As you’re probably already aware, sunscreen is a must when it comes to your skin routine. Seriously, if you had to choose just one product to slather on every morning, any dermatologist would tell you to opt for something with SPF 30 or higher. That’s because the sun’s rays are no joke. In addition to causing skin cancer, UV damage results in thinner skin, a faster breakdown of collagen and elasticity, the formation of brown spots, and wrinkles galore.
But the question we’re answering today is whether UV rays can also damage your strands, considering the slew of new UV-protecting products hitting the haircare market. To help cut through the clutter, we reached out to both skin and hair experts. Here’s what they say about how the sun might damage your mane, and whether UV-protecting hair products are worth the money.
Yes, you need to protect your scalp from UV rays
Before we talk about using UV-protecting products on your hair, let’s first address how important it is to shield your scalp from the sun. Like any other skin on your body, it’s susceptible to sunburns, damage, and skin cancer, and therefore it requires adequate protection via hats, umbrellas, and SPF. “I have had many patients over the years with skin cancer on the scalp," says Sandy Skotnicki, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Toronto, Canada. "While hairs protect the scalp to a certain extent, your scalp is still exposed to the sun and therefore needs coverage.”
When it comes to sunscreen, a spray or powder, like Supergoop! Poof 100% Mineral Part and Scalp Powder SPF 45 ($34; sephora.com), is easier to apply than a lotion. Still, Dr. Skotnicki admits that applying sunscreen directly to the scalp is a challenge, which is why hats are generally recommended. It’s also important to note that the UV filters in haircare products will not protect your scalp, she says.
UV-protecting products for your hair are optional but helpful
Dr. Skotnicki says that, technically speaking, you don’t need to protect your actual hair from UV damage because it’s not made up of living cells like your skin. That said, your hair is still susceptible to damage if it’s exposed to the sun. “If you are spending a lot of time outdoors, your hair can become brittle and dry, leading to split ends, breakage, dullness, and color fade,” explains Lucy Garcia Planck, a professional hairstylist at NYC’s John Barrett Salon.
“When I go to the beach, I wash my hair before, apply a leave-in conditioner, and pull my hair back into a bun,” Planck says. This technique nourishes strands, keeping them soft and strong, while also covering them from sunlight. Some good options that can be applied to dry hair (aka nobody will know you’re wearing them) are IGK Antisocial Overnight Bond-Building Dry Hair Mask ($34; sephora.com) and Kerastase 8H Magic Night Hair Serum ($55; kerastase.com).
But if you’re serious about keeping your shine and preserving your hair color (hey, it isn’t cheap), then you may want to reach for products designed specifically to filter out UV rays. Typically made with plant-derived oils and extracts, they work by coating the strands with a weightless shield. Below, we’ve rounded up the best UV-protecting hair products worth adding to your routine.
In addition to nourishing strands and locking in your style, this styling cream creates a thin film over strands that protects from UV damage.
Similarly, this leave-in cream is applied post-shower as a styling product and offers both heat and UV protection; it's especially intended for those with color-treated hair.
If you’re looking for more of a spray-and-go product, this is a superb option. You can apply it to both damp and dry hair, and it protects strands from UV damage for up to 16 hours.
The fact that you can use this invisible spray for both your hair and your body makes it a multitasking dream.
This weightless mist is approved for the scalp and hair. But the best part? It's super soothing once applied.
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