How to save your hair from the sun

Coconut oil can be used to deep condition hair.
Coconut oil can be used to deep condition hair. Fotolia

I read too much. What’s worse, I read, absorb knowledge and then attempt to impress upon my kids the all-important info I have just learned. Occasionally it works. Actually, a more accurate way to phrase that sentiment would be, “This one time, it worked.”

Last weekend as our family spent the weekend on the pool deck participating in or, conversely, watching, a multitude of water polo games, I was told — when I gently-yet-persistently reminded everyone of the importance of reapplying sunscreen — on innumerable occasions, “OHMYGAWD MOM! Just because you read a book about sunscreen doesn’t mean you’re an expert!” While I would never reveal the name of the sassy 12-year-old that bleated that to me at LEAST a hundred-million-billion times (Sydney), I will share my cool, composed (expurgated) response:

1) I never said I read a book; what I read was a series of articles whose sources include the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Academy of Dermatology, the Library of Congress, the Centers for Disease Control and WebMD (naturally).

2) I do not claim to be an expert; I do, however, claim to be unwaveringly awesome and unfailingly humble.

And I stand by both my sources AND my persistent reminders, as we all survived the weekend sunburn-free.

But, I will say that as I delved into my studies regarding the importance of sunscreen and the proper mode of selecting that skin-saving salve, I also learned a smidgeon about the sun damage of hair. This smidgeon is important in my world, as my aforementioned sassy 12-year-old has naturally gorgeous, wavy, golden mid-back length locks that the average person (meaning me) would kill or die for. And while she treats her hair with zero regard, I sit squeamishly on the sidelines and watch as her blonde tresses slowly dry out and assume all the silkiness of a Brillo pad, thinking, “Eventually it’s just going to break off and she’s really going to regret baldness.”

That’s not accurate. I doubt she would even notice baldness, let alone care. But since she has the hair I’ve always wanted, doesn’t she owe it to me to keep it healthy? Of course she does.

Hair, like skin, can be damaged by UV-A and UV-B rays. Want hair that’s strong and long — or just plain healthy?

▪  Save your scalp: Funny to think about, but where does hair come from? Your scalp. That skin on the top of your head is the same skin all over your body, and requires the same level of sun protection. Remember to apply sunscreen to your scalp. Your best bet? Wear a hat when in the sun for an extended period of time.

▪  Protect your tresses: Beauty stores carry leave-in conditioners and hair sprays that offer your hair UV protection. Be sure to spritz some on before heading outside or into the pool. Speaking of the pool …

▪  Wear a cap: Plan on diving into a nice cool, chlorine-soaked pool? Be aware of all that came before you, and all the chemicals used to kill things that still might be lurking. If you want to save your dye-job, consider putting on a swim cap before jumping in.

▪  Avoid sun-activated lighters: The sun can naturally bleach color out of hair, but leaves dry, brittle and damaged strands in its wake. Using lemon juice, peroxides or sun-activated hair lighteners simply speeds up the sun-damaging process. Instead of lighter hair, you have lighter, drier and more brittle hair.

▪  Eat right: Ugh, that whole you-are-what-you-eat thing is super annoying, especially if all you eat are sour cream and onion Pringles. So if you want to keep your hair healthy, know that getting enough protein and iron is vital to hair health.

ALREADY DRY? Is your hair already dry and brittle? Consider deep conditioning it with coconut oil. Simply apply the coconut oil onto damp hair. Cover your head with a shower cap, and let the oil soak in for a few hours (or even overnight). The cap generates heat, which allows the oil to penetrate the hair. The oil moisturizes and strengthens the hair. Wash out the oil with shampoo and condition as usual.