How to Prevent (and Heal) Sun-Damaged Hair

Updated 05/30/18
how to prevent sun-damaged hair
The Fashion Philosophy

As we move into the warmer months, it’s important to keep some summer-specific health habits on our radar. While we’re all familiar with how essential it is to protect our skin from sun damage, it's easy to overlook the importance of protecting against sun-damaged hair. “The sun’s rays act very much like bleach on hair,” points out dermatologist Wilma Bergfeld. “The good news is that you can take precautions to protect your hair from the summer sun.” Whether you’re planning ahead for a season at the beach or looking to reverse damage that’s already been done, read on to learn how to prevent—and heal—sun-damaged hair with just a few simple tips.

How to Prevent Sun-Damaged Hair

Avoid Chemicals

As Bergfeld notes, “Chlorinated water in swimming pools or lightening your hair can make it more vulnerable to the summer stresses of heat and sun.” Try to keep lightening treatments to a minimum, and rinse hair immediately after swimming in a chlorinated pool.

Hair in the Sun
Sachajuan Hair in the Sun $32
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Sachajuan's brilliant Hair in the Sun cream acts as sunscreen for your hair—it also makes for a great styling cream.

Lock + Block Protective Spray
Rita Hazan Lock + Block Protective Spray $26
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If you prefer spray to cream, Rita Hazan's Protective Spray blocks UV rays and humidity.

Accessorize Smart

If you’ve been thinking of refreshing your wardrobe with the latest hat trends, now’s the time. Wearing a hat (especially one with a broader brim) can be invaluable for defending against sun-damaged hair and is also one of the best ways to defend your scalp.

David Mallett, founder of his eponymous haircare brand, notes, “The best preventative care you can take here is wearing a hat or headscarf and sitting under an umbrella when you’re not swimming.” He advises being smart with your hairstyles, saying, “While it isn’t direct sun damage, summertime usually means outdoor workouts and beach visits where wet hair gets tied up and potentially tangled. Try to not use tight elastics, which can damage hair follicles, and avoid tight topknots, which put pressure on the hairline.

Use a softer style like a low ponytail or braid, or twist the hair and secure with a pin. Try to also avoid fine-tooth combs on wet hair. Attempt to comb hair with your fingers first and employ the use of a hair serum to help detangle knots.”

Hair Serum
David Mallett Hair Serum $80
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Use a hair serum to gently detangle hair after showering.

Use the Right Conditioner for Your Hair

Just as all skin tones are vulnerable to sun damage, so are all types of hair. “Finer, lighter hair lacks the thickness or pigment that can protect it from the sun’s rays,” says Bergfeld. “Use a hair conditioner appropriate to your hair color and type, as well as the climate.”

Repair Shampoo
Ouai Haircare Repair Shampoo $28
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Ouai Repair Shampoo and Conditioner ($26) are formulated especially for hair prone to breakage.

How to Fix Sun-Damaged Hair

Try a DIY Hot Oil Treatment

One of the best ways to restore your hair’s natural moisture is with a hot oil treatment. While most salons offer the service, you can also create a hot oil treatment at home for a fraction of the cost. Begin by mixing three capsules of vitamin E with a half-cup of olive oil, and then warm this mixture in the microwave for five to 10 seconds. You want the mixture to be warm but not hot. Massage your hair and scalp, and then allow the oil to soak for 15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

L'Oréal Paris Extraordinary Oil Transforming Oil-in-Cream $6
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If you prefer a store-bought treatment, add on a nourishing treatment post-wash that can be left in to repair damage.

Moisturizing Hair Oil
Christophe Robin Moisturizing Hair Oil $47
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This hair oil is used as a pre-washing treatment. Leave on overnight or for an hour before shampooing to hydrate.

Use a Restorative Hair Mask

As Bergfield points out, sun “damages the hair’s cuticle and protein, which is called keratin.” To reverse the damage, one of your best bets is a protein-rich hair mask.

Mask No.1: L'hydration
David Mallett Mask No.1 L'Hydration $75
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Revitalize dry strands with this nourishing mask that contains vegetable protein to strengthen hair.

Su Aftersun Replenishing Mask
Davines Su Aftersun Replenishing Mask $25
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Use this hair mask after sun exposure to repair damaged hair.

Get a Trim

While cutting your locks might not be plan A, trimming the ends of sun-damaged hair is one of the best ways to keep strands healthy and stimulate growth. Aim to get a cut every three months or more if your hair is in recovery mode. By acting as soon as you see split ends or experience dryness, you’ll prevent further damage down the line.

Organic Scalp & Hair Mist
Coola Organic Scalp & Hair Mist $26
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Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp, and this hair mist provides SPF 30 protection to both.

Sans [Ceuticals] Moisture + Protein Infusion $35
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Keratin and vitamin B5 make this spray an easy way to strengthen and nourish hair daily.

Up next in hair health: What are sulfates, and are they ever okay to use?

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