How to Prevent Scalp Damage from Sun Exposure
Your scalp is the closest part of your body to the sun, but you may not be doing enough to protect it. The harmful UV rays of the sun can cause sunburn, or even worse, skin cancer.
You might believe that too much sun is the reason for hair loss, but that’s a huge misconception. In reality, too much sun exposure can cause your hair follicles to temporarily shut down or clog up, resulting in thinning hair.
Sun exposure doesn’t always result in dry and brittle hair, though it can for some people. It may cause some fading of hair color, but only for those with chemically treated hair.
Whether you have hair or not, protecting your scalp is something you need to do for your overall health. To best care for it, read on to learn more about scalp damage and what you can do to protect yourself.
Understanding Scalp Sun Damage
When there are UV rays beaming onto your hair, they break down the proteins that compose your hair. In a 2008 study, UVB radiation was found to result in damage to the integrity of hair proteins. In turn, this can lead to weaker hair strands that are brittle, break easily, and look dull rather than shiny.
What happens when you’re bald or have exposed patches of scalp? You may find that as you lose more hair, your scalp reveals years of sun exposure. As your hair thins, there is little to shield your scalp from damaging UV rays. If you’re seeing red, flaky patches or have rough textured patches that feel like sandpaper, it is imperative that you see a dermatologist.
These areas could signal precancerous spots, known as actinic keratoses (AKs) that could lead to skin cancer. Your dermatologist will examine your scalp to determine the extent of the damage.
Now that you know how dangerous sun exposure to your scalp can be, you should learn about the best sun protection strategies to keep your scalp healthy and prevent skin cancer.
Sun Protection Strategies
Protecting your hair and scalp from harmful UV rays can be done by putting on a hat before going outdoors. Skip the baseball cap and choose something with a wider brim. You need to shield your ears from the sun as well, and if you’ve lost all your hair, you won’t have anything to provide extra coverage. You can also do this with bandanas or scarves.
If you don’t feel like wearing a hat, apply broad-spectrum sunscreen on your face and the top of your head. It should be SPF 30 or higher to provide the protection you need. There are specialized sunscreens for the hair and scalp for those with more hair. This will protect the hair you still have while also protecting the scalp.
When outdoors, make sure that shade is always accessible. Whether this is through an umbrella at the pool or beach, taking time to go indoors, or moving to a shaded area while playing golf, giving yourself a break from the harsh rays of the sun is great for the scalp. It’s also great for your overall health to limit your exposure to the sun.
Use Healthy Haircare Practices
Preserve the hair that you have by keeping it healthy. Start with a healthy diet that gives you the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants your body needs to keep all of its cells thriving. Nourishing foods like salmon have omega-3 fatty acids that can help boost shine while Greek yogurt can encourage growth. Spinach, sweet potatoes, lean poultry, and iron-rich foods are also great for your hair health.
Drinking plenty of water is also beneficial for your scalp. Hydration works from within to keep your scalp from getting dry and itchy. Your scalp is part of your skin, and while it tends to be covered with hair, it is still a part of your largest organ. When you drink the right amount of water, you can help your scalp health.
Use products that are nourishing for your hair. You’ll want to avoid excessive chemical treatments and choose shampoos and conditioners that don’t have sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, and other chemical agents. Additionally, you should try not to use heated styling methods. If that’s just not possible, make sure you’re using a heat protection spray prior to styling your hair with heated tools.
Tips for Protecting Your Scalp During Outdoor Activities
When it comes to protecting your scalp, you should treat it with the kind of care you provide for your skin. This means taking the right steps to keep it from prolonged sun exposure during the day.
While you may grab a hat or use sunscreen when playing sports, participating in water sports, boating, or while at the beach or pool, you may not think about the sun when it’s cloudy. However, UV rays can penetrate the clouds and can reflect from pavement, water, grass, and snow. Use the right sun protection products on your hair and scalp to help prevent this damage, no matter what the weather is like.
What to Do for a Sunburnt Scalp
A sunburnt scalp can be an incredibly painful experience, but with the right care, you can help it heal. When showering, use cool or tepid water to avoid irritating it further. You should never use shampoo or conditioner with sulfates, especially if you have a sunburn. Sulfates can dry out your scalp and cause it to feel more irritated. Dimethicone is another problematic ingredient that can block your pores and cause more extensive damage to your scalp.
Let your hair dry naturally and try using aloe vera gel on the sunburned areas of your head and scalp. This natural ingredient will soothe your scalp while promoting healing. Keep drinking water to hydrate your scalp and your whole body, and keep your head covered with a hat until the sunburn heals.
The Importance of Regular Checkups with Dermatologists
In Fort Lauderdale where the sunlight is bright and everyone wants to soak up the beautiful days of sunshine, it’s even more important to have yearly checkups with a dermatologist. They’ll check your skin from head to toe and can detect early warning signs to prevent serious issues from arising. If you feel pain, irritation, or you notice redness and unusual growths on your scalp, it is imperative to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
If you need to have a cancerous or benign growth removed from your scalp, it may result in a scar. When you have thinning hair or fully exposed portions of your scalp, you may worry about the visibility of that scar. The good news is that once it has healed, you can get scalp micropigmentation (SMP) to effortlessly cover the scars. It creates the look of real hair and is an effective way to restore your confidence.
Ultimately, protecting your scalp from the start is the best way to prevent scalp sun damage. Now that you know, make sure you’re following these tips to keep your hair and scalp healthy.