Who is skeptical about sunscreen in their hair products?

Rae Requests…Could you please explain more about sunscreen not protecting hair? I’ve always heard that people with color-treated hair should use a product with sunscreen. Can hair products with sunscreen at least help protect the scalp?

The Right Brain Retorts:

Sunscreens in hair care products don’t really do very much. Read on and we’ll explain, question and answer style:

Does sunlight really damage your hair?

Yes, but not as much as everything else you do. Even if you protected your hair from 100% of the UV damage it sustains, you’d still have more serious damage from combing, brushing, coloring, and, heck, even washing!

Ok, but doesn’t sunscreen help a little?

Maybe, if it was applied perfectly. Sunscreens work best when they’re applied in a uniform film. When you put on sun tan lotion you smear a thick layer on and rub it in, right? If you didn’t put on a thick enough layer, or, if you missed some spots, you’d burn. So, unless you have even coverage, sunscreen doesn’t work. And hair is much harder to cover than your skin because you’ve got 100,000 fibers, or more, that need to be completely covered. Unless you totally soak your head in the product it won’t cover adequately.

But if I rub it in my hair really well will it work?

No, it won’t. Certainly not from a shampoo or conditioner! It’s almost impossible to deposit very much UV absorber from rinse out products. And while there are some sunscreens that are chemically modified so they’ll stick to the hair even after rinsing, not very MUCH sticks, so you’re still left with poor coverage. In theory, leave in products with UV absorbers have a little bit better chance of working.

Ok, but let’s say I AM willing to use a leave in product AND I promise to smooth it through my hair so it’s all covered. Then a hair care sunscreen would work, right?

Not really because no one makes a product that has enough sunscreen active in it to do the job. If you used sun block for skin and rubbed it into your hair, that might work. At least then you could protect your scalp.

Ok, I get the picture. But a sunscreen should give me color protection, right? Doesn’t UV cause fading?

Yes it does, but UV light doesn’t cause as much fading as washing does. If you protected your hair from ALL UV light, your hair would still fade about the same amount just from washing. We could talk about how to protect your hair color from washing, but that’s another post…

The Beauty Brain’s Bottom Line

UV radiation isn’t the worst problem your hair faces. Use a good conditioner before and after spending a lot of time in the sun. But don’t expect a hair sun screen to save you. If you’re really worried about sun damage on your hair, wear a hat.