doesn’t have the thickness or pigment to block the sun’s UV rays that darker, coarser hair may have. Darker, thicker hair types tend to be oilier, and their strand thickness protects the scalp and the hair’s cuticle.

Remember that it’s not just your hair type which makes your hair more prone to sun damage. Heat styling, chlorinated pool water and over-lightening your hair can also make your hair more vulnerable, as they damage keratin - the protein in your hair - and this damaged protein then allows sun and heat to penetrate your hair more easily.

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