Can the Sun Damage Your Hair? Science, Prevention & Treatment

Sun exposure is often associated with potential harm to the skin, but did you know that it can also damage your hair?

Prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can negatively impact your hair’s structure, color, and overall health.

In this comprehensive review, we’ll delve into the science behind sun damage, identify the signs of sun-damaged hair, and provide expert tips for prevention and treatment.

Additionally, we’ll compare the top sun protection products for hair, such as UV-filtering hair sprays, protective hair oils, and leave-in conditioners, to help you maintain healthy and radiant locks all year round.

Understanding the science behind sun damage

sun damage directly on hair

The sun emits three types of ultraviolet (UV) rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. While UVC rays are absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and do not reach the ground, UVA and UVB rays can penetrate the skin and hair, causing damage.

UVA rays are primarily responsible for photoaging, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and skin cancer.

In terms of hair, both UVA and UVB rays can weaken the hair’s protein structure, making it more susceptible to damage.

When hair is exposed to the sun, UV rays break down the hair’s protective cuticle layer, which is composed of overlapping scales.

This process exposes the hair’s inner cortex, resulting in a loss of moisture, elasticity, and strength. Additionally, UV rays can cause the pigments in hair color to break down, leading to fading or discoloration.

This is particularly true for chemically treated or dyed hair, which is more vulnerable to sun damage.

What are the signs of sun-damaged hair?

Sun-damaged hair can manifest in several ways, including:

  1. Dryness and brittleness: Hair that feels rough to the touch and is prone to breakage or splitting may be experiencing sun damage.
  2. Fading or discoloration: Prolonged sun exposure can cause hair color to fade or change, particularly in dyed or chemically treated hair.
  3. Loss of elasticity: Sun-damaged hair may lose its natural bounce and become more difficult to manage or style.
  4. Frizziness: Hair that appears frizzy or lacks smoothness could be a sign of sun damage.
  5. Thinning: In extreme cases, sun damage can weaken the hair follicles, leading to hair loss or thinning.

How to prevent and treat sun-damaged hair?

woman hair under the sun

To prevent and treat sun-damaged hair, consider the following expert tips:

  1. Limit sun exposure: Whenever possible, avoid exposing your hair to direct sunlight for extended periods. Seek shade, especially during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
  2. Wear protective headgear: Wearing a hat, beanie, scarf, or head wrap can shield your hair from the sun’s harmful rays.
  3. Use sun protection hair products: Invest in haircare products that offer UV protection, such as UV-filtering hair sprays, protective hair oils, or leave-in conditioners.
  4. Keep hair moisturized: Regularly use deep conditioning treatments or hair masks to maintain hair hydration and health.
  5. Trim damaged ends: Regularly trim your hair to remove any split ends or breakage caused by sun damage.

Top 11 sun protection products for hair

To help you choose the best sun protection products for your hair, we’ve compiled a list of our top picks, along with a comparison table highlighting their main features, benefits, and drawbacks.

We’ve ranked these products based on their effectiveness, ease of use, and value.

RankProduct NameTypeKey IngredientsUV ProtectionNatural IngredientsPrice Range
1Scandinavian Biolabs Hair Protection OilHair OilBio-Pixilin, Aloe Vera, Camellia Seed OilNoYes$39
2Coola Organic Scalp & Hair Mist SPF 30Hair MistAloe vera, sunflower seed oilYesYes$26
3Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair VeilHair MistWintergreen, cinnamon bark oilsYesYes$29
4Sun Bum Protecting Heat ProtectorHeat Protector SprayN/AYesNo$15
5Phytoplage L’Originale Protective Sun OilHair OilN/AYesNo$30
6Paul Mitchell Color Protect Locking SprayLocking SprayN/AYesNo$15
7Sachajuan Hair In The SunStyling CreamOcean Silk TechnologyYesNo$32
8Alterna Haircare Bamboo Beach Summer Sun Recovery SprayLeave-in ConditionerBamboo extract, sunflower seed oilYesYes$22
9Moroccanoil Protect & Prevent SprayHair SprayN/AYesNo$28
10Kerastase Soleil Huile Sirene Hair Oil MistHair Oil MistN/AYesNo$39
11Living Proof Restore Instant Protection SprayHeat Protector SprayN/AYesNo$29

Scandinavian Biolabs Hair Protection Oil:

Hair Protection Oil

Scandinavian Biolabs Hair Protection Oil is a powerful blend of natural ingredients, including Bio-Pixilin, Aloe Vera, and Camellia Seed Oil. This unique formula helps to nourish, hydrate, and strengthen your hair while providing antioxidant protection against environmental stressors.

Although it does not offer direct UV protection, the Hair Protection Oil creates a protective barrier on your hair that helps minimize the harmful effects of sun exposure.

Regular use of this oil will not only enhance your hair’s overall health but can also make it more resistant to sun damage, ensuring that your locks remain soft, radiant, and strong even in the face of harsh sun rays.

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Coola Organic Scalp & Hair Mist SPF 30:

COOLA Scalp & Hair Mist Organic Sunscreen SPF 30

This lightweight, water-resistant mist offers broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection and features a blend of organic ingredients, including aloe vera and sunflower seed oil, to nourish and hydrate the hair.

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Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil:

Sunscreen for Hair: 10 Products That'll Protect Against UV Rays | Veil hairstyles, Aveda, Sun care

This UV-defense mist provides lightweight, water-resistant protection for hair and is formulated with natural ingredients like wintergreen and cinnamon bark oils to help shield hair from the sun’s damaging rays.

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Sun Bum Protecting Heat Protector:

Sun Bum Protecting Heat Protector:

This heat-protecting spray not only shields hair from damage caused by heat styling tools but also offers UV protection to preserve hair color and prevent sun damage.

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Phytoplage L’Originale Protective Sun Oil:

Phytoplage L'Originale Protective Sun Oil:

This luxurious hair oil offers UV protection while adding shine and nourishment to sun-exposed hair. Its lightweight formula is perfect for all hair types.

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Paul Mitchell Color Protect Locking Spray:

Paul Mitchell Color Protect Locking Spray

Designed to protect color-treated hair from fading, this locking spray offers UV protection and helps seal hair color while adding moisture and shine.

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Sachajuan Hair In The Sun:


This leave-in styling cream offers UV protection while providing light hold and shine. Its Ocean Silk Technology helps keep hair moisturized and protected from sun damage.

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Alterna Haircare Bamboo Beach Summer Sun Recovery Spray:

Alterna Bamboo Beach Sun Recovery Leave In Conditioning Spray

This leave-in conditioner spray offers UV protection while helping to repair and revitalize sun-damaged hair with a blend of nourishing ingredients like bamboo extract and sunflower seed oil.

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Moroccanoil Protect & Prevent Spray:

Moroccanoil Color Complete Protect & Prevent Spray


This lightweight spray offers UV protection while helping to prevent color fading and brassiness in color-treated hair. It also provides moisture and detangles hair for easier styling.

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Kerastase Soleil Huile Sirene Hair Oil Mist:

Soleil Huile Sirene Hair Oil Mist

This bi-phase hair oil mist offers UV protection and nourishment for sun-exposed hair. Its unique formula helps to detangle and add shine without weighing hair down.

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Living Proof Restore Instant Protection Spray:

Restore Perfecting Spray - Living Proof

This weightless spray offers heat and UV protection, making it ideal for protecting hair from sun damage and heat styling tools. It also helps to smooth and add shine to hair.

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Sun damage can have detrimental effects on hair health, leading to dryness, brittleness, fading, and loss of elasticity.

By understanding the science behind sun damage and implementing preventative measures, you can protect your hair from the sun’s harmful rays.

In addition, investing in sun protection hair products can offer an added layer of defense against UV damage.

Use our comparison of the top sun protection products for hair to find the best solution for your hair type and needs.

With proper care and protection, you can maintain healthy and radiant locks all year round.

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Dr. Amy Revene M.B.B.S.
Dr. Amy Revene M.B.B.S. graduated from the University of Sharjah. She is currently working as a General Physician at New Hope Medical Center. Amy has a passion for research and offers her expertise and opinions helping people in their quest to lead healthy, happy lives.

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