I didn't always used to carry a parasol, you know.
When I was little, even as a mostly an indoor child, I knew what month of summer it was by checking the color of my hair. During those hot days spent at summer camp, my hair faded from black to a deep auburn. For indoor adults, the summer daycare phenomenon is less prominent, but the sun still affects our coloration! Our skin gets darker, our hair gets lighter, and we adjust the contrast settings on our favorite Instagram filters accordingly.
The question remains: is sunbleaching BAD for you?
The short answer? Yes. The longer answer, as always, is that it depends.
Hair lightening by natural means isn't necessarily a bad thing, but remember that ALL bleaching is a result of literal chemical changes that can come with unwanted side effects. As with our skin, the sun's rays are as damaging as our individual exposure and genetics lets them be. A week's trip to a sunnier locale won't have much of an effect unless you're already dealing with extensive damage, but if you often work and play outside, your sunkissed summer hair may be at risk for dryness and breakage.
In addition to monitoring your time spent in the sun, look at how densely your hair is packed, as well as the width of each hair shaft. If you have a head of fine cornsilk curls and an easy-to-see scalp, consider wearing a hat in the great outdoors, and step up your routine with daily moisture-refreshing sessions. If your hair is longer and thicker, you might not need or even FIT into a hat. However, you should still lay down some sun protection outside and add to your conditioning routine. All hair types should consider an oil pre-poo with a good intense massage to keep your scalp calm and soft without weighing down your curls.
So should you wear sunscreen on your head?
Negative, unless you're rocking an undercut, a fade, or a buzz. With these haircuts, your hair's short length might mean that giving it a once-over with some SPF would serve you well. Find a sunblock that works for you and give your curls a spray before you go out and soak in those rays.
For those of us rocking an all-over TWA or longer, it's not necessary, practical, or appealing in any way to put skin protectants on our hair. But there ARE products made to help us out. Sprays rich in anti-oxidant oils, like Briogeo's Roscaro Oil, and Alikay Naturals' Wake Me Up Curl Refresher can help you take a natural approach to sun protection. And for ingredients similar to commercial sunscreen without the goopy texture, try Cantu's Anti-Fade Oil or Creme of Nature's Shine Mist. The lineup of hard-to-pronounce ingredients might seem more intimidating than other more natural routes, but with elements specifically designed to protect against harmful UV rays, definitely consider all options!
Okay, but is all of this REALLY necessary?
Yes. 100%. Even if you come from a long line of sun-loving people, remember that our ancestors weren't dealing as much sun damage from the depleting ozone layer as we are. Beyond that, older generations protected their hair more than we tend give them credit for. The beauty industry didn't just pop up in the 20s - different cultures have been perfecting their skin and hair care methods for centuries. Now, we get the full benefit of their trial and error.
So as always, stay protected, stay hydrated, and enjoy your new color!
How do you like to protect your curls in the summer months? Let us know in the comments below.