From the products you need and the protective hairstyles to do, here’s how to keep your hair frazzle-free this summer
We’re getting pretty good at using SPF on our face and body, but how much do you really think about cover for your face and scalp when the sun is beating down? Not very, probably, and that’s a mistake. Both hair and scalp sustain a lot of damage from UV rays, but in different ways. To ensure you don’t end up with holiday-induced brittle, limp locks in the long run – and potentially much worse, in the shape of melanoma on your scalp – here are the facts and products to know.
Doesn’t my hair act as sun protection for my scalp?
This a wrong assumption pretty much all of us make. “Yes, your hair will protect the scalp a little, especially if you’re blessed with thick, dark locks,” says hairstylist and founder of Arkive haircare Adam Reed. “But particularly those with fair, fine hair and thinning hair (and obviously those with no or shaved hair) will need to apply sun cream into the hairline, partings and onto the scalp to prevent the skin from burning. Your scalp is an extension of the skin on your face, so it needs the same protection,” he cautions.
“Protecting the scalp is vital, agrees Abi Cleeve, creator and CEO of Ultrasun and Skinsense. “Such a high proportion of skin cancer develops here. Bunches and braiding, alongside partings, are worth minding as they really expose the scalp.” Apart from potentially cancerous mutations, UV rays can hamper hair growth, so you really want to give your scalp cover.
Then there is the hair itself. “Although hair doesn’t burn in the same way as skin, UV rays still damage it,” says Shona Bisset, development chemist for Windle haircare. “UVB radiation is responsible for protein loss in the hair (causing split ends, frizz and dryness), while UVA causes colour changes. Grey hair is particularly sensitive to UV damage.”
And of course, sea salt and chlorine from the pool will “affect the condition and quality of your hair too,” says Reed. “They will cause it to dry out, causing brittleness. If you're fair, chlorine and the sea can turn your hair slightly green and any colourants in your hair will lift and lighten.” Plenty of reasons to take holiday protection for your hair seriously.
How to protect your hair in the sun
“The best way to protect your hair from the sun is to wear a hat,” says Adam. “If they aren’t your thing, wrap your hair using headbands, turbans or headscarves - super easy to do and they look absolutely brilliant.”
This doesn’t mean you can do away with product, though. “Apart from UV rays, heat damages the hair, especially when it’s damp,” he says. “So really use a towel to squeeze as much water out of it after every dip, and mist it with a heat protectant before covering it with your hat or scarf.”
It’s also important, he says, that you keep vulnerable ends tucked away so they’re not directly exposed to the sun: “A little bun in the nape of the neck is great.”
If you can’t be bothered with hats nor scarves, use a leave-in product with a UV protectant. You won’t find hair products advertising their ‘SPF30’ or anything like that: “There is no way of measuring SPF on the hair, so for hair products it’s always and undeclared amount, says Cleeve. “But UV protectant-containing leave-in or styling products for hair (look for the words ‘contains a UV filter’) will usually feature UVA and UVB protection alongside oils to coat the hair and lock moisture in.”
Oily SPFs for hair are also good for a style statement, says Reed. “A slicked-back bun is always chic, and if you want to go for a top knot, the oil will ensure the ends are protected and your hair doesn’t act like a ‘lighting rod’ for UV rays.”
How to protect your scalp in the sun
Obviously, a wide-brimmed, densely woven hat is once again the best protection here. But when it comes to the scalp, you can also look for sun protection mists with all the markers of top-notch protection we know from our face and body products: broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sun filters, a high SPF (30 or 50) and added antioxidants.
In fact, many of the SPF face and body mists that are becoming increasingly popular can be used as scalp protection, no problem. “I think it’s a brilliant thing to do,” says Cleeve. Naked Sundays SPF50+ Hydrating Glow Mist Top Up , £30 and Ultra Violette Preen Screen Mist 50+, £32 are just two non-oily mists designed for the face that work really well on the scalp.
Better yet, UV protection mists specifically designed for the scalp are also becoming a thing. “As said, the scalp is skin so we can declare an SPF here,” says Cleeve of her Ultrasun SPF50 Face and Scalp Mist, £18. It’s a fluid that may seem quite dry on the skin: many users will be adding this over makeup and other skincare on the face and of course, misting it all over the scalp and the hair there, so we wanted to ensure it did not leave the skin “wet” after application. But it is in fact a hydrating, milk-like serum.” For more options, see below.
Lastly, consider antioxidants: “These, formulated into leave-in products (sprays and creams) may help protect strands from the damaging effects of external environmental factors, like UV rays,” says trichologist Anabel Kingsley.
How to protect your hair from other holiday scourges such as salt water
Salt is bound to dry hair out and chlorine is rubbish for hair: it saps the life out of it, not to mention the colour. So the more leave-in protection you can muster, the better. The vogue for ‘metal detox’ hair products that remove hard metals from tap water from your hair (or prevent them from penetrating) is useful here: this technology also makes mincemeat of chlorine residue.
In and out of the water, it’s essential to keep the moisture in your hair, so think about applying oils and creams several times a day. “Leave a treatment or an oil in your hair during the day to boost moisture levels and protection,” says Reed. “Then use an oil in the evening when you slick your hair back to work more magic.”
How to help repair and strengthen your hair post-sun
More moisturisation is key: consider using a dollop of a hydrating hair mask instead of a regular conditioner after every time you wash your hair on holiday. Look for rich plant oils and butters (shea, mango, cocoa), amino acids and panthenol to condition, and hydrating aloe vera which will also soothe an overheated scalp.
1. The UV protectors for scalp and hair
The high-SPF scalp and face protectant: Ultrasun SPF50 Face and Scalp Mist, £18
Gentle enough for the most sensitive scalps and skins, this transparent mist offers the highest-possible all-over protection, not just in the shape of a broad-spectrum SPF50 but a potent antioxidant complex too. Won’t leave your face oily or your hair greasy.
The weightless SPF 30 for scalp and hair: Coola Scalp And Hair Mist SPF30, £29
The only mist billed as a scalp and hair sunscreen, it has a proper broad-spectrum SPF30 and soothing, antioxidant centella asiatica to shield your scalp and preserve your colour. It’s watery-weightless and smells refreshingly of sage and has a handly long nozzle to target partings.
The spa-inspired hair protection: Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil, £22.05
A light mist that coats the hair with (unspecified) UV protection whilst also delivering some hydration. It’s not meant as skin/scalp protection, but like all Aveda products it smells like a spa, and who doesn’t want that?
The super-pampering hair shield: Nuxe Sun Moisturising Protective Milky Oil for Hair, £18
Two sunscreens protect hair (not the scalp) against UVA and UVB, but also against the havoc wreaked by chlorine and salt water. It preserves your colour while adding shine and softness, and its tiare flower scent is creamy and dreamy.
The in-sun hair colour shield: Wella Invigo UV Color Protection Spray, £13
A shake-it-to-wake-it non-oily milky spray, you mist this liberally into your dry or wet hair several times a beachy day and the UV filter, panthenol and nourishing lipids do the rest to keep your colour vibrant and your strands soft and bouncy.
The hairstylist on the beach: 3 More Inches LifeSaver UV Leave-In Styling Treatment, £29.50
Wheat proteins, cashmere amino acids (almost identical to hair protein – and the more protein in the hair, the less frizz) and antioxidants join a UV screen to strengthen hair and increase hydration while keeping the free radicals from the sun and city pollution at bay. Doesn’t weigh hair down but gives it a glossy, smooth finish, bounce and a little texture.
The creamy protective hair primer: Kerastase Creme UV Sublime, £32
This iconic product was made for sunny days. It contains UV protection and will wrap around your hair like a sun shield, smells like holiday and also acts as a great hair primer if you want to blow-dry your hair.
2. Protect your scalp and hair against chlorine and heat
The chlorine buster: L’Oreal Professionnel Metal Detox Leave-In Hair Cream, £23.80
Preventing accumulated metal particles and chemicals, including chlorine, from penetrating, this cream also helps replenish hair. Prevents breakage and frizz while making sure colour stays put. Don’t jump in the pool without it.
The heat protectant that speeds up drying: Sun Bum Heat Protector, £16
A Cali-Flori suncare brand designed with surfers and regular swimmers in mind, Sun Bum’s brilliant dual-phase mist protects against heat (not UV) and also speeds up hair drying, so it’s a great product to have if your hair takes forever to get dry.
The swimmer’s rescue: Philip Kingsley Swimcap, £17
This creamy mask is designed to protect hair from the damaging effects of chlorine, salt and contains UV protection to boot. It also contains ingredients to help increase the elasticity and strength of your hair.
The force-field for hair: Moroccanoil Protect & Prevent Spray, £23.95
Forms a protective force-field against pollution, heat damage and UV rays. Use before styling or anytime during the day for a protective top-up.
The slicked-back style protector: Beauty Pie Super Healthy Hair Seven-Oil Hair Elixir, £15* for members (£35 for non-members)
Who has time to do their hair on holiday really? So for summer nights when you want to keep frizz at bay but drench hair in moisture, slick hair back with this. It contains seven nourishing hair oils that soften, add shine, keep hair looking smooth and healthy.
3. Revive your hair and scalp after too much sun
The hydrator for fine hair: Windle Ultra Nourishing Hair Masque, £37.50
Monoi, Babassu and baobab oils to replenish the lipids that have been singed out of your hair, alongside high levels of white tea to beat back the oxidising effects of UV radiation. Treat your hair to this throughout the summer and it won’t suffer the consequences of all that sunshine.
The post-sun healing mask: Sol de Janeiro Triple Brazilian Butter Hair Repair Treatment, from £15
Another one that smells of summer, this is a rich post-beach mask that suits all hair types. Not only does it drench hair in hydration but it reduces frizz. It says to wash it off after ten minutes but you could put it in your hair in the evening, go out, sleep in it and rinse the next day.
The eco aftersun for hair: Oway After-Sun Hair Mask, £27.50
This is not only an amazing, nourishing mask that will infuse holiday hair with nourishing lipids and protective, strengthening antioxidants but it also comes in 100 per cent recyclable packaging that houses a formula that’s vegan and has been made with green energy.