You’ve spent all winter protective styling, deep conditioning, applying treatments, and as a result you hopefully have achieved some of your personal hair care and growth goals. Now that summer is here, you will surely want to have some fun in the sun, but without destroying your hair. It is important to adjust your products and diet to protect your hair so you can enter the fall season with healthy, beautiful tresses. Here are my top three tips to help you maintain your mane during the summer!
Tip 1: Use products with UV protection.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. These are classified as UVA, UVB and UVC with UVA being the longest. UVA’s penetrate the atmosphere and play an integral role in premature skin aging, eye damage, and skin cancers. UVA rays account for 95% of the UV radiation we are exposed to; they penetrate the skin deeply and are the dominant ray responsible for darkening skin.
When it comes to your hair, excessive UV radiation results in damage to the cuticle layer, causing protein loss, even more so in color-treated hair. Loss of protein makes the hair less elastic, which leads to breakage and loss of natural moisture and luster.
You’ll want to make sure you cover your strands before spending hours under the sun. Helianthus annuus, or sunflower, is an all-natural UV protectant that acts as an emollient (protective film that prevents moisture loss). Tocopherol, known as Vitamin E, and Buriti, or palm oil, are also examples of ingredients that shield hair from harmful rays.
Another set of protecting ingredients are the methoxy’s – methoxycinnamate, methoxydibenzoylmethane, and methoxydibenzoyl. These are commonly found in sunscreens, lip balms and hair products and act as UVA absorbers to protect against radiation.
Some UV protection products formulated for color-treated hair:
- Matrix Total Results Blonde Care shampoo and conditioner
- Biosilk Color Therapy Lock & Leave-In Treatment
- Nexxus Color Assure Radiant Color Care Conditioner
- It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-In for Blondes
Some products with UV protection for all hair types:
- Ouidad Curl Last Flexible Hold Hairspray
- ApHogee Keratin & Green Tea Restructurizer
- It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-In Product
- Bumble and Bumble UV Protective Polish
- Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil
- Matrix Biolage Color Care Shine Shake Spray
- Phytoplage Protective Sun Oil
- Agave Oil Treatment
Some natural extracts that provide UV protection:
- Aloe vera (apply pure jelly, let it set for 15-20 minutes, rinse with cool water, style as usual)
- Green tea leaf extract (boil tea and use as a rinse)
- Sesame Oil
- Vitamin E
Tip 2: Protect your hair while swimming.
Before you head to the pool or ocean, you should cover your strands with a leave-in conditioner that contains some type of silicone such as dimethicone. Here’s why, silicones create a barrier between your hair and external elements. They will help keep the chemicals used to treat pool water out of your hair shaft. You also want to consider ones that have ingredients from the methoxy- family, as mentioned above, as those products will have UV protection.
It is also a good idea to use a swim cap, especially if you have color-treated hair and plan to submerge your head under water. There are lots of options out there for long or denser hair, and vendors like Dreadscapes make caps for locs and dreds.
Some leave-in conditioners for swimmers (wet your hair first, then apply):
- Macadamia Natural Oil Nourishing Leave-In Cream
- Ouidad Sun Shield Sun & Sport Leave-In Conditioner
- Ion Swimmer’s Leave-In Conditioner
- Aveeno Active Naturals Nourish + Condition Leave-In Treatment
- Mixed Chicks Leave-In Conditioner
If you prefer to avoid silicones, here’s a natural solution for swimmers:
There are natural oils you can use to fill up the hair shaft before swimming. You simply allow water to penetrate your hair for 3-4 minutes, then apply one or two of these penetrating oils from roots to ends:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Argan oil
- Avocado oil
Next, seal your hair with one of these:
- Shea butter
- Mango butter
- Castor oil
- Sunflower oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Jojoba oil
How to prep and recover:
Once you’ve applied your “swimmers” leave-in conditioner or natural oil and sealant, set your hair in a style to protect your ends while in the water (bantu knots, bunning, etc). After you return from swimming, depending on your hair, you may find you need to use a clarifying shampoo on washday. The sun protection factor, or SPF, found in lots of “swimmers” leave-in conditioners can cause build-up on the hair. I would suggest following up the clarifying shampoo with your favorite moisturizing shampoo. And as always, make sure you deep condition with a penetrating, hydrating conditioner after you wash. If your hair is submerged in water for days at a time, try co-washing with a nourishing conditioner and then shampoo after the last time you plan to be in water.
Some clarifying shampoos:
- Ouidad Water Works Clarifying Shampoo
- Fekkai Apple Cider Shampoo
- Ion Color Solutions Clarifying Shampoo
- Pantene Truly Natural Clarifying Shampoo
- Carol’s Daughter Lisa’s Hair Elixir Clarifying Shampoo
- Nothing But Clarifying Shampoo
- Giovanni 50:50 Hydrating-Clarifying Shampoo
- Aubrey Organics Green Tea Clarifying Shampoo
Tip 3: Eat a balanced diet and drink lots of water.
Water is the lifeline to all parts of the body, including your scalp, and is essential to healthy hair and skin. You are more prone to dehydration in the summer months, especially if you live in very dry climates. You need to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day. During the summer, you should try to drink more than that (I consume a gallon a day). If you find yourself struggling with water intake, try adding some of these water-filled foods (90% or more) to your diet:
- Iceberg lettuce
- Red cabbage
- Green peppers
- Baby carrots
You also need to eat as many essential vitamins and nutrients as possible in your meals. Vitamin C helps reduce breakage, iron moves oxygen through the body, Vitamin A helps produce natural oil in your scalp, zinc is responsible for accelerating new skin cells, and biotin helps prevent hair loss. (See more about these in Eat Your Way To Healthier Hair.)
Have frozen Greek yogurt instead of ice cream…swap the popsicles for natural frozen fruit bars…choose grilled meats over fried ones…basically, make smarter choices when it comes to your food and you will be rewarded with healthier skin and hair.
I hope these tips help you make it through the summer without damage from the sun!