How to Prevent and Treat Sun-Damaged Hair

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Pretty much everyone other than me loves soaking up the sun (you can find me under an umbrella, wearing a hat and probably also my bathing suit cover-up, because extra protection can’t hurt right?). But for those of you who aren’t UV-intimidated, or maybe you are, but just found yourself in some super-sunny situations without a shield, your hair can suffer the consequences just like your skin. Here’s what the pros recommend when it comes to preventing sun-damaged hair, and how to treat it when it happens too.

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“The sun can be both good and bad for the hair,” says Glen Oropeza, consulting stylist for Kérastase. “On one hand, vitamin D can help hair grow; on the other hand, excessive sun exposure can dry out the hair and make it more prone to breakage, especially if your strands are already dry and damaged. We also have to remember our scalp, because a sunburned scalp means a damaged hair follicle. It’s very important to protect both.”

TRESemmé stylist Tyler Laswell says the sun’s UVA and UVB rays react with the melanin in your hair, much like the way bleach does, causing your hair to lighten and damaging the hair cuticle. “In some cases, the sun can give you that pretty summer color, but too much of it can give your color a brassy tone,” says Kathy Galotti, Adel Atelier’s master colorist.

All of the experts we spoke to advise using a UV hair protectant when you’re planning to be out in the sun: Oropeza recommends Kérastase Soleil Crème UV Sublime Hair Cream ($37); Laswell suggests TRESemmé Climate Protection Hair Spray ($5) and we like COOLA Organic Scalp & Hair Mist SPF 30 ($26)—all three defend against damage. Celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons, brand ambassador for NatureLab. TOKYO, says some shampoos and conditioners also contain UV filters. “I love using Perfect Repair Shampoo and Conditioner because the formulas protect from future UV damage while repairing existing damage directly from the root so new hair grows stronger.”

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If you feel like your hair is already past the point of no return—i.e. dry, brittle and dull—Galotti says to condition it as much as possible. “I recommend doing a mask or deep-conditioning treatment at least once a week to restore moisture and shine,” she adds. “Also, avoid blowdrying whenever possible. Take advantage of the summer weather by letting your hair dry naturally outside or braiding it for a quick style.”