Hair Health

Is the Sun Good For Your Hair? Benefits, Risks & Tips

In this Article

Sun exposure and its effect on hair is a topic that garners mixed opinions. On one hand, sunlight offers certain benefits for your overall well-being. On the other, overexposure can be detrimental, leading to many health issues, including hair damage. It’s this delicate balance that has many asking, “Is the sun good for your hair?”

In this article, we navigate the complexities of how the sun affects your hair, spotlighting the perceived pros and proven cons of sun exposure, debunking common misconceptions about sun and hair, and offering practical tips for enjoying the sun while ensuring optimal hair health.

The effect of sunlight on hair.

Sunlight plays a significant role in hair health in two primary ways: its contribution to Vitamin D production and its impact on hair proteins and pigments.

Vitamin D and hair health.

Sunlight stimulates our skin to produce Vitamin D, a crucial element for numerous functions in the body, including the health of our skin and scalp. One of the roles of Vitamin D is supporting the differentiation of keratinocytes. These cells make up the majority of our skin and scalp and differentiation refers to the process where these cells mature to perform their specific tasks.

If considering Vitamin D supplements for hair health or any other reason, always consult a doctor first. Vitamin D is not water-soluble, meaning excessive amounts can accumulate in the body, potentially leading to health issues.

Impact on hair proteins and pigments.

Sunlight, especially its ultraviolet (UV) component, affects the health and appearance of our hair in various ways. Just as our skin can get sunburned, the main protein our hair is made of, keratin, can also get damaged by the sun. When this happens, hair can become weaker and more likely to break.

The sun can also affect the good oils and nutrients in our hair. This can weaken our hair further, making it more prone to breakage.

Melanin, the pigment responsible for hair color, plays a protective role by absorbing UV radiation to guard against such damage. However, this protective action isn’t without its toll. Continual UV exposure alters the melanin structure, which often results in hair lightening. While this might appear desirable to some as highlights, it’s actually a visible sign of melanin degradation and, in essence, damage to the hair.

Brown haired girl looking up at the sun blocking her eye with her hand.

Perceived benefits of sun for your hair.

While the sun is a source of warmth and light, it’s also associated with some perceived “benefits” for hair. However, it’s crucial to understand that while these outcomes might seem aesthetically pleasing, they aren’t indicative of improved hair health. They actually indicate hair damage. Two perceived benefits of sun for hair are:

  • The appearance of hair thickness — Does sun exposure make your hair look thicker? Yes, it can. When hair is subjected to sunlight, strands can swell. This makes it look fuller, similar to how frizz can make hair seem more voluminous. But remember, this isn’t a real increase in the number of hairs you have.
  • Enhanced natural highlights — Ever notice your hair getting lighter shades after spending time outside in the summer? That’s the sun at work. Sunlight can lighten your hair, giving it a highlighted look. While some love this natural effect, it’s worth noting that it’s actually a sign that the sun is damaging your hair, similar to when you bleach it.

Sun exposure + risks of hair damage.

Prolonged UV exposure adversely affects hair health in many ways.

These damaging effects include:

  • Free radical formation — UV rays induce the creation of free radicals, which can damage hair.
  • Hair dryness — Prolonged sun exposure can strip the hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness.
  • Frizz formation — UV exposure damages protective surface lipids, increasing the likelihood of frizz.
  • Hair breakage — The sun’s UV rays can weaken the hair’s structural bonds, making it more prone to breakage and resulting in brittle hair.
  • Scalp sunburn — Just as the skin on our body can burn, so can our scalp, especially in areas where the hair is thin or parted.

Beyond the immediate visible effects, cellular and molecular damage can have long-term consequences. Let’s break down the intricate ways UV rays affect your hair:

  • UV rays interfere with vital amino acids like cysteine, tyrosine, histidine, and tryptophan, essential for hair strength and resilience.
  • By breaking down the moisture-retaining lipids within the hair shaft, UV rays lead to hair that’s dry and brittle.
  • Again, the protective melanin pigments in hair, beyond adding color, shield the scalp from excessive sunlight. However, UV exposure can degrade these melanin components, reducing their effectiveness.

Living proof restore perfecting spray and repair leave-in

4 Common misconceptions about sun damage + hair.

The sun and its effects on our hair are widely discussed, but not everything you hear is rooted in fact. Let’s clarify some common misconceptions about sun damage and hair:

  1. 100% beneficial myth — Many believe sunlight is exclusively beneficial for hair health. While sun exposure can promote the production of Vitamin D, sunlight is detrimental without the appropriate precautionary measures.
  2. Hat protection myth — Wearing a hat does offer some protection, but it doesn’t guarantee complete shielding of your hair from UV rays. The fabric and weave type help determine the level of protection a hat provides.
  3. Dandruff connection myth — The misconception that sun exposure dries out hair, leading directly to dandruff, is an oversimplification. While the sun can dry out your hair, dandruff is often due to scalp conditions or fungal growth, which sun exposure can worsen.
  4. Hair sunburn myth — The hair itself does not get sunburned, but the underlying scalp can, especially in areas where hair is thin or parted. It’s important to take measures to protect the scalp from direct sunlight.

5 Tips for maintaining healthy hair throughout sun exposure.

With the right strategies, you can keep your hair in optimal condition, even when spending time outdoors. Here’s how:

  • Use hair products with enhanced UV protection — When it comes to safeguarding your hair from the sun’s rays, investing in the right products is paramount. Living Proof offers scientifically-proven solutions, such as:
  • Restore Perfecting Spray — Designed with potent UV protection at its core, this spray goes beyond shielding your hair from the sun. It doubles as a conditioning detangler, smoothing, softening, and reinforcing dry, damaged strands. Plus, it offers heat protection up to 450°F/232°C, making it a great option both under the sun and during heat styling.
  • Restore Repair Leave-In — Prioritize UV protection and say goodbye to split ends. With this leave-in conditioner, not only do you get a robust UV shield, but you also benefit from its ability to prevent up to 93% of split ends caused by styling. One application can amplify your hair’s strength 15x, making it an indispensable tool in your haircare arsenal.
  • Avoid peak UV hours — Limit sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm, the most intense UV hours as defined by the American Cancer Society. If you must be out, be sure to take protective measures.
  • Wear head coverings — Wearing a hat or scarf isn’t just a style statement. Head coverings can act as a barrier, reducing direct exposure of your hair and scalp to the sun.
  • Incorporate a nutrient-rich diet — Hair health doesn’t only depend on external factors. Ensuring you consume a balanced, nutrient-rich diet can fortify your hair from the inside out, making it more resilient against potential damage.
  • Hydrate your hair — Regularly use hydrating hair treatments, such as Living Proof’s intense moisture maskweightless mask, or repair mask to counteract the drying effects of the sun.

a blonde girl in a white knitted sweater vest photographed from the chin down showing her dry hair.

The sun, your hair + Living Proof.

Navigating the relationship between the sun and our hair can be complex. While sunlight offers certain health benefits, overexposure brings potential risks to our hair’s health and structure. It’s important to be aware of and debunk common myths surrounding sun and hair protection.

Living Proof offers products grounded in scientific research to help you manage these effects. As you enjoy the sunny days, consider integrating our products into your routine for protection and rejuvenation. Ready to find the ideal product for your hair type and concerns? Start with our Hair Quiz.

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Living Proof Review Team

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