Protect Your Hair from Sun, Sea, and Chlorine

Keep your color vibrant and your hair healthy with these tips.

The harsh summer sun is kind to nothing: plants, grass, leather seats, your hair. Indeed, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can be extra harsh on your scalp and hair during the summer months, causing dryness, tenderness, and even sunburns.

But the sun isn’t the only summer hair danger. Pool and ocean water can do a number on your locks, as the chemicals and high-salt content can strip your hair of its natural protective oils. That can leave your hair looking frazzled. It might also cause breakage and split ends.

The good news is, just as you care for your skin in the summer by applying (and reapplying) sun block, you can also protect your scalp and hair against the worst damages the summer can inflict. Here, we break down what you can do every day for protection and what you should do on the occasions you find yourself relaxing in the pool, lake, or ocean.

Condition your hair

Bring your bottle of conditioner—yes, what you use after shampoo—with you to the water. Squeeze a bit in your hand (you won’t need a lot), and work it through your hair from root to tip. The protective silicones in conditioners help to hold moisture in your hair and keep chemicals at bay. 

Apply sunblock to your scalp

If you’re putting SPF 30 on your face, body, hands, and feet, don’t skip your scalp. You likely won’t be able to use the creams or lotions you used on your body, but you can buy special SPF products just for your hair. Some of them even have protective ingredients for your hair and can prevent drying and flakiness. 

Put a cap on it

Short of staying inside all day, the next best thing for your hair and scalp is wearing a hat while you’re outdoors. A wide-brimmed hat is great for protecting all of your face and any ponytail or braids, but a ballcap works well, too. Just be sure to provide extra care to any hair that sticks out from under the cap during your regular hair washing routine.

Don’t wash daily

It’s the summer, and it’s hot—we get it. But one of the worst things you can do for your hair in the summer is wash it daily. Exposure to chlorinated pool and ocean water strips away protective oils, and washing it removes even more. If you can, try to skip washing every other day. Dry shampoo can help hide any greasiness.

Can’t stand the idea of not scrubbing at your scalp in the morning? Just rinse with cool water. Or use a mild shampoo, and don’t wash the ends of the hair. The ends suffer the most damage, with exposure to sun and a lack of moisture, so focus any scrubbing just at your roots.

Say no to hot tools

If it’s hot outside, don’t make things hotter inside with excessive drying, straightening, or curling. Hot tools can damage hair, further compounding the beating it’s taking from sun, pools, and the ocean. And if there’s any time to embrace your natural texture, it’s summer, when the tasseled, beachy hair look is expected, even embraced.

Schedule a post-summer trim

Once you’re back to your routine and out of the pool or ocean for a while, schedule a trim with your stylist. They can help look for and treat damage with an intense moisturizing treatment or recommend conditioning products that can restore your hair’s health and vitality. Plus, they can trim away the end of your hair, which might be looking just a bit frazzled after the summer’s intensity.