Leaving hair unprotected changes hair color and texture
Colored or chemically-treated hair is prone to fading. If you love your summer blonde but it keeps getting brassy, it’s a sign that the UV rays could be disrupting your toner. Brunettes can see fading and brassiness, too.
If we’re talking about hair in the type 2 to 4 range, a prolonged period in direct sunlight can leave strands parched and looking unhealthy. That’s because this type of hair is naturally more dry and prone to cuticle damage: Hence, why it’s more likely to frizz). The addition of heat and UV rays causes much of the natural oils and moisture in the strands to evaporate, leaving hair brittle.
Virgin hair can suffer from burnout, too
UVA and UVB rays scorch hair that’s in great condition too, and can cause damage like breakage, frizz and split ends. The UV rays act like harsh bleach: reacting with hair’s melanin so that even natural hair becomes lighter, damaging keratin, the protein that keeps hair strong and shiny. This phenomenon has everything to do with the chemical makeup of an object, in this case hair. UV rays can break down chemical bonds, which in turn fades your hair’s color. Sun-damaged strands no longer shine like they used to and start to look dry and dull, much like hair that’s been exposed to too many chemical treatments.
Think about your hair like a delicate fabric—you wouldn’t leave a new silk blouse out in direct sunlight because it would fade and it’s the same for your hair if you neglect it. What’s worse, it’s not nearly as easy to replace your scorched strands as it is that shirt.
Long hair is aged hair
If you’ve resisted every trendy shorter cut that’s hit your Instagram feed and committed to keeping your long locks, you’ll need to be extra careful to avoid sun damage. Like older skin as opposed to baby skin, long hair already has damage that will only be made worse by too much sun exposure. If you want to ensure that your strands aren’t left vulnerable and at the sun’s mercy, try coating them with protective ingredients and follow up by putting your hair in a braid, bun, or tucked away under a hat.
The natural sun-filtering ingredients your mane needs
There are a handful of natural ingredients that have been used for thousands of years to prevent UV damage. Here’s a roundup of ingredients known to absorb UV rays to help protect your hair from damage.
1. Coconut oil
You’ve likely heard about the endless list of things coconut oil can do. As it turns out, the only thing you’d actually need if you were stranded on a desert island is, well, a coconut. One big reason why is that it has an SPF factor of just over 7, which is very high among natural oils. It’s been used as a sunscreen for centuries by Pacific Islanders for its ray-shielding abilities that help to protect hair from fading and drying.
Karanja seed oil contains flavanoids, which have 3 different photoprotection effects including UV absorption, direct and indirect antioxidant properties, and modulating several signaling pathways (which basically means they help turn on the plant’s own power to fight those environmental factors that are trying to damage it). In some lab studies, an SPF of approximately 20 was measured in pure karanja oil.
3. Shea oil
Its five principal fatty acids: palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and arachidic acids provide essential nutrients that improve both scalp and hair health, which leads to stronger hair follicles and a reduction in breakage. Plus, it provides a small amount of SPF, helping keep harmful UV rays at bay. That’s a plus if you want to protect your color from fading. Its protective qualities also help keep strands healthy when using hot tools like blow dryer and irons, or after chemical treatments.
4. Plum oil
Loaded with tocopherol, a form of vitamin E typically derived from vegetable oils, plum oil is heralded as an antioxidant superhero because of its incredible ability to protect the hair and skin. Applying tocopherol to hair infuses moisture and restores the lipidic film of each hair strand, acting as an anti-inflammatory on the scalp, and blocking pollution-related free-radical damage. As a refresher, free radicals are rogue molecules that have been damaged by toxins like UVA/UVB rays or pollution. Their end game is breaking down our hair and skin so they age faster and look damaged.