Summer is here, and with it the desire to throw ourselves into that delicious outdoor living. Heck, we might even be able to travel again—fingers crossed—and enjoy that beach life, lounge by the pool, or tour exciting, vibrant cities across the globe. Now, summer is an awesome time thanks to longer days and warm temperatures, but because of global warming, it also is a time of extreme weather conditions and potentially dangerous UV ray potency. Sunlight is lovely on the face, but sadly it also happens to be a carcinogenic and leading cause for premature aging of our skin.
We’ve all learned by now to keep applying and reapplying that sunscreen diligently, especially if we’re outdoors a lot, but what about our hair and scalp? Intense sunlight during the summer can severely harm the structure of our hair, and our scalp needs protection and care just as much as any other part of our body. Yet, we often neglect to make sure our hair is as protected as our face. If you add time spent in the water—be it chlorinated pool water or the ocean—to those summer joys, then what you end up with very likely is a stressed-out, dry, and frizzy mess. Luckily, there are ways to take care of your hair and scalp during summer, both preventative measures as well as after-sun soothers that can de-stress and protect your locks during your hopefully sun- and joy-filled summer.
We’ve all learned to apply sunscreen diligently, but what about our hair and scalp? Sunlight can harm our hair, and our scalp needs protection just as much as our body.
Try these five tips to care for your hair and scalp this summer!
1. Cover Up as Much as Possible
If the recent sunscreen scandals have shown us anything it is certainly the fact that we shouldn’t rely too much on sunscreen alone. SPF ratings aren’t always as reliable as they should be, and all any sunscreen can do is just prevent the worst of the damage from happening—it can never fully shield you from the harmful forces of those UVA and UVB rays. Clothing with UV protection is a great way to still enjoy the outdoors without being fully exposed, and a vital piece of that clothing should be a hat to cover up your hair and scalp. Our scalps can burn easily, given that sunlight hits it at a direct angle and the fact that we tend to have very sun-sensitive skin underneath our hair.
A number of brands have started to develop sunscreens specifically for the scalp, and if you are outside a lot, I would advise applying those even if you wear a hat. If you are planning on pool or beach time, remember to choose water-resistant products and reapply them after every swim.
As for the hair, covering it up with a hat or even a scarf can also prevent frizz and potential breakage from UV ray damage. If you have color-treated hair, this is even more important, since sunlight can bleach out hair in a way that may turn your color into a dull or even discolored mess. Consider also adding a UV protective spray, hair oil or foam, preferably with built-in UV protection.
2. Choose the Right Shampoo
Your hair needs different care products during summer, since the constant heat and humidity will make it less tolerant of harsh surfactants or an overload of product. Choosing the right shampoo is a vital part of any summer and/or vacation hair routine, and it should cater to your specific needs as best as possible. For instance, if you plan to have extensive pool time, you should consider splurging on a shampoo developed specifically for chlorine removal, while swimming in the ocean will mean you need a gentle after-sun shampoo that can also help replenish hair dried out from that combo of sunlight and sea salt. Sweat and sunscreen residue may also cause scalp issues, so a deep-cleansing shampoo once a week is another great way to de-stress and reset your hair.
As a general rule, your summer shampoo should be sulfate-free and formulated with nourishing ingredients such as wheat protein, oat kernel extract, or coconut oil. Pair it with a gentle, rich conditioner that is alcohol-free and packed with hair smoothing and repairing goodies such as keratin, biotin, and plant-based butters. If you have very thick, curly hair, you might consider a leave-in treatment to prevent hair damage when swimming or staying out in the sun for a long time.
3. Use a Scalp Treatment
Your scalp has to deal with so much during summer. Just like the skin on our face and body, heat plus humidity cause it to get extra sweaty and easily inflamed, and salt or chlorine water can make it dry and flaky. A weekly chelating treatment can be really beneficial to support scalp health, especially during summer, though only do this if your scalp isn’t already sun damaged or inflamed! Many brands now offer these types of treatments, which usually contain salicylic acid or other chemical peeling solutions. You apply them to your scalp before washing and wait for about 10 minutes, then rinse them out with the washing process. The acids loosen dead skin cells and get rid of any buildup on your scalp, revealing healthier skin and thus also healthier hair roots. I started cleansing my scalp this way a few months ago and can really notice my hair being much happier!
You can also do a scalp massage using either coconut, jojoba, or castor oil! Before washing your hair, dispense about a tablespoon or more on your fingertips and then massage your scalp with the oil, making sure to cover the entire area. This sometimes takes a bit of practice especially if your hair is thick and long, but don’t worry if you need more oil than expected, you can wash it all out after the massage. Experiment with the pressure you feel comfortable with—ideally, you should really get in there with your fingers, to get out all the flaky buildup and dander trapped in your roots. Wash your hair after, preferably twice, to really get out all the gunk you just loosened with the massage.
4. Avoid Extra Hair Stressors
Summer is pure stress for your hair and scalp, so avoiding extra stressors as much as possible is a good idea. Heat is very damaging to your hair even when it’s healthy and happy, so while on vacation I’d personally consider leaving those flat irons and curling wands at home. Try to air dry your hair as much as possible, and only brush it when absolutely necessary. Brushing wet hair can be particularly damaging and encourage early hair breakage, so choose a professional detangling comb or brush that treats your locks gently.
Tight hairstyles such as braids (protective styles of course excluded!) or very tight buns can also damage (non-Black) hair, so opt for looser updos, soft braids, or simple ponytails. Your hair ties should ideally be made from soft fabrics such as silk or velvet, so as to not cause breakage. You can also use a styling cream or spray specifically formulated to give air-dried hair some texture and extra body—for summer, a sea salt or sugar spray is great for that beach wave style.
5. Remember That After-Sun Care
It is so tempting to just jump into relaxation or party mode after a day at the beach, but if you want to keep your hair healthy, make sure to take good care of it straight after coming back home (or to your hotel/Airbnb). I know it can be less than ideal to wash your hair every day, but consider at least rinsing out any excess product and pool or ocean water. In fact, it is best to do that while still at the beach or resort if there are showers available! Condition your hair either after washing or rinsing it, or if you have curly/natural hair and prefer not to wash it, use a hair butter or similar leave-in treatment.
You can also try one of the many overnight hair masks and treatments available to replenish stressed out tresses overnight. Or if you want to DIY it, try using coconut oil as a simple night hair mask: Lightly heat up about a teaspoon to tablespoon of coconut oil depending on hair length and thickness, massage it into dry hair, and rest your head on a towel while sleeping. Wash your hair the next day and condition as usual—your hair will look and feel amazingly soft. Indian women have been oiling their hair for centuries, and it’s served them well in hot climates!
How do you care for your hair and scalp in the summer? Share your tips below!