Hair and Sun Damage

Woman with long hair enjoying the sunshine
Photo: Depositphotos
Q: Can the sun damage your hair? Is long hair more prone to damage than short hair? How about colored hair?
A: Yes, the sun is actually one of the most common natural factors that damage hair. The sun tends to bleach the hair naturally, especially during summer. This is the reason that most people's hair is marginally to distinctively lighter on top of their heads than it is on the bottom layers. The hair on top is more exposed to the continuous glare of the sun.
Hair that has been bleached (naturally or chemically), tends to be drier and weaker in structure than hair that has not been bleached. This kind of hair will need more conditioning products such as a deep-penetrative conditioner and a salon-professional mask, in order to add more moisture to the hair's structure.
Longer hair is not more or less prone to the sun than shorter hair, yet it does tend to suffer more sun damage because it has been exposed to the sun for a longer period of time. A long hair strand will be anything from 2 to 6 years old. It then obviously follows that a hair with a six-year life-span will have been exposed to a lot more sun than a strand that is only a year old.
This also means that the ends of very long hair will tend to be naturally lighter than the root part of that hair, which consequentially means that the ends will be prone to being dry, brittle or damaged. This is where the trimming theory comes in. You have to have your hair trimmed on at least a yearly basis when you have really long hair, in order to manage those brittle ends and keeping the hair from splitting and damaging the rest of the hair's structure.
Colored hairs are not more or less prone to be damaged by the sun either, yet the effects of the sun will be exponentially more visible on hair that has been colored. Colored or especially bleached hair tends to be drier than natural hair that has not been exposed to any chemical processes.
This is because color and bleach have peroxide and ammonia content which is used to force open the cuticles of the hair, in order for the relatively large artificial color-pigments to enter the structure of the hair and attach itself to the inner structure of the hair, as well as to lighten the natural color of the hair.
The structure of a colored hair strand never fully closes again, meaning that water content easily escapes the structure of the hair. It then follows that this will be a drier sort of hair, which is prone to be more susceptible to the sun, wind and styling elements.
When you go to the beach or to a place where the sun is predisposed to be very intense, be sure to wear a hat to protect your hair. There are also a large variety of leave-in conditioners that you can use to keep the hair moisturized and protected during the summer months. Some of these products even have an SPF10 or higher, which will protect the hair.
See also:
The effect of weather on your hair
Why does the sun lighten our hair, but darken our skin?
How do I protect my hair from sun-fading?