Why You Need to Wear Sunscreen in Your Hair

POPSUGAR Studios
POPSUGAR Studios
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By now, we've hopefully all been scared straight enough to know the importance of sunscreen. If not, you've been warned. Once you recognize that SPF is pretty much the key to looking young forever, you won't even question adding it to your regimen. But is hair sunscreen equally as crucial? The short answer is yes. Hair can burn just like your skin. Before slathering on SPF from head to toe (definitely still forehead to toe!), however, read on to see what experts have to say about the benefits of hair products with sun protection.

What's the difference between skin and hair sunscreen?

It's a little more difficult to see the immediate effects of sunscreen on hair like you do for skin, but at the end of the day, the function is similar. "Theoretically, UV blockers absorb and dissipate the UV energy that impacts hair," says cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski. Matrix celebrity stylist Nick Stenson further explains that sunscreen differs only in the protection compound and the delivery system used (i.e., oil, cream, or spray), but in general, whether you're using it on hair or skin, it does the same thing: "Sunscreen compounds either reflect, absorb, or physically block light rays that come in contact with hair," says Stenton.

Who needs it?

There should be little difference in which gets more attention between your hair or skin. As a general rule, if you're going to be in the sun, you should be covered in SPF. "Sun leaches moisture and color, weakening hair shafts and drying out even well-conditioned hair," Stenson warns. If your strands are color-treated, there may also be some added fade protection in it for you, but Romanowski says not to expect much. "It is believed by some to prevent UV rays from breaking down hair color and breaking down hair protein chains, but evidence supporting this is weak." What it can do is keep strands from drying out and burning in the same way that your skin does if overexposed to harsh rays. "The key is to put a protective barrier between sun and hair," says Stenson.

When and how should you use it?

To ensure that your hair SPF gives you optimal protection and plays nice with your other styling products, apply it last. "Remember to treat your hair like your skin when it comes to the sun — the best protection comes in layers," says Stenson. He suggests starting with a color-protecting, antioxidant-filled shampoo and conditioner like Matrix Total Results Color Obsessed Shampoo and Conditioner ($13 each, originally $23 each). Follow it up with a leave-in conditioner with UV blockers to help retain moisture and keep strands from frying while you're lounging poolside. Also, be sure to get it all the way to the scalp, which is equally as important as your fragile mid-lengths and ends.

Philip Kingsley Sun Shield
POPSUGAR Studios

Philip Kingsley Sun Shield

If you're living at the beach or pool this Summer, the sunflower seed oil in the Philip Kingsley Sun Shield ($38) will keep UV rays, chlorine, and salt water from damaging your fragile strands.

Philip B. Oud Royal Thermal Protection Spray
POPSUGAR Studios

Philip B. Oud Royal Thermal Protection Spray

Double up on protection against heat damage from both sun and hot tools with this Philip B. Oud Royal Thermal Protection Spray ($25).

Sun Bum Beach Formula 3-in-1 Leave-In
POPSUGAR Studios

Sun Bum Beach Formula 3-in-1 Leave-In

Sun Bum Beach Formula 3-in-1 Leave-In ($15) conditioner is packed with coconut oil, quinoa protein, and sunflower seed oil to help keep hair healthy while you sunbathe and swim.

Bare Republic UV-Protecting 5-in-1 Mist
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Bare Republic UV-Protecting 5-in-1 Mist

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Show Beauty Decadence Hair Fragrance
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Show Beauty Decadence Hair Fragrance

Refresh and protect hair with Show Beauty's Decadence Hair Fragrance ($70). It's enriched with vitamin E to help keep color vibrant and hair smelling sweet.