If you don’t want your skin to experience sun damage then apply sunscreen. But what about your hair and scalp? Do you really need a hair sunscreen to protect hair from sun damage?

Applying sunscreen to your face and skin may be a regular part of your skincare routine. But have you heard about hair sunscreen? Your scalp and hair can also get affected by the ultraviolet rays of the sun. If you have less voluminous hair, your scalp will be more vulnerable to sun damage. Wearing hats or covering your head with a scarf can protect your hair and scalp to some extent. And hair sunscreen is also now a thing!

What is hair sunscreen?

Hair sunscreen is a product designed to protect the scalp, which is the skin on our heads. It is a blend of antioxidants, moisturisers, and SPF or Sun Protection Factor, says dermatologist Dr Geetika Srivastava. Earlier, it was mostly prescribed for those with coloured hair to prevent fading and damage, but it now it is recommended for everyone.

Hair sunscreen: Types and side effects
Hair sunscreen has antioxidants. Image courtesy: Freepik

Hair sunscreens, which should have at least SPF 15, contain several key ingredients that work together to protect the hair and scalp:

  • Antioxidants combat free radicals produced by UV exposure, reducing damage.
  • Ingredients like argan oil keep hair hydrated and manageable.
  • Components like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone provide the necessary sun protection by reflecting or absorbing UV rays.

Unlike sunscreen for skin, hair sunscreens are formulated to be lighter and more spreadable to avoid making the hair greasy. They need to cover the scalp efficiently without clumping or weighing the hair down.

Why do you need a hair sunscreen?

UV rays can damage hair in various ways:

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  • Exposure to UV rays can make hair dry and frizzy
  • It can damage your hair cuticle, leading to brittle strands
  • UV exposure can cause hair colour to fade or become dull
  • For those with thinning hair, the exposed scalp is at risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

Depending on the volume of hair, the hair can provide some amount of protection from sun for the scalp, according to a 2015 study published in the Photochemistry and Photobiology journal. So, a head full of hair can offer some protection, but areas with thinning hair or bald spots are at risk. In such cases, hair sunscreen is essential to protect the scalp from sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer, says the expert.

How to choose the right hair sunscreen for your hair type?

Hair sunscreens are available in various forms:

  • Powders can be used as dry shampoo also, as they absorb excess oil.
  • Lotions and serums are best for applying on the hair shaft, especially for coloured hair.
  • Hair sprays are easy to apply with just a few pumps.

Here’s how to choose the right hair sunscreen for your hair type:

  • Oily scalp: Opt for powder-based sunscreens to control oil.
  • Dry scalp: Lotions or serums provide necessary moisture.
  • All hair types: Sprays are versatile and easy to use.

How to add hair sunscreen to your hair care routine?

Hair sunscreen, like the sunscreens we use for our skin, should always be the last step, as the UV blocking chemical agents present in the hair sunscreen acts as a physical shield between hair/scalp and the environment. So, use a shampoo for cleansing scalp followed by a conditioner for hair shaft ends, says the expert. Finally, use hair sunscreen in the form of sprays or powders or lotions when your hair dries up.

Hair sunscreen
Hair sunscreen can be easily included into your hair care routine. Image Courtesy: Adobe Stock.

Using a hair sunscreen does not have many side effects, but too much of it can lead to build-up.

Hair sunscreen is an essential addition to the hair care routine, especially for those with thinning hair or significant scalp exposure. Choosing the right type for hair sunscreen, and incorporate it into your routine to protect your scalp from the sun’s harmful effects. Also, use physical barriers such as a hat, scarf, or an umbrella to protect your hair and scalp from sun damage.

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