We’ve all heard the warnings about the dangerous rays of the sun, and now that summer is here, we need to put that information to good use and protect ourselves. The UV radiation of the sun can be detrimental to the
condition of skin and hair (especially hair that is chemically treated or colored). For that reason we must do what we can to protect our skin and hair from both long-term and short-term damage.
In The Hair:
The common cause of summer hair damage is chlorine. Chlorine strips the hair of natural oils, swells the hair shaft and raises the cuticle layer leaving the hair more porous. It can cause breakage and split ends,
and can distort the color of the hair. This is especially true of hair that is chemically-colored.
However, sunlight is also a damage-dealer to the hair. The sun’s rays can burn hair just as readily as it burns the skin. The UVA and UVB radiation in sunlight can damage the hair cells, weakening it and reducing its
strength and elasticity. The UV radiation can also disperse the pigment in the hair (natural or chemically-applied) and lighten and fade the hair’s color.
In the Skin:
In the short term, the sun’s damage is readily seen (and more-readily felt) as sunburn. The UVB radiation causes burns in exposed skin, affecting the fairer and less naturally-pigmented more severely. The burns
can range from irritating and mild to very severe in cases of long exposure. Be especially careful in pools and in windy locales as these cooling factors can mask the damage you are getting from the sun.
More long-term damage is done by the sun inside the skin as the UVA radiation weakens the collagen and elastin of the skin, making it less plump and less resilient. There’s also the development of melanomas – from
freckles, which can be annoying - to more serious tumors – which can have life-threatening effects.
How to Protect Yourself…
Combat pollutants, chlorine and salt water residue by using clarifying shampoos and a good conditioner after swimming or a day at the amusement parks or beach. Because both sun exposure and swimming can result in
your hair being more porous, use a protein-rich conditioner to help soothe the hair’s cuticle layer and protect it from further damage. A light, leave-in conditioner with a sunscreen ingredient is also a great way
to stop sun damage to the hair before it starts. Look for products containing ingredients like: oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and benzophenone-3. These will keep your crowning glory glorious.
Remember that each strand of the hair is made of a protein called keratin, and has three layers. The medulla - the thin, innermost layer of cells (hair that is very fine may lack this layer); the cortex – the middle
layer (which accounts for 90 percent of the hair’s weight and contains the pigments that give the hair color); and the cuticle – the outer layer (consisting of overlapping scales of protein to protect the internal
fibers and help retain moisture). In healthy hair the cuticle layer lies flat, giving hair a shiny, smooth appearance.