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Here's What You Can Do To Protect Your Hair From Sun Damage

PHOTO: istockphoto

If you've been experiencing less-than-luscious locks and dull, brittle strands lately, sun damage could be the culprit behind this. While you may be well aware of the effects the sun has on your skin, did you know it can damage your hair, too? That's right, your tresses need just as much protection as the skin on your face and body. 

To learn more about what sun exposure can do to your strands, as well as the different things you can do to protect and maintain them, we talked Dr. Vicki Belo and Dr. Philip Bunag of Belo Medical Group to get their expert advice. Here's what we learned:

  1. Your hair can become dry, brittle, and frizzy.

    "The sun's UVA and UVB rays can damage your hair cuticle (the outermost layer of your hair)," according to Dr. Belo and Dr. Bunag. "Think of these rays as something similar to bleach. When bleach comes in contact with your hair, it creates a chemical reaction that damages the keratin and melanin in your tresses, leaving [each strand] dehydrated. When hair is dehydrated, it becomes dry, brittle, and frizzy."

  2. Your scalp can get sunburnt.

    Dr. Belo and Dr. Bunag explained that "too much sun exposure can cause dryness and sunburn to your scalp." Not only can this be super painful and itchy, but it can also cause other problems like dandruff and hair loss. "When you have a dry scalp, it damages [the roots] so the new strands that grow come out dry and frizzy. A sunburned scalp can lead to hair loss and thinning hair if it's not treated properly."

  3. Your colored hair can change shades.

    If you have colored locks and love going to the beach, then you might notice how your hair gets noticeably lighter after a swim sesh in the ocean or generally being exposed to the sun. This discoloration, according to Dr. Belo and Dr. Bunag, is another effect of sun damage. The sun's UVA and UVB rays "set off a chemical reaction that strips the color from your strands." Colored hair is "more vulnerable to damage" since it has less keratin, allowing the sun to penetrate it easily.

    Dr. Belo and Dr. Bunag said you'll know your hair is sun-damaged when you heat-style it and it doesn't hold for long and ends up looking limp and lifeless.

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  4. You can get a lot of split ends and hair fall.

    "If you continuously expose your hair under the sun without proper treatment, protection, or maintenance, you'll find that your strands won't be strong and elastic anymore. You'll also see a lot of split ends and falling strands," said Dr. Belo and Dr. Bunag. "Worst case scenario: You'll experience hair loss and premature graying."

Now that you know what the sun's rays can do to your locks, Dr. Belo and Dr. Bunag shared some tips on the best ways you can protect and care of them:

  1. Use a hair sunscreen.

    While sunscreen for the hair and skin are essentially the same, hair sunscreen has a different texture and formula to make it more comfortable to wear. Can you imagine slathering a thick, white cream on your tresses and scalp? No way!

    According to Dr. Belo and Dr. Bunag, hair sunscreens usually come in serums, oils, or sprays while body sunscreens come in creams or lotions. "For the hair, the product should have conditioning actives and emollients to help prevent hair and scalp damage. We recommend our Belo SunExpert Hair and Scalp Shield. It has UV filters plus Vitamin E to protect the hair from sun damage and provide deep nourishment from root to tip. It also has almond oil and natural emollients to help protect the hair and scalp from dryness," they explained.

  2. Use a hat.

    Both experts revealed that "If you know you're going to spend a lot of time under the sun, there's no better way to protect your hair than by covering it. Be sure to bring a wide-brimmed hat and avoid taking it off while under the sun." Bonus: You'll be able to protect your skin, too!

  3. Use a leave-in conditioner.

    A product the two experts recomment to curb sun damage is a leave-in conditioner or good ol' coconut oil. "Apply a thin layer of coconut oil or put leave-in conditioner before heading off [outside,] to the beach, or to the pool to protect your hair." The added layer of moisture will protect your strands from the drying effects of the sun, chlorine, or salt water. 

  4. Stay out of the sun between peak hours.

    If you can't be bothered to wear a hat all the time or apply hair sunscreen or leave-in conditioner, the best way to prevent sun damage is to stay out of the sun at certain hours of the day. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the sun's rays are at its strongest, making it more likely to induce damage to both your mane and complexion.

  5. Wash your hair with a nourishing conditioner.

    On days when you've forgotten to protect your tresses, don't worry, you can still save them. "When you get back home," instructs Dr. Belo and Dr. Bunag, "make sure you wash [and hydrate] your hair properly by using a nourishing conditioner formulated without parabens [and sulfates]." This will help restore the moisture and integrity to each of your strands.

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