Faith Allen Hair Design

How to protect your hair from sun damage: Summer haircare tips

by Karen Shelton

Everyone knows that the sun can potentially cause cellular damage that can speed up aging and possibly trigger cancer in your skin but it is essential that you protect your hair as well.  Sun damage to the hair can manifest as faded hair color, brittle and dry hair shafts and split ends.


The sun’s light waves are categorized by their intensity. There are three categories of light waves. These are UVA, UVB and UVC. The UVA and UVB can both damage the hair in a variety of ways. It can cause permanent damage to the outside covering of the hair which is the cuticle and it can penetrate into the center of the hair, which is the cortex and cause damage there.

UVA – Ultraviolet A

This is the sun’s strong radiation-filled light rays. Ultraviolet A rays have the longest wavelength and they can penetrate into the hair’s deepest inner layer, the cortex. The UVA rays disturb the hair cortex’s fiber-like cells that gives the hair its strength and elasticity. It can also damage the color pigments that create natural hair color. The UVA rays can also burn the hair cuticle which is the outer hair layer.

The cuticle contains a web of tiny overlapping scales. When the scales are damaged they can not lay flat and will look lifeless, brittle and dry.

UVA rays can also burn and damage unprotected scalp. It is even possible to burn the part of your hair where scalp is unprotected. UVA rays can damage the skin on the scalp in many ways and activate free radicals which accelerates aging. A severe sunburn on the scalp has even been known to cause some cases of hair loss.

UVB – Ultraviolet B
These are invisible rays that also can penetrate deep into the hair’s cortex or center damaging the hair fibers. It can also damage the hair cuticle. UVB rays can easily dry out the hair and cause natural and chemical colors to fade.

UVC – Ultraviolet C
These rays are the most damaging but do not reach us because of the ozone layer which currently protects us.


There are two type of sun protection filters that will protect the hair from UVA and UVB damage:  physical or chemical filters.

Calculate SPF

The sun protection factor (SPF) of a product refers to the length of time you can remain in the sun safely. To calculate this protection time, multiple the SPF by the number of minutes you can stay in the sun unprotected without burning.

For example, if you normally takes 10 minutes of sun exposure before starting to burn, using a sunscreen with SPF 8 will theoretically extend this to 80 minutes.

Physical filters

They sit on the hair’s surface and reflect, rather than absorb, ultraviolet rays. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are some examples of physical filters used in most sunscreens. They repel radiation at all wavelengths (including infra-red waves), which is essential as burning and damage involves the interaction of all wavelengths at varying degrees.

Chemical filters

They absorb ultraviolet light like a sponge and prevents the sun’s rays from penetrating and attacking the hair. The fact that they can be mixed into any base, dissolved into gels, lotions, moisturizing cream bases and waterproof formulations making them cosmetically acceptable for use on the hair.

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