Is the Sun Bad for Your Hair? Debunking Hair Damage Myths
As we enter into the summer months, you’re undoubtedly spending more time outside in the sun. Most of us know to put on sunscreen to protect our skin from damage and skin cancer, but should you also be protecting your hair from the sun? While the vitamin D you can get from the sun is important for your hair, exposure to the sun’s rays without protection can quickly cause serious damage.
The question of whether the sun is good or bad for your hair is a tricky one and there are a lot of misconceptions out there regarding this topic.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why the sun may be good for your hair and some of the reasons why it could cause damage to your hair.
Is the Sun Good or Bad for Your Hair?
As with most things in life, the sun can be good for your body and your hair, in moderation. Of course long exposure to the sun, without any protection, can be both damaging for your skin as well as your hair, but what sort of benefits does the sun have for your hair? And do the benefits outweigh the negatives?
Why is the Sun Good for Your Hair?
Research suggests that the sun helps provide you with the nutrients your body needs to sustain a complete hair growth cycle. According to this study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice, hair loss is a symptom of vitamin D deficiency.
Where can you get vitamin D? From the sun!
But it’s important to note that you can also get vitamin D from supplements, vitamin D-fortified food, and foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D, so the sun isn’t your only or even best option.
Exposure to the sun can also slow down the growth of skin cells that can cause acne, psoriasis and other scalp issues that can be bothersome or embarrassing.
But isn’t too much sun bad for you?
As we mentioned above, almost everything can be harmful in large quantities. While your body naturally produces vitamin D when you’re in the sun, UV rays are also a major cause of melanoma and other skin cancer.
We agree with the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendation that your only source of vitamin D should NOT be obtained from unprotected exposure to UV radiation. Instead of exposing your vulnerable skin and hair to the sun for long periods of time, in order to increase your vitamin D levels, take vitamin D supplements and eat more foods rich in vitamin D. This way, your hair will continue to be healthy without the negative side effects that long-term sun exposure can bring.
Why is the Sun Bad for Your Hair?
While vitamin D may support hair growth, excess exposure to the sun can seriously damage your hair. This study published in Collegium Antropologicum states that excessive sun exposure is the most frequent cause of structural impairment of the hair shaft.
Your hair shaft is the part of your hair that emerges out of your skin from the follicle. Sunlight can degrade your hair proteins and pigment and can even lead to hair protein loss. The result is weaker hair and duller looking hair color. The sun can also take moisture away from your hair, leaving it drier, frizzier and rougher in texture.
If you have thinning hair, you are even more susceptible to getting sunburned on your scalp. Any inflammation or damage to your scalp can potentially cause even more thinning. Plus, excessive sun exposure to the scalp can lead to skin cancer and surgery to remove skin cancers from the scalp can leave you with disfiguring bald scars.
Common Hair Myths Associated with Sun Exposure
Now that we’ve talked about the real reason that the sun can be both good and bad for your hair, lets take a look at some of the myths surrounding exposure to the sun and hair health.
Myth 1: Sun Exposure Can Cause Permanent Hair Loss
Overall, exposure to the sun is not going to cause hair loss, however side effects of sun exposure to your scalp such that it causes a sunburn can cause your hair follicles to shut down or become clogged and cause your hair to thin temporarily.
This thinning is usually not permanent and will clear up once the damage to your scalp has healed.
This damage can include things like sunburn on the scalp, and blistering, as well as the drying out of the scalp. It can also cause more sweat and dirt build up which can clog the pores in your scalp that allow hair to grow.
So while the sun isn’t going to cause hair loss or thinning on it’s own, side effects of excessive exposure to the sun can cause damage to your scalp, which can then lead to temporary hair thinning.
Myth 2: Sun Exposure Always Makes Hair Dry and Brittle
A lot of people believe that the sun beating down on your hair for long periods of time will always cause it to dry out and become brittle. While this does happen to some people, not everyone experiences dry hair when exposed to the sun for extended periods of time.
Depending on your hair type, texture, and individual hair care routines, your hair may not dry out at all in the sun. Certain hair care products, as well as natural elements of your body, can protect your hair from drying out in the sun. If your hair is very fine, wispy, red or blond, it will be more susceptible to damaging effects of the sun. Alternately, if you have course, thick, dark brown or black hair, the melanin in your hair can help prevent damage from sunlight, just like darker skin types are less susceptible to sunburns. So depending on your genetics, it’s possible that you may never experience dry or brittle hair due to the sun, but other people might.
Myth 3: Sun Exposure Will Cause Your Hair Color to Fade
This is another one of those myths that, while not 100% true, may affect some people depending on their hair routine.
In general UV exposure may cause your hair color to change, but it’s typically in people that have chemically treated their hair. UV radiation will not universally fade all hair colors.
If you dye or color your hair, bleach it, or use a product called Sun In, you may notice that your hair gets a little lighter in when exposed to the sun for longer periods of time, but this is mainly due to the chemicals that you’ve treated your hair with and not the hair color itself.
If you’re worried about your hair color fading in the sun, there are things you can do to protect it.
How to Protect Your Hair from the Sun
We all know that we should protect our skin with sunscreen when we’re out in the sun. But how do we protect our hair? Here are a few things you can do to keep your hair healthy:
- Cover up your hair and scalp with a hat.
- Stick to the shade when possible.
- Avoid the sun from 10 am to 4 pm, when the rays are the strongest.
- Use hair products with UV filters. Here’s a list of sun protection hair products that Fashionbeans recommends.
- If you have thinning hair, make sure to apply sunscreen to your scalp. Aerosols and other spray sunscreens tend to be the easiest to apply and less messy on the scalp.
Sun Exposure and Your Hair
The sun can be both good and bad for your hair, but it won’t cause permanent hair loss or color fading for everybody. Depending on the situation and how much time you spend in the sun, you may end up with clogged pores or burnt scalp which can cause inflammation that leads to less than stellar growing. More importantly, repeated sun exposure to the scalp over many years can lead to skin cancer and this is not an easy area for surgery. You don’t want that great tan to wind up causing ugly scars and baldness down the road. Hopefully after 1 bad sunburn you will learn your lesson and once the scalp has healed, your hair will continue to grow back as normal.
Protecting your hair and your scalp from the sun can help prevent any possibility of issues while enjoying the sun, but keep in mind that our bodies do need a certain level of vitamin D in order to properly function, but food sources and vitamin supplements are the best option for this vital nutrient.
If you have any more questions about why the sun is good or bad for your hair or what type of vitamin D supplements you should purchase, feel free to contact The Limmer Hair Transplant Center. Our practice is dedicated to hair restoration and health so that you can have the hair of your dreams!