How to protect your hair from sun damage

Lily Aldridge wet hair

Yes, it’s a thing

While we’re welcoming the warmer temperatures with open arms, our hair is decidedly less keen about summer’s arrival. Just like our skin suffers from harmful UV rays, so too does our hair. But instead of causing sunburn, prolonged sun exposure can lead to dry and brittle strands that lack vibrancy. To find out more about the damaging effects of the sun on our hair and the best ways to protect it, we spoke to Education Director at Coty Professional Beauty for Australia and New Zealand, Gina Thomas.

Why we need to protect our hair from the sun

“When hair has prolonged exposure to the sun, UVA and UVB rays can damage the outside of the hair strand or the cuticle, causing the bonds that hold the strand together to become weak and vulnerable,” explains Thomas. So, rather than thinking of your hair as sunburnt during the summer months, Thomas likens the damage from UV rays to the heat damage cause by styling tools. As such, “signs of sun damage to your hair include colour fading, dry and brittle strands, broken or split ends, thinning and frizz”.

The best ways to protect hair from sun damage

In addition to your usual haircare routine, Thomas says extra precautions need to be taken if you regularly colour or heat style your strands. Because permanent hair colours (particularly lighter shades) strip your hair of its natural pigment and penetrate the cuticle, regularly lightening your hair can lead to dehydrated and fragile ends. Similarly, constant use of heat styling tools rapidly dries out your hair, leaving it desperate for moisture. Add sun damage in to the mix and you can imagine how important a line-up of repairing and hydrating haircare products are at this time of year. 

Thomas recommends supercharging your haircare routine by using treatments formulated to repair the protein bonds that are broken during the hair colouring process (she recommends Wellaplex No3 Hair Stabilizer for this job), as well as incorporating products with specific UVA and UVB protection qualities into your regimen. Because our hair is made up of 80 to 90 per cent protein and UV rays have the ability to breakdown protein, you can see why a product that coats hair in a protective UV shield is such a necessity.

While there are now a plethora of formulas that promise to guard against UV damage (we’re currently loving Aveda’s Sun Care Protective Hair Veil and Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Primer), Thomas’s top pick is “the System Professional SOLAR Sun Oil because it provides UV protection when in the sun, but also hydrates and repairs with a keratin complex for everyday use after exposure”.

Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil

Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Primer

System Professional SOLAR Sun Oil

Now you know how to protect your hair from harmful UV rays, find out how saltwater and chlorine may also be damaging your hair in summer.

Do you use hair products formulated to defend against sun damage? If so, share your favourites with us in the comments below.

Main image credit: @lilyaldridge

Kate has worked for BEAUTYcrew since early 2016, first as a contributor, before being named Beauty Writer in 2017. She loves picking the brains of the industry's top experts to get to the bottom of beauty's toughest questions. Bronze eyeshadow palettes are her weakness and she's forever on the hunt for the perfect nude nail polish to suit her fair skin. Her words can also be found in Men's Health magazine.