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One of the cardinal rules of skin care is SPF.
We’ve all heard it before. It doesn’t matter how much moisturizer, cleanser, or serum you layer onto your skin in your routine. If you don’t include sunscreen, your skin will be exposed to harmful UV rays.
This can lead to discoloration, signs of premature aging, and a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
While sun protection factor (SPF) for the face and body is key, there may be another area that needs a little extra love: your head.
Here’s what the hair and skin care experts have to say about sunscreen for your hair and scalp.
Whether it’s a tried-and-true skin care regimen, how often you wash your hair, or the cosmetics you’re curious about, beauty is personal.
That’s why we rely on a diverse group of writers, educators, and other experts to share their tips on everything from the way product application varies to the best sheet mask for your individual needs.
We only recommend something we genuinely love, so if you see a shop link to a specific product or brand, know that it’s been thoroughly researched by our team.
The idea of putting sunscreen on your hair and scalp may initially sound a little strange. However, it turns out that sunscreen for hair does exist.
On top of that, it has some scientifically proven benefits.
According to a
It turns out that too much time in the sun can lead to damage to both the structure and color of the hair, and the scalp needs protection from the sun too.
According to Chelle Neff, owner of Urban Betty Salon, “Using an SPF on your scalp and hair while in the sun can be as important as using an SPF for your skin. Spraying sunblock along your hairline and on your part before going outside can help to prevent damage to your scalp.”
Just like the skin on the rest of our body, the skin on the scalp can burn in the sun, which can lead to a higher risk of skin cancer.
According to a
“Lots of people forget that the scalp works exactly like the skin all over your body,” says Eliza Pineda, an in-house hair expert for Mayraki Professional.
According to Pineda, skin is skin, even when it’s on your head.
“If you’re protecting your face and body from the sun, then your scalp needs protection as well,” she says. “It’s just as easily damaged by harmful UV rays and heat from the sun. This can lead to both scalp and hair issues.”
It’s pretty clear that adding sunscreen for your hair and scalp to your routine is a good idea.
However, you probably don’t want to glop your everyday sun cream on your locks.
In general, you have four options when it comes to hair and scalp sun protection:
- creams & lotions
- hats and scarves
Powders are an ultra-lightweight way to get sun protection on your hair and scalp without weighing down your do. They can also soak up excess oil and add a bit of volume.
You can try Ulta Beauty Mineral Hair and Scalp Powder SPF 45 or Supergoop Poof 100% Mineral Part Powder SPF 35.
Sprays are the next lightest product after powders. They can also be a great way to add moisture, sheen, and bounce.
Try R+Co Sun Catcher Powder C Boosting Leave-In Conditioner or Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil.
If you use a lot of heat styling tools, try Ouai Heat Protection Spray.
Creams and lotions
Creams and lotions are the heaviest options. These are best if you’re going for a dip. They provide a thicker layer of protection that won’t wash out as easily in water.
Hats and scarves
Don’t want to layer even more product on your hair? You can always opt for a hat or scarf to protect your top.
There are even clothes and hats with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) for extra protection.
Try Coolibar Sun Hats in a variety of styles or the Geo Sun Scarf UPF 45+.
If you choose a powder-based SPF for your scalp, follow the directions on the package. Most products will ask you to:
- Apply the powder along the part line while hair is dry.
- Gently massage the powder into the skin.
When it comes to sunscreen spray for hair, the application is pretty simple.
- Wait until your hair is dry (unless the instructions tell you to use the product on damp hair).
- Spray the product from root to tip, spreading out the spray evenly across the hair.
- You may wish to comb or brush the hair after application to ensure the product covers the entire hair shaft.
For lotions and creams, some products work just like regular sunscreen: Simply rub it in.
Other products may require that you leave them in for a specified time and then rinse them out. Make sure to read the package and follow the instructions carefully.
While professional sunscreen for hair products shouldn’t damage your scalp or hair, some people should proceed with caution.
For instance, if you know that you have sensitive skin or a skin condition like eczema, you may want to be extra careful.
Always do a patch test or check with your dermatologist before trying a new scalp powder or hairspray for the first time.
Still have questions? Get the FAQs below.
Is sunscreen bad for your hair?
Thinking about using regular “face” or “body” sunscreen on your hair? In most cases, it should be safe.
However, Neff wouldn’t recommend it.
“Using it on all of your hair can make your hair oily,” Neff says. “If you need sunscreen for your hair, many product lines make spray-ons that aren’t heavy at all.”
Pineda adds, “Sunscreen isn’t necessarily bad for your hair, but it’s also not something that you want to put directly on your scalp and hair unless you want a greasy mess.”
Can you make your own DIY hair or scalp sunscreen?
Want to do it yourself at home? Most experts don’t recommend it.
“Having a waterproof element is essential because of sweat and water,” says Neff. “Making a product waterproof is something we should leave to the professionals.”
There are some ingredients that can help shield your skin and hair from harmful rays, like:
However, there’s no way to guarantee they’re providing enough protection to prevent skin cancer, burns, and sun damage. These ingredients should always be used in addition to sunscreen, not instead of it.
Experts don’t recommend trying to make your own sunscreens. There is a risk of skin cancer from UV exposure, and there is no guarantee that an at-home recipe will have adequate SPF. It’s best to purchase sunscreens from reputable retailers.
Does color treated hair need extra protection?
If you have dyed hair, you need to be extra careful.
“Color-treated hair is more vulnerable than ‘virgin’ hair,” Neff explains. “The cuticle is more porous, which means there is less protein for protection. Therefore, it needs more love.”
She suggests always using a heat protectant as well as sunscreen on color-treated hair.
You may think about sunscreen as being a skin care product, but it can offer plenty of benefits for your hair and scalp too.
If you’re heading out into the sun, keep your part, scalp, and hair protected with a hair and scalp sunscreen.
Meg Walters is a writer and actor from London. She is interested in exploring topics such as fitness, meditation, and healthy lifestyles in her writing. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, yoga, and the occasional glass of wine.