Sun protection for hair: How to prevent damage

We all know the importance of protecting our skin with sun cream when we’re outside – but what many of us don’t realise is that sun protection for hair is also crucial.

Just like unprotected skin, hair can get sunburnt, leaving your locks looking brittle, lifeless and limp – so we asked Sophie Ruggiero, Education Expert at System Professional, for the info you need to keep your hair protected from root to tip.

How does the sun cause damage to hair?

‘With sun and hair we talk about the damaging UVA and UVB rays, rather that SPF, which relates to skin,’ says Sophie.

‘UVA rays are aging. They penetrate deeper into the hair structure and destroy colour pigment causing colour fade and weakens the protection of the hair.’

‘UVB rays burn the surface of the hair, damaging the cuticle layers and breaking down the protein (keratin) and lipids in the hair, causing it to become weak and fragile.’

What are the signs of sun damage to hair?

Unprotected hair can display damage in a number of ways, including:

  • colour fade
  • a dry and hard feeling to the hair
  • frizziness
  • brittle, broken or split ends
  • thinning of the mid lengths and ends
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Plus, if you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or beside the pool, there are even more factors to consider.

‘On top of the sun exposure, there is also the nasty results of salt water and chlorine,’ Sophie adds. ‘Chlorine strips the hair of its natural oils and shine, making colour fade and look dull, the hair feels dry, sensitised, and has a lack of flexibility so becoming frizzy. It also can build up in the hair, causing crystallisation which separates the hair fibre, disrupting the structure of hair and causing internal damage. This makes the hair become weak.’

‘Salt water, on the other hand, make the hair feel dry, rough and difficult to manage. It can also build up on the hair which breaks down the keratin and can intensify the damage from the sun.’

Sun protection for hair: The products to buy

Prevention is always better than cure, so Sophie recommends using a product that provides UVA, UVB and keratin protection, such as her personal hero product, System Professional Solar Oil. ‘The UV filters offer protection whilst the oils deeply nourish and condition. Plus, the scent is pure holiday in a bottle. You can use it before, during and after sun/water exposure.’

And if the damage is already done? Your hair will need a little extra love. ‘You should always use a shampoo that’s gently purifying designed to remove build-up of chlorine, salt water and sun creams, but also that’s moisturising on the hair so the hair and scalp is clean but cared for,’ Sophie advises.

‘Follow this with a deep conditioning mask, which will help repair your hair from a day in the sun adding strength and nourishment making the hair manageable and smooth.’