Summer-Time Must-Haves for Your Hair and Skin

Long hair and protective hat for summer
Photo: Elena Vasilchenko/Shutterstock
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.
Summer 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 for 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 locations as these cooling factors can mask the damage you are getting from the sun.
More long-term damage is caused by the sun within the skin as UVA radiation weakens the collagen and elastin of the skin, making it less plump and less resilient. There is also the development of melanomas, ranging from annoying freckles to more serious tumors that can have life-threatening effects.
How to Protect Yourself…
Combat pollutants, chlorine, and saltwater 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 make your hair more porous, use a protein-rich conditioner to help soothe the hair's cuticle layer and protect it from further damage.
Family in a swimming pool
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A light, leave-in conditioner with a sunscreen ingredient is also a great way to prevent sun damage to the hair before it starts. Look for products containing ingredients such as oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and benzophenone-3. These will keep your hair looking glorious.
Remember that each strand of 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.
Wearing a hat or visor is one of the most important tips for summer days. Whether you're at the beach, poolside, or playing in a city park, not only does the hat protect your face from harmful rays, but it protects your scalp as well. With the wide variety of styles and types of headwear available, there's no reason you can't look good and be sun-safe.
Another summer necessity is sunscreen - specifically one with an SPF of 30 or higher. Regardless of your skin tone and complexion, you need sunscreen to combat damage from the sun. Many people mistakenly assume that because they tan easily, they don't need sunscreen. However, since the damage done by the sun includes internal breakdown of collagen and elastin, which increases the look of aging, sunscreen is for more than preventing burns. Just remember to reapply your sunscreen every few hours or after getting wet.
Woman wearing her hair in a ponytail and applying sunscreen
Photo: Mykolasosiukin/Canva
If you want to have a little color for the summer months, try a sunless tanner. The products available these days allow you to have a range of looks - from a sun-kissed glow to a deep bronze - without risking skin cancer from spending time in a tanning bed or booth. Self-tanners come in sunscreen formulas to allow you to have some color while you spend your time enjoying the sun, and with moisturizers to make them perfect for applying freshly from the shower to keep your skin dewy, soft, and golden.
One summer must-have for the skin is water. It is more important than ever during the summer months to keep yourself hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps your skin look its best and helps fight the signs of aging. The average person should be drinking at least eight (8) glasses (eight ounces) of water each day. If you are spending all day in the sun and engaging in physical activity, swimming, running, or playing sports and games, you need even more.
Finally, keep a good sunburn care gel or lotion on hand. The best of these products usually include aloe, which helps to heal the burn, soothe the pain, and protect the skin by creating a protective layer over the skin's surface. Even if you don't get sunburned, aloe can be a great after-sun moisturizer, which can rehydrate the skin and leave it feeling refreshed and tingly.
Summer is the time when most people plan family outings, vacations, and generally make the most of their leisure pursuits. There's no reason you can't enjoy these things and still keep your skin and hair looking their best. Besides, nothing can dampen the joy of a family vacation like one or more people getting sunburned, making their skin - and their tempers - very sensitive. These tips can make all the difference in the world.