Hair Color and Sunshine

Blonde hair and sunshine
Photo: Zapylaiev Kostiantyn/Shutterstock
Q: I was just wondering if the hair becomes lighter when you keep it in the sun for a long time and how long it takes to get lighter. What can we do to prevent this? Thanks very much. If you can help me to find the answer to this, I'll be really thankful.
A: Hair indeed becomes lighter when exposed to the sunshine. The same way most pigmented material will. This is how people get what is known as the “sun-kissed” look to their hair.
Those hairs at the top and outer layers get gradually lightened by the sun. The effect generally is more rapid among those with fine hair and more porous hair where the sun’s rays can penetrate to disperse the natural color – created by melanin - in the hair.
A lot of women (and men) spend extra time and effort to enhance the sun’s effects on the hair. There are sprays and creams that are designed to speed “sun-lightening”, and an old standard of sun-worshippers is lemon juice.
However, not everyone likes the sun’s handiwork on their hair color. Women who have spent a lot of time and money in the salon to get the “perfect” hair color often look for ways to protect their hair from fading in the sun. And there are other people who just don’t like the color effects that result from the sun–lightening. Many brunettes feel their hair gets too red from sun exposure, and many redheads find their hair becomes brassy.
The answer to preventing sun effects on the hair is the same for protecting the skin – sunscreen. When you’re at the beach, you can simply apply sunscreen to your hair (wet it first) and comb it through carefully. This will also keep the hair safe from drying and damage caused by seawater and chlorination.
But if you aren’t concerned so much about beach or poolside exposure to the sun, but rather the day-to-day effect of sun exposure, look for shampoos and conditioners that offer UV protection. Many “color care” shampoos and conditioners have sunscreens in their formulas to prevent the sun from altering their expensive color procedures. These will work just as well to protect natural hair color.
See also:
How to do a hair porosity test
Fading hair color
Sunscreen for hair
Summer hair care
How hair responds to sun exposure