There's way more to the hair on our heads than just adorning our physical appearance. It helps insulate our bodies when it's cold, and it keeps us cool and regulated when temperatures are sweltering. Hair also protects us from UV radiation. Since it acts as a barrier between our skin and the sun's rays, our hair follicles can take on a lot of damage if not properly protected.
Hair follicles are really just specialized skin cells, and like skin cells are affected by overexposure to to sun. Damaged follicles can affect the health of your hair and its how quickly it grows, so protect your head!
Overexposure to the sun effects the protective barrier of natural oils we all have on our scalp by causing blood vessels to dilate and become inflamed. Sometimes this damage causes the synthesis of superoxide, a compound that may cause hair follicles to switch off growth and enter the shedding phase, which leads to ... hair loss!
Damaged hair can be reconditioned with to temporarily appear healthy, but nothing can permanently “fix” or “repair” damaged hair. When hair is damaged, you can camouflage it with protein treatments and oils for softness and moisture to improve its appearance, but those treatments wash off the hair shaft. The only way to permanently improve damaged hair is to cut it off and let it regrow.
So instead of chopping all your hair off, why not avoid sun damage all together? Here are some tips on what you can do to keep your hair, scalp and follicles healthy and growing strong this summer:
1. Try updating your look with a hat.
A nice assortment of big hats is the best (and easiest) investment for your skin. Hats will make your scalp, hair and skin very happy, while simultaneously keeping you cooler by creating shade. They can also serve as a fashion statement!
2. If hats are too much, go with zinc oxide.
If you're not going to wear a hat, try massaging a zinc oxide sunblock cream onto the areas of your scalp that are exposed due to thinning hair. Applying a bit of sunblock where your hair parts and on your crown will help protect those vulnerable areas. If your hair is long enough, pulling it back will cover these areas as well.
3. Treat your hair like your skin when it comes to sunscreen.
You can apply sun protection directly to the hair as well. Sometimes, the same product you're using on your face and body will work in the hair — just warm it up between your hands and then gently run your fingers through your hair.
4. Use a natural oil for sun protection.