Should You Use Sunscreen on Your Hair and Scalp?

Woman at beach taking care her hair


Your scalp is first and foremost, skin, and just like any part of your body, it needs to be protected from the sun. After all, no one wants a burned scalp, especially with the discomfort, skin flakes, and itchiness that often follows. 

But the idea of putting sun protection onto your hair might feel, well, a little greasy. So much so, that it begs to wonder, Is sunscreen in your hair really necessary? Isn't our hair protection enough? And if not, are there non-invasive ways to protect your scalp? 

If these questions are keeping you on your toes this summer, then keep reading. 

Scalp and sun protection

Just like the rest of your skin, your scalp can burn when overexposed to the sun. A recent study published in 2019 pointed out that UV rays can induce oxidative DNA damage and impact healthy hair follicles. As a result, experts suggest that using a form of SPF on your hair and scalp can prevent potential sun damage. 

That said, your hair does provide a certain level of protection against both UVA and UVB rays. However, the protection can significantly vary depending on your skin type and hair density. Someone who is prone to sunburn and has a thin hair density will have less protection than someone who has a darker complexion and thick hair. 

So while taking your hair and skin type into account is essential to decide on the sun protection your scalp needs, it is important to also look at your age. Dermatologists point out that the older we get, the more our scalp is at risk of developing melanoma, as the skin surface gets thinner with age. Excessive sun exposure for the scalp, particularly when the hair density is light or non-existent (in elderlies or babies for example) also increases the risks of severe heat strokes.

3 ways to protect your scalp and prevent hair damage

Protecting a scalp from sunburn is for some, a necessity. But that doesn’t mean you need to ladder zinc in your hair. With the current hair sunscreen market being limited, you shouldn’t dismiss certain simple and non-invasive ways to protect your hair. 

But first, it’s good to look at what area you really need to protect. Experts note that the neck, forehead, ears and the hairline - where the hair part ways -  are most likely to be impacted. And here’s how you can protect them:

  • SPF hair powder and spray. This type of protection can provide a decent sun coverage to your hair and scalp. However, they can also be greasy or alternatively, dry out your hair, depending on the product and formulation you use. 
  • Hat and scarf. A simple yet powerful solution against sun damage. Wearing a cap, hat or scarf can safely protect any exposed zone linked to the scalp. Plus, this type of coverage doesn’t influence the texture of your hair (unlike SPF hair products). 
  • Limited sun exposure. If you’re still reticent in using SPF hair products or wearing a hat, keeping your scalp sun-safe can simply come down to limiting your sun exposure -  whether that’s staying under the umbrella during peak hours or going for a swim when the sun is at its kindest.

So, should you use sunscreen on your hair? Not necessarily. Protecting your scalp from sun damage is important, but not essential for everyone. There are also less annoying ways to protect your head than sunscreen, you know, like wearing a hat. The takeaway? Consider your hair type, your sun exposure, and your skin needs, and apply the solution that works best for you.

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