Summer is basically here. It’s finally time for sun, sand, and surf. Most of us love having fun in the sun, enjoying the beach, and other outdoor activities. This also means using the proper tools and products (such as umbrellas and sunscreen) to protect our skin. We all know the damage that can be done to our skin from over exposure to the sun’s harmful rays, but what about our hair and scalp?
The sun can damage our hair and scalp just like it can our skin. Our hair and scalp can suffer from being continually exposed to the sun and from swimming too. The damage can become evident just a few weeks into the summer. I’ve seen this first hand for the past 20 years in my practice as a licensed cosmetologist. Clients come in with hair that has become lighter in color, especially if it's already chemically treated. It can also become a lot drier. As a result, we see more breakage and frizz.
Sun isn’t the only culprit that damages hair and scalp health. Salt water and chlorine also play a big role during the summer months. In a swimming pool, the chlorine can strip the hair and scalp of its natural oils. The chlorine coupled with other pool chemicals can result in a greenish cast on lighter hair (natural blonde or colored blonde). On the other hand, the ocean can dry the hair and scalp out significantly due to the high salt content in the water.
We also can’t forget something so obvious — it’s hotter in the summer. This means you’re probably sweating more than you do during the rest of the year, which could lead you to wash your hair more often. In some cases, when not using the proper shampoo, this causes drier hair and scalp. Also, for people who tend to be more oily and produce a lot of sebum, the summer heat could make the sebum appear more pronounced. Sebum is basically oil that comes from your pores and can build up on your scalp. I’ve seen an overproduction of sebum impact people’s hair heath time and time again, because it can cause a problem with normal hair turnover, affect normal hair growth, and often times it could indicate hair loss problems.
There are some things we can do to combat these issues and still have fun in the sun but also maintain hair and scalp health.
1. Haircuts & trims: Refresh your style. Getting rid of split ends lets you start the season off fresh. Split ends left untreated could break up higher into the hair, causing the hair to look more damaged resulting in the need for a bigger cut rather than just a trim. Regular trims can help keep hair healthier and prevent it from splitting and breaking.
2. Shampoo: Use a moisturizing, conditioning or hydrating shampoo for the summer months. Avoid products containing sulfates, as they can make the hair and scalp dry and prematurely fade color. Always condition after shampooing.
3. Conditioning: A daily conditioner is good for use after every shampoo. For hair that has been continually exposed to the elements, or as a preventative tool before hair becomes too dry, deep conditioning masks or restructuring treatments done at home or in salon, can be applied once a week to add moisture back into the hair. Before swimming in a pool or the ocean, use a leave in conditioner or wet hair with fresh water. When hair is saturated prior to swimming, it wont absorb as much chlorine or salt water, Always rinse hair after swimming with clean water. If there are no showers or facilities available to rinse your hair, keep a spray bottle with water in it handy to spray your hair to reduce the amount of chlorine or salt water in the hair.
4. Styling tools: Avoid hot styling tools such as hair dryers, curling irons and flat irons, at least a couple times a week to give your hair break. Try letting the hair air dry and try different casual summer styles, such as loose ponytails, buns or braids. For example: braid damp hair, leave to dry overnight, in the morning take out the braid gently run fingers through the hair and you have beach waves! When you do choose to heat style, always apply a thermal heat protectant to the hair prior, it will create a barrier between the hair and heat, resulting in less heat damage.
5. Trichology treatments: If dry hair and scalp or sebum build up become big issues for you during the summer months, you may want to consider starting trichological treatments that can treat the root of the problem at the scalp and not just the hair itself.
6. Brushing: Don’t brush hair roughly when it is soaking wet, this is when it is most fragile. Gently towel dry hair until just damp , then brush or comb through hair with a made for wet hair brush (wetbrush) or wide tooth comb. This will reduce breakage in the hair.
7. Styling products: Leave in conditioners and conditioning spray are good for light styling and adding moisture, especially for curly styles. Styling serums and oils are also good choices to tame frizz and add moisture.
8. Accessories: Wearing hats and head scarves are an easy way to protect the hair and scalp from the sun and look stylish while doing it!
In general, if you’re ever growing concerned about a change in your hair quality when the seasons change, you should consider finding hair a expert who can perform a trichology test. It’s a microscopic analysis of your hair and scalp health. This way you can find out exactly what’s going on with your hair and avoid spending time and money on solutions that might not work.