Derm School: Sun damage to your hair and scalp

As we step into Autumn many people notice that their hair isn’t looking or feeling it’s best. Dr Ophelia Veraitch explains why…


‘Sunlight increases Vitamin D in the body which we know is important in helping hair growth and maintenance. These days with everyone being so careful about sun protection, it is relatively common for people to have vitamin D deficiency.
 
However, overexposure to the sun/UV radiation (particularly with age when the hair thins and doesn’t protect the scalp as much) can lead to burning of the scalp. Prolonged sun damage over a number of years can also result in sun related pre-cancerous or skin cancers (such as actinic keratoses, bowen’s disease, basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, melanomas…)

How sunlight affects hair

‘Sunlight can weaken your hair by affecting the hair pigments and proteins. It can trigger hair protein loss as well as degradation of hair pigment. Once UV radiation is absorbed into the hair a photochemical breakdown occurs which produces free radicals which negatively affect the hair cuticle and the protein in the hair (keratin).
 
Exposure to sun can alter hair proteins in the hair shaft. It damages hair lipids causing hair to become dry and dull. Sunlight/UV rays damage the protein that creates the elasticity in the hair. Also, colour-treated hair can become brittle and frizzy after prolonged exposure to the sun.
 
Your hair shafts are non-living cells and so they’re unlike skin cells in that they don’t require protection from carcinogenesis caused by UV radiation. So, whilst UV rays can cause cancer in the skin, it can’t do the same in the hair.
 
The sun increases Vitamin D in the body which can encourage hair growth, however it also damages hair lipids which can cause hair to appear dull and dry. If hair is coloured it can also appear frizzy.’
 
High temperatures affect hair and scalp

‘High summer temperatures can affect the hair and scalp as well as UV rays. High temperatures can result in an oil and sweat build up which can manifest as dandruff, greasy hair and folliculitis.’
 
How to rejuvenate hair after this autumn
 
‘The key to breathing life back into the hair if it’s dry, damaged and brittle as a result of sun exposure is choosing the right products to do this. Mediterranean and Asian cultures use a lot of hair oil which acts as a good emollient for the hair shaft, helping to lock in moisture and protect the shaft from further damage.
 
In western society its exceedingly rare to have vitamin deficiencies that cause hair loss or thinning. However, to optimise luscious and beautiful looking hair there are specific vitamins that we know need to be introduced in relatively high levels for the optimal maintenance of hair growth (Dr. Ophelia Hair Vitamins).
 
Hair tonics (such as Dr Ophelia Hair Growth Elixirs) contain ingredients which can help promote hair growth. For example, melatonin the sleep hormone isn't just to regulate the circadian rhythms, it is a great antioxidant synthesised in hair follicles. Melatonin has long been given to Cashmere goats to promote the yield of wool! This has led to the development of topical melatonin.’
 
If you think you have scalp inflammation or are losing hair/ noticing thinning, you might have a medical cause for your hair problem and it’s worth making an appointment to see Dr. Ophelia Veraitch in her clinic for a thorough assessment and management plan.
 
How to protect hair and scalp in future

‘Fortunately, there are now a number of products available that can be applied to the hair and scalp that contain SPF in order to protect the hair and scalp from sun damage in the future. These usually come in the form of a spray which allows for easy application.’
 
‘But the best protection for hair and scalp is to wear a hat or use a sun umbrella when out and about’.
 
Should we be careful all year around or just in summer?
 
‘The hair and scalp can experience sun damage all year around. Whilst it primarily occurs in the summer months, just as the sun’s UV rays can damage our skin all year, the same can be said for our hair and scalp.  UV rays can damage the skin every day of the year, even during winter. They even travel through the windows! So, it’s important to take measures to protect
this area just as you would the skin on your face for example.’

 

If you are suffering from a hair condition and need support from an award-winning and highly respected Consultant Dermatologist, book an appointment today at Dr Veraitch's London Clinic.

Shop the full Dr. Ophelia hair care range here.

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