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Tips & Advice

How to care for your hair after too much sun exposure

Woman sea water hair sun exposure

When it comes to looking at the aftermath of (too much) sun exposure, it’s fair to say that we often neglect the condition of our hair post-summer. Leaving us to wonder why we get into such a frizzy, detangled mess come Autumn! Equally sensitive to the sun as our skin, our hair most certainly needs a detox this time of year as we head into a cooler season.

Exposure to direct sunlight (especially for pro-longed periods of time) not only damages the hair cuticle, it also breaks down keratin – a natural protein found in hair. This damaged protein lets heat and sun penetrate the hair much faster and results in dull‚ damaged and brittle hair.

Before we get on to our hair care tips for sun-damage, we’ve listed a simple 3-step hair test which will allow you to assess your hair at home. By doing this simple analysis, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to restore your hair.

Step 1 – Is your hair dry?

Hair that is well nourished and healthy should be very flexible and not easy to snap. To check the strength of your hair, wind a loose hair strand around your finger and try to stretch it as far as it will go. If it breaks easily, it’s an indication that your hair lacks moisture and is in need of additional nourishment and strengthening. Another way to check if your hair is dry and sun-damaged is to check for white-tipped ends. A white tip is the bulb that has come out of your hair follicle. Sadly, once hair splits like this it will never repair. Products can “seal” split ends cosmetically, but discontinued use of that product will just leave you with white tips again.

Step 2 – Is your hair texture rough?

Nobody likes a rough texture when it comes to hair. Silky smooth and soft is what we’re all aiming for here. So, to test the texture of your tresses, gently run your hands over your hair. If your hair feels bumpy, it’s usually down to the porosity of your hair. Normal levels of porosity mean that the cuticle scales overlap and allow moisture to penetrate and retain in the hair shaft fairly easily. Low levels of porosity mean that the scales are so tightly overlapped that they don’t allow for any moisture penetration at all. This leads to product build up on the hair surface and scalp. With high porosity levels however the cuticle scales don’t overlap at all, and tend to be raised, which allows water to penetrate the shaft. However, as the scales are so raised your hair is unable to retain the moisture – it’s a bit like trying to fill a bucket full of gaping holes with water.

If your hair feels bumpy, dry to touch and coarser than usual, then you have a rough texture which indicates you have damaged hair. It’s likely that if your hair is dry, you will also have a rough texture. Sun damaged hair tends to be coarser towards the top where the majority of sun damage takes place due to continuous exposure to direct sunlight.

Step 3 – Is your hair discoloured?

When hair is exposed to UVA and UVB rays from the sun it oxidizes much like a chemical bleach and reacts with melanin in the hair. Without getting too science-y, this causes even natural hair pigmentation to fade, lighten and become dull.

In case you didn’t know: The long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) penetrates deep into the dermis and hair cuticle (akin to the skin’s thickest layer) and the short-wave ultraviolet B (UVB) will usually burn the superficial surface layers of your skin and hair.

If you have dark hair you may have noticed that the hair around the crown of your head has become lighter or that you have brown-red streaks forming. These are sure-shot signs of sun damage (most likely as a result of UVA) and require immediate attention.

Assuming your hair is not severely damaged, the quicker you’re able to resurrect your hair, the less likely the damage will be long-lasting.

sun damaged hair

Now that you’ve examined your hair using the steps above, you’re probably eager to find out how to reverse the effects of sun damage. To keep things nice and simple we’ve broken down our tips into two categories: repair and cleanse.

1. Create a weekly repair routine

If your hair is dry and damaged from sun-exposure, a weekly repair routine should help get your hair back on track. Depending on the level of damage results may vary, with some treatments showing visible signs of nourishment after just one use. Whereas naturally coarse hair that is damaged may take longer to reach your moisture goals. Nonetheless, you (or rather your hair) will get what you put in! So, take the time to apply a treatment to your hair once a week, your hair will most definitely thank you for it.

Apply a nourishing mask

We recommend: Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask

All it takes is five minutes of indulging in this intensely hydrating mask from Moroccanoil to help revive your hair. This high-performance, rich and creamy deep-conditioning mask is designed specifically to suit medium to thick, dry hair.

Infused with antioxidant-rich argan oil and nourishing ingredients, it hydrates and conditions while dramatically improving hair’s texture, elasticity, shine and manageability.

To use:

Moroccanoil Hydrating Mask
Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask
  • Apply a generous amount to towel-dried hair and gently comb through.
  • Leave on for 5–7 minutes and rinse thoroughly. No heat required.
  • Use 1–2 times weekly.

Use a hair treatment

We recommend: Kérastase Nutritive 8 Hr Magic Night Serum

This exquisite serum is perfect for those wanting to apply a treatment to their hair but are short on time. This 8hr Magic Night Serum can be applied and left on all night, as it works away at nourishing your hair while you sleep. If you’re suffering from the kind of rough hair texture we described above, this formula is perfect for you. Enriched with Iris Root Extract and a 5 Vitamin blend this little wonder product replaces the moisture that has been stripped away from direct sun-exposure.

Kérastase Nutritive 8 Hr Magic Night Serum

Suitable for all hair types too, you’ll find that it doesn’t coat your hair with a greasy residue like other serums. It works hard to absorb into your hair shaft, helping to smooth down that rough texture. Wake up in the morning with fabulous locks that are soft to touch and full of healthy shine.

To use:

Apply a few pumps through your lengths and ends after you have used your shampoo and conditioner. This can be applied to wet or dry hair – there is no need to rinse! Just sit back, relax and wake up with soft, tangle free hair.

Book in for a TIGI Copyright SOS Recovery Treatment

If, however, your hair is severely damaged or dry, we recommend popping in to your local Regis salon and booking in for a TIGI Copyright SOS Recovery Treatment. This nourishing treatment contains 100x more keratin than shampoo and conditioning alone and leaves hair feeling noticeably soft, shiny and hydrated. By fortifying your hair from the inside out and closing your hair cuticles as it’s rinsed off ensures it’s qualities are retained in your hair. So, if you’re after a more long-term solution to fixing your damaged hair, the SOS treatment is the way to go.

2. Reconsider your hair wash routine

It’s quite commonplace to over-wash your hair. Yes, there IS such a thing as over-washing your hair! Washing your hair too often doesn’t necessarily mean your hair is *extra* clean. In fact it’s likely that you’re stripping hair of its natural oil (sebum), forcing your glands to work overtime to produce even more oil. That’s how you end up in a vicious cycle of over-washing hair that quickly becomes greasy.

If you’re a gym-goer

If you regularly work out, and the thought of not washing your hair after your exercise leaves you feeling a bit ick, try washing your hair with water.This may sound strange, but using water alone everyday actually helps to remove sweat and light build-up. A shampoo is not always essential, especially if you’re able to regulate the production of sebum oil.

If your hair is dry

If your hair is on the dry side, try washing your hair with a nourishing conditioner instead of shampoo. This trick is great for coarse hair with a rough texture, as it’ll help smooth down cuticle scales, enabling them to retain moisture.

We recommend: System Professional Hydrate Conditioner

This reparative conditioner mends and hydrates fragile, damaged strands and works to restore your hair’s natural moisture levels. Ideal for everyday use, this formula hydrates hair to give you improved manageability and styling, whilst preventing further dehydration.

To use:

Massage a small amount from roots to ends as you would with a shampoo. Leave in for 1 to 2 minutes and rinse thoroughly.

System Professional Hydrate Conditioner
System Professional Hydrate Conditioner

If your hair has build-up

When your hair reaches a point that it needs shampooing, try a strengthening or repair shampoo to help protect your hair and minimize damage. Another good option is to invest in a cleansing shampoo that you can use once a fortnight to remove tougher product build-up.

We recommend: Paul Mitchell Shampoo Three

Remove residue build up in your hair from chlorine, minerals and other medications with this deep cleansing shampoo from Paul Mitchell. Perfect for use after swimming or before an intense conditioning treatment, Shampoo Three helps to brighten hair and increase inner strength to help prevent immediate redeposit of product.

To use:

Paul Mitchell Shampoo 3
Paul Mitchell Shampoo 3
  • Wet your hair and apply the desired amount to the palms of your hands
  • Massage into hair and scalp
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • A second shampoo may not be necessary due to its intensity and richness.
  • Use fortnightly or immediately after swimming.

Final word

Sun-damaged hair is no fun. Taking regular care of your hair will save you time and effort in the long-run. Repairing damaged hair is much more challenging then regularly maintaining healthy hair. But, take heed of our stylists’ tips above and you’ll be well on your way to having strong and healthy hair from the inside out.

And remember, our stylists are always on hand to offer their expert, friendly advice. Pop in to your local salon and they’ll be able to recommend products and treatments that will best repair your hair.

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