mhn news & blog

July 16, 2012

Protecting your hair from Sunburn!

The 3 Categories of Light Waves

UVA RAYS (ultraviolet A)

UVAs are the longest and strongest of the sun’s rays. They can reach and damage the deepest layer of a hair shaft, called the cortex. This is a problem since the fiber-like cells that make up the cortex give elasticity and strength to your hair. These long waves of visible light can also affect the natural pigment of your hair, and not in a beautiful way.

You can imagine that the cuticle, or the outer layer of a hair shaft, doesn’t fare any better than the cortex. The cuticle is a covering of small overlapped scales that looks similar to a shingled roof. When over-baked in the sun, the cuticle no longer lies flat. The result is lifeless looking, dry, and brittle hair.

The intensity of UVA light can also fry your scalp and activate a riot of free radicals that speed the aging process. Severe sunburn on the scalp can lead to some hair loss as well.

UVB RAYS (Ultraviolet B)

Although we do not see UVB rays, they get deep into the cortex, damaging its fibers, and are caustic to the cuticle. These rays can leave your hair dry as the Sahara

and will fade chemical and natural color.

UVC RAYS (Ultraviolet C)

UVCs are extremely damaging to skin and hair, but they are blocked by the ozone layer surrounding the Earth.

Protection with style

Wear a hat and keep it on!  Whether you decide to wear your favorite baseball cap or a fashionable hat, most hats provide 100% protection from the sun’s rays.  Keep in mind that any hair that sticks out of your cap or hat you’ll want to protect with SPF.

Many styling aids, leave in conditioners, and hair sprays have an SPF right in them! While there are various opinions on how high the SPF should be for your hair, it seems that the general consensus is to use an SPF of 10-15 in hair products, with SPF 12 being a very popular choice by many hair product manufacturers.

Protect your scalp

Use full strength SPF directly on your scalp or where you part your hair. The scalp's direct exposure to the sun in that manner can burn and peel! Apply sunscreen to the earlobes and nape of neck as well!


The letters SPF stand for Sun-Protection Factor. It indicates the time you can bask in the sun safely. Multiply the SPF number of a product by the minutes you can sunbathe without burning, and you will know how long the sunscreen can protect you. For example, if you can be under the sun 20 minutes before turning red and your sunscreen has an SPF of 7, you are protected for 140 minutes.

Make your own SPF for your hair:

Be creative, making your own UV protection for hair is pretty easy.  Dilute 2 tablespoons of SPF 25 or higher with 1 cup of water.  Pour into a spray bottle and spray product into your damp hair before stepping out into the sun.  For additional protection, continue to spray throughout the day.

Remember to give yourself a deep conditioning treatment once a week.  Conditioning treatments will help keep sun damage to a minimum and maintain moisture in your hair