Skin cancer is much more common than many people realize. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime.
It’s the most common type of cancer, but it also has one of the most preventable risk factors – sun exposure.
Limiting your time in the sun and wearing sunscreen all over your exposed skin can significantly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
But what about your hair?
Does Hair Protect Your Head From Sun Damage?
Your hair does provide some protection for your scalp, but it’s not enough to completely shield your skin from the sun.
It only appears to absorb the UV rays for a limited amount of time. It also depends on your hair’s length, thickness, and color.
For example, if you have thin or light-colored hair, it won’t provide as much protection as thick or dark hair.
Can Hair Be Damaged by the Sun?
Although hair cannot develop skin cancer, it can be damaged by the sun.
UV rays can damage the structure of the hair shafts and cause your hair to become dry, brittle, and more likely to break. They can also fade or bleach the color of your hair.
These effects are unlikely to be harmful to your health. Damaged hair will simply fall out.
But if you’re concerned about the cosmetic appearance of your hair, you probably want to avoid this.
Protecting Your Hair and Head From Sun Damage
You can put sunscreen in your hair, but it will probably make it very greasy. A better option may be to wear a hat or use an umbrella or head covering.
When choosing a hat, look for one that prevents sunlight from penetrating. Hold it up to the light as a simple rule of thumb and see how much sunlight comes through. A good hat will completely block out the light.
Or find a hat that is specifically designed and labeled for UV protection.
Rather than saturating your hair with sunscreen, focus on the parts where your hair is thinner or doesn’t fully cover your scalp, such as:
- around your hairline
- any balding spots
- your part
- the back of your neck
- around your ears
- facial or body hair
Be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours or more often if you’re sweating or swimming.
Sunburns are not just a cosmetic problem. They’re a sign that your skin has been damaged by the sun, and this can have serious long-term health consequences.
So take the time to protect your skin – and hair – by using a sunscreen every time you are outside.