Whether you’re the victim of the genetic lottery or you’re losing your hair through illness, stress, or medication, you probably do what you can to protect each valuable strand on your head. If so, then you should certainly be aware of the effects of sun exposure on your scalp and hair.
Sunlight is not only good for you—but it’s also vital to human health. It helps regulate your body’s internal clock, boosts vitamin D production (which is vital for bone health), and improves mood by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. However, overexposure to UV light from the sun can cause serious damage to your skin, including premature ageing and skin cancer.
This article outlines the effect of sun exposure on the hair and scalp and how best to manage it.
The fact is UV rays from the sun can have a damaging effect on both your skin and hair. In fact, studies show that exposure to UVA radiation results in colour changes in the hair, and UVB radiation is responsible for the loss of hair protein, primarily keratin. While melanin pigments offer some protection, UV rays can break these down, too, reducing their protective function.
Additionally, sun exposure can be a major contributor to thinning hair, as damage occurs when ultraviolet (UV) rays reach your scalp and penetrate past the epidermis or the skin’s outermost layer. Unchecked, UV radiation is responsible for accelerating the ageing process, including contributing to cell deterioration within the dermis—the middle layer of skin that contains collagen and elastin fibres.
The Sun’s Oxidising Effect On Hair Strands
We recognise the effect of oxidation in the form of rust on a metal object or perhaps the browning of an apple when exposed to oxygen. This chemical reaction also occurs within our hair strands when we spend too much time in the sun.
Prolonged exposure to UVA and UVB rays compromises the cuticle, the outside covering of the hair shaft that protects the more fragile components within. This manifests as dry, brittle hair strands that break easily, becoming unmanageable after a time. The result of overexposure to the sun acts very much like bleach on our hair, stripping the colour, moisture, and protein from it.
While all hair types and colours are affected by UV rays, fine and light-coloured hair is more susceptible to damage. Therefore, people who already have thinning, fine, or greying hair are at risk of suffering further damage to both their hair and scalp from sun exposure.
While darker, thicker hair bears up better under the UV rays, it is not immune to the drying effects of the sun. Redheads, blondes, and those with very fine, flat hair shafts are particularly susceptible to sun-damaged hair.
Several studies have highlighted the effects of excessive sun exposure, citing it as the “most frequent cause of hair shaft’s structural impairment.” ¹ As previously mentioned, melanin offers direct and indirect protection to the hair shaft, but as this (colour) starts to degrade, the effect of the sun’s rays becomes more profound. Another study ² concluded that the effects of photochemical oxidation equate to the chemical processing of the hair, resulting in a reduction of breaking and stretching strength of the hair shaft.
Once we understand how the sun affects both our hair and scalp we learn that sun exposure combined with thinning hair can lead to even more hair loss. It’s an unfortunate cycle; the scalp becomes more exposed to UV rays as the protective layer of hair thins, and the sun has more impact on the finer, lighter hair remaining making it even lighter and more prone to breakage.
How To Minimize Thinning Hair and Improve Scalp Health
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat if you’re spending time in the sun.
- Use sun protection products on the scalp and hair, such as sunscreen spray.
- Use a hair mask regularly that contains a mix of the right proteins and other nutrients to strengthen the hair.
These preventative measures will certainly assist you to keep your hair and scalp in the best condition possible, but what more can be done?
Prevent Hair Loss Early On
We definitely subscribe to the adage that prevention is better than cure, and especially so when it comes to our hair. Granted, some hair loss such as that caused by male pattern baldness, the side effects of some medical treatments and autoimmune diseases, are unavoidable. But that’s not true for everyone.
Therefore, if you have noticed your hair thinning, or you are experiencing scalp issues, then we encourage you to talk to a qualified trichologist as soon as you can. There are a host of reasons why you could be battling with hair and scalp issues, and not all of them are strictly medical.
- Chronic stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on our bodies and affect hair growth
- Bacterial or fungal infections can cause scalp issues which can result in damaged follicles and scar tissue
- Over-styling and the use of relaxers, weaving and braiding can result in permanent hair loss if not caught early.
- A lack of correct hair care, a poor diet, and various “lifestyle” related illnesses can cause hair to thin over time.
If you’re suffering from hair and scalp issues, we urge you to seek help as soon as possible. If there is any chance that your hair loss can be arrested, then we are certain we can assist you.
And of course, in the meantime, be sure to care gently for your hair – no matter how much or how little – and your scalp. Stay aware of the effect of sun exposure on your scalp, and do what you can to protect these valuable assets.
Get in touch today for a consultation.