Sun protection for your hair: why this is an essential beauty step during the summer

We all know about the importance of skin protection, but what about hair protection?

sun protection for hair
(Image credit: Rob Latour/WWD/REX/Shutterstock)

Because hair needs protection too, dontcha know?

When packing for your summer holidays, it's second nature to include the best sun cream. We now know so much about the damaging effects of the sun that you just wouldn't head into the sun without it. But what about sun protection for hair?

Exposure to UV rays damages the hair just as much as it does our skin. The reason hair feels particularly dry and wiry over the summer months is because UV rays damage the cuticle of the hair (the outer layer that protects the inside shaft), resulting in brittle and lifeless tresses. So like unprotected skin, hair burns. 'The sun (predominately UV rays) can encourage free radicals, which can lead to damage within the hair cuticle and can leave the hair feeling incredibly dry. For coloured hair, the sun can also cause discolouration and fade,' explains Adam Reed, UK Editorial Ambassador for L’Oréal Professionnel.

'We all know how important it is to wear sun cream on our face and bodies but a common mistake is to forget to protect the hair and scalp,' says Anabel Kingsley, a world leading trichologist. 'Straggly ends, moisture loss and faded colour are familiar symptoms of post-holiday hair, but, like skin damage, this is preventable. Sun exposure can also cause the scalp to become sensitive,' states Kingsley.

Reed agrees: 'Once you are on holiday, it’s really important that you use a product with a UV protector in to avoid any damage from UV rays and general sun exposure.'

We have rounded up our top beauty buys with built in UV protection, so that you're well armed for your summer holidays. Soon protecting your hair will feel as natural as protecting your skin...

Sun protection for hair

You have quite a few options - creams, sprays, masks, shampoos and conditioners. There's now a wealth of products that add sun protection for hair, here are some examples...

Hair sunscreen:

If you apply your normal suncream to your scalp, it will most likely look lank and greasy, so you need a product that is specifically designed to use on the scalp and hair. Apply over damp hair, then work the product from the scalp down through the lengths. Like sun cream, re-apply regularly throughout the day, particularly after swimming. When hair is exposed to water, free radical damage actually worsens, because when wet the hair shaft is considerably weaker and so more susceptible to UV rays. Throw in the drying effects of sea salt and chlorine, it’s no wonder split ends and breakages are at their peak.

Coloured hair sun protection:

Your hair can also change colour if exposed to too much sun as well. UVA rays are responsible for colour changes – both for dyed and natural hair, which is why using a specific shampoo and conditioner for the sun should be on your packing list. They prevent UV rays fading hair by locking in the colour.

Hair masks for damaged hair:

Even with UV protection, hair still feels drier than normal after a day in the sun so we recommend using one of the best hair masks to boost hydration levels and feed the hair back to its healthy best. If you can, leave the hair mask on overnight for deep conditioning, but for particularly fine hair rinse after 5-10 minutes and let it works its magic.

So keep scrolling for the exact products that we recommend. Get ready for the beach...

Katie Thomas

Katie Thomas is the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire UK. With over 10 years of experience on women's luxury lifestyle titles, she covers everything from the best beauty looks from the red carpet and stand out trends from the catwalk, to colonic irrigation and to the best mascaras on the market. She started her career on fashion desks across the industry - from The Telegraph to Brides - but found her calling in the Tatler beauty department. From there she moved to Instyle, before joining the Marie Claire digital team in 2018. She’s made it her own personal mission to find the best concealer in the world to cover her tenacious dark circles. She’s obsessed with skincare that makes her skin bouncy and glowy, low-maintenance hair that doesn’t require brushing and a cracking good manicure. Oh and she wears more jewellery than the Queen.