Oh, BTW, The Sun Can Majorly Damage Your Hair. Here's How To Prevent It

By now, you're likely already all too familiar with the perils of spending too much time under the sun. Experts have always advised everyone to be liberal with the way we lather sunscreen across our faces and bodies, so we can adequately protect ourselves from the sun's harmful UV rays. You also probably don't need any more reminding that exposure to these UV rays causes sunburn and premature aging, and worse, increases your risk for skin cancer.

Sunscreen with strong SPF is widely accessible, but sun protection for your hair? Eh, not as much. The sun's effects on your strands are also less discussed than its effects on the skin, so people don't pay as much attention to shielding their hair from sunlight. But just like how the sun can adversely impact your skin, it can inflict serious damage on your crown of glory, too.

Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist at Philip Kingsley, explained to Women's Health that the sun's UV rays could play a big role in wreaking havoc on your hair health. "UV rays can seriously dry out and weaken your strands, especially if your hair is already in bad condition," she said. "Prolonged sun exposure degrades the protein structure of hair, often resulting in low elasticity, breakage, split ends and lack of shine." So yes, the sun can be your hair's enemy, but it doesn't have to be, especially if you know all the ways (think antioxidants and sunscreen) you can dodge serious damage.

How the sun affects your locks

In case you didn't know, each strand of your hair is a fiber made out of a protein called keratin. And while your strands are stronger than they appear and feel, Jennifer McCowan, owner and founder of Hope Hair Recovery, explained to Today that excessive exposure to the sun's rays could "weaken the hair fibers so that it makes your hair quite brittle, dry, and uncolored." McCowan also explained that subjecting your hair to sunlight is not so different from leaving your furniture by the window. "It breaks down the fibers. It breaks down the colors. [UV radiation] does the exact same thing to your hair."

Meanwhile, dermatologist Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, told Cleveland Clinic that in some ways, the sun's effects on your strands are similar to how bleach works. "Bleach reacts with the melanin in hair and removes the color in an irreversible chemical reaction. Bleach also damages the hair's cuticle and protein, which is called keratin," she said. As a result, the natural color of your hair can wane, and you may begin to see gray hairs appear much earlier than they should.

So unless you want your hair to weaken and turn gray, you must take the necessary steps to protect it from the sun's damaging rays.

How to prevent the sun from destroying your hair

If you're not too keen on donning pretty hats or toting around an umbrella during the day, you can shield your hair from the sun by way of applying hair sunscreen. Yes, they exist, and yes they function the same way as skin sunscreen does. They, too, offer UV protection and coat your strands with oils and extracts to prevent damage. It may seem counterintuitive to do this since hair is essentially dead anyway, but they do a great deal in helping your locks remain in tip-top shape.

Alternatively, you can apply plant-based oils and hair products rich in antioxidants on your scalp, since they can also offer ample protection. "Antioxidants will scavenge free radicals caused by UV damage and can help prevent the damage that can lead to skin cancer," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Kavita Mariwalla told Allure, adding that sunflower oil is a great option. "It contains fatty acids that can help the dryness associated with hair exposed to harsh sun conditions."

Apple cider vinegar also works wonders in keeping your scalp healthy, although it's admittedly not the best-smelling product out there. Still, its benefits can't be beaten. "Apple cider vinegar has anti-inflammatory properties that help balance the skin and contains AHAs that chemically exfoliate to remove dead skin buildup," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman shared with Coveteur. "Massage into the scalp, and leave on for about 10 minutes before rinsing."