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Keep hair safe in the sun

Adrienne Wyper / 28 June 2016

Protect your hair – and your scalp – from the sun on holiday or at home.

A couple walk along a beach in the sunshine - but have they applied enough sun protection for their hair?

We wouldn’t dream of spending time in the sun without considering sun protection for our skin, but how many of us give a thought to how the sun’s rays can damage our hair?

What does the sun do to your hair?

UV light causes colour fading, dries out hair and makes it more porous. Grey hair is even more at risk because it lacks the protective pigment, melanin.

Anabel Kingsley, Trichologist at Philip Kingsley says: “Hair can burn just like your skin – you simply can’t feel it. UV rays affect hair in a similar way to bleach; they damage its protein structure and can result in dryer and weaker strands.”

Whether you’re on holiday or at home, be a little gentler on your hair when it’s sunny; it doesn’t need the added stress. Avoid any colouring just before a holiday. Brush or comb less often, avoid heated styling tools and use a cooler hairdryer setting.

Your guide to holiday hair care

Barrier methods

The simplest way to protect hair, especially between 12pm and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest, is a hat, which has the additional benefit of shading your face, ears and neck. Or tie on a scarf: a triangular one tied at the nape of the neck, a wide bandeau-style, or like a pirate, knotted at the back of your head.

A scarf also prevents that windswept look if there’s a breeze, or you’re boating, hiking, biking or riding in an open-top car (well, we can dream!).

Don’t forget to protect your head from the sun

Our heads are exposed to UV rays all the time, and it’s not just the hair itself that needs protection; your scalp does too.

Anabel Kingsley says: “Scalp burn is especially likely to occur along the parting or where hair has become thinner. Short term, this can lead to redness, soreness and flaking. Long term, over-exposure to the sun can have serious consequences, such as cancerous cell changes.”

Move your parting, if possible, to avoid repeated sun exposure along one line, or protect it by rubbing in a small blob of the suncream you’re using on your body up top. If you’re bald, or heading that way, don’t forget an extra dollop of suncream.

In fact, if space in the suitcase is an issue, or you need to minimise what you need to buy, you can comb conditioner and suntan lotion through your hair and slick it back, but it may make your locks limp and greasy, so you should probably only try this if you’re going to spend a relaxed day at the beach.

Find out more about super sun creams

Alternatively, choose one of these suncare-specific products…

Transparent spray formulations for invisible sun protection

Non-greasy and quick-drying, Superdrug’s Solait Hair & Scalp Sun Spray (£4.49, 150ml) offers broad-spectrum SPF30 protection for your hair, parting and scalp, with vitamin E and panthenol to condition.

With SPF30, Eucerin Sun Transparent Sun Spray (£17.50, 200ml) is ideal for hairy skin and the scalp (with or without hair). It provides great coverage against UV rays, with liquorice extract for free-radical protection.

Lightweight and water-resistant, Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil (£21.50, 100ml) has natural-derived UVA and UVB filters, with green tea and vitamin E antioxidants and conditioning shea butter, coconut and palm oils, with neroli, ylang ylang and cistus for a tropically scented spritz.

If you prefer a sleek, wet-look finish, try these creamy options to comb through hair.

Apply a walnut-sized blob of Kérastase Soleil CC Creme (£20.40, 150ml) to damp or dry hair. With ceramides, UV filters and linseed oil, it leaves hair soft, shiny and tangle-free.

With a mix of vitamins, Wella Professionals Sun Protection Cream (£9.19, 150ml) smooths thick, unruly hair, protecting it from UV rays and leaving it with a “shine brighter than the sun”. For fine hair, try Wella Professionals Sun Protection Spray (£9.09, 150ml), on dry or damp hair for UV protection and conditioning throughout the day.

As with all suncare, re-apply it after swimming or towelling your hair.

Post-holiday hair pampering

Use these during your holiday or afterwards to minimise sun damage to your hair, and keep the luxurious holiday feeling going a bit longer...

If your holiday has dried up your cash flow as well as your hair, try Boots Beautiful Hair Moisture and Nourish Mask (350ml, £3.50), formulated with a blend of oils, including organic argan. Use weekly, applying to wet hair and leaving for two to three minutes before rinsing.

Enriched with argan oil, Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask (250ml, £24.75) helps hydrate and repair sun-damaged hair – and you need only leave it on for five minutes.

Try a pre-shampoo conditioning treatment to boost strength and elasticity. Philip Kingsley’s renowned Elasticizer (150ml, £32) now comes in a Geranium & Neroli version, packaged in a pretty floral tub. Apply to damp hair, leave for 20 minutes, then shampoo and condition as normal. The light floral and citrus fragrance is gorgeous – and the results should be too.

Find out how you can get fuller hair today


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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