Buying sunscreen to protect your skin is something everyone’s done. But have you ever thought about how to protect your hair against the sun’s harmful UV radiation?
Honestly, I hadn’t really thought too much about protecting my hair against the sun. I mean, my hair is protecting my scalp so that’s great. And if I ever felt especially hot, I had always just thrown on a stylish sun hat! But as it turns out, your hair actually is vulnerable to sun damage when you’re not wearing a hat.
So it’s time to think about how you sufficiently protect your hair from the sun!
First, let’s clear something up. The damage caused to your hair by the sun is not as serious as the damage caused to your skin. However, the sun’s damage to your hair will affect its appearance and quality in the short term.
When UV rays penetrate the hair’s outermost protective layer (the cuticle), free radicals are created. Free radicals are a type of highly reactive molecule that cause different types of damage to your hair like color changes (like a surfer’s sun-bleached blonde) and structural damage.
In order to fully protect your hair against the sun, just in case you aren’t wearing a hat, you need to use sunscreen! Wondering if there are specific sunscreens for hair? So was I. so I did a lot of research about it and learned some interesting things.
Here’s the thing: there are sun protection products that are made specifically for hair. You may have even seen them in stores while shopping for your regular sunscreen. But I do not recommend using these sun protection products made specifically for hair. This is because I found out that the majority of them have a lot of extra chemicals in them, and often do not offer sufficient broad-spectrum protection.
But don’t worry. There is a simple solution! The best way to protect your hair against sun damage is to use a regular sunscreen designed for babies or sensitive skin and to mix it with water. Ingenious, right? You just make the mixture and then apply to your hair the same way you would apply a hair gel or mousse. A clever solution that will properly protect your hair against damage from the sun’s UV rays!
If you have red hair and are looking for specific protection for photosensitive skin, check out the SimplySunSafe guide to redhead sunscreen.
After extensive research into which sunscreens are the most suitable for use in hair, SimplySunSafe recommends thinkbaby Sunscreen SPF 50+ as the best sunscreen for hair. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for your hair.
To make sure that your hair is sufficiently protected against the sun’s harmful UV rays, avoiding the damage this causes, there are a few must-have features that you should look for in a sunscreen.
Anytime you’re buying a sunscreen for any purpose, you should always make sure that it is broad-spectrum. This means that the sunscreen protects against both types of harmful UV rays from the sun, UVA, and UVB.
It is essential that you protect against both types of rays because they work in different ways. UVB rays cause your skin to burn and tan by damaging the outer layer. On the other hand, UVA rays penetrate the dermis (your skin’s deepest layer) and cause premature aging. Exposure to both types of rays increases your risk of getting skin cancer.
But how do the different types of UV rays affect your hair, you ask?
Well, UVA rays damage the pigment of your hair and cause changes in color. UVB rays are more harmful to your hair as they cause structural damage when the free radicals attack the hair’s proteins, specifically keratin. So you see, you want to make sure that your hair is protected from both types of UV rays, and for that, you need a broad-spectrum sunscreen!
Not sure how you will know if the sunscreen you want to buy offers broad-spectrum protection?
There are two really simple ways to be sure: check the sunscreen’s label and its ingredients list. Many sunscreen bottles will have the words ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘UVA/B’ on the label. If you’re not sure from the label, you can check the ingredients list for an ingredient called zinc oxide. Sunscreens with zinc oxide are always a safe option because they protect against the full range of UVA/B rays!
Most sunscreens you will come across are broad-spectrum, as the FDA has made this type of protection a requirement. But it never hurts to double-check to be sure when searching for the best sunscreen for your hair!
Best SPF for hair
How often do you base your choice of sunscreen on the Sun Protection Factor (SPF)?
For most people, SPF is the most important feature they look for in sunscreen. It’s so important, but most people don’t really understand what it means. It seems to be one of those things that we know is important, but we’re not 100% on the definition. Knowing what it means and how it works will change the way you search for sunscreen!
A sunscreen’s SPF rating tells us what fraction of the sun’s rays will reach your hair when you are wearing the sunscreen after having applied it properly. For example, if you are wearing a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30, then 1/30th of the sun’s rays will reach your hair. This explains why you’re able to stay in the sun longer when you wear sunscreen. But be careful not to oversimplify the meaning!
Just because you are wearing a sunscreen with SPF 30 does not mean that you can stay in the sun 30 times longer than if you did not have sunscreen on! There are a lot of different factors that determine the effectiveness of SPF, including the time of day, the amount of properly applied sunscreen, and even the reflections from surfaces such as sand and water.
Look at this table below. It will help you to better understand how much protection different SPF ratings provide you with:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
Are you surprised by what you see? Really, there is not much difference between a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 and one with SPF 100. SimplySunSafe recommends that you always wear a sunscreen with an SPF rating no lower than 30 and no higher than 50. This recommendation is the same as the FDA’s.
Don’t think that this level of protection is too high for your hair. The reason you will be using sunscreen in your hair is to protect it from potential damage from the sun’s UV rays. So you need to make sure you provide your hair sun protection equally as sufficient as you give to your skin!
Physical is better than chemical
All sunscreens can be divided into two categories – physical and chemical.
What are the real differences? They lie in the active ingredients and in the way they work to protect your skin and hair against the sun’s harmful UV rays. Physical sunscreens work by reflecting the UV rays before they even reach your skin. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays as they reach your skin.
SimplySunSafe recommends physical or combination sunscreens over chemical ones for a few very important reasons. This is because physical sunscreens:
- Stop more light reaching your hair
- Protect against more to the UV spectrum
- Work immediately upon application
- Last longer
- Are less likely to cause scalp irritation
- Have a longer shelf life
There are also reasons not to choose and use chemical sunscreens.
One of the most important reasons is that chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that are called endocrine disruptors. Sounds a bit scary, right? It is.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mess with your hormones. That is something that you simply do not want! Be sure to always check your sunscreen’s ingredients list for the worst endocrine disruptor, oxybenzone, and avoid it at all costs!
Some other important keywords that you can search for when checking out sunscreens are ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’. If you find these somewhere on the label you know you’re getting a physical sunscreen! If you can’t find these, you can instead check the active ingredients for zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide – the two physical sunscreens.
When you put sunscreen in your hair, some things that could affect its ability to work are sweat, oils from your hair, and any activities you do in the water. That is why you want to be sure to use a water-resistant sunscreen to protect your hair.
If your hair is color-treated then it is even more likely to be damaged by the sun’s UV rays! This means the best sunscreen for color-treated hair is going to a water-resistant one to ensure it doesn’t melt away at the first sign of oils, sweat, or water!
Sunscreens are sold as water resistant for 40 or 80 minutes. If you can, you should look for a sunscreen that is water-resistant for 80 minutes. That way you will be able to enjoy yourself longer without having to worry about reapplying your hair’s sunscreen.
One thing to keep in mind while searching for sunscreen for your hair is that ‘sweatproof’ or ‘waterproof’ sunscreens do not exist. Stay alert and make sure not to be fooled by false advertising! Just find a sunscreen with 80 minutes of water resistance, and remember to reapply it at least every two hours, or after getting your hair wet!
Designed for babies or sensitive skin
The best option for sun protection for hair is to use a regular sunscreen and mix it with water before applying it. But what kind of sunscreen is safe for your hair? Your hair is not the same as your skin and is not built to handle the same types of ingredients. That is why you want to use a gentle sunscreen on your hair.
The best way to ensure that the sunscreen you’re using on your hair is gentle enough and will not cause dryness or damage is to search for one that is specially designed for sensitive skin or for babies. These formulas are generally the safest and gentlest.
Suitable for daily use
You want to find a sunscreen that you will be able to use in your hair on a daily basis. Think about the amount of sun that your hair sees during the summertime. If you are not protecting your hair against the summer sun’s harmful UV rays every day, then it will be damaged!
How can you know if a sunscreen designed for skin will be suitable use for daily use in your hair? Think about what I said before about searching for baby and sensitive skin sunscreens. You want to find a sunscreen that would not cause irritation to your skin. If it wouldn’t cause irritation to your skin, then it likely will not lead to dryness or damage of your hair.
The products I have recommended here have been carefully reviewed, and you can be sure that they will be gentle enough for daily use on your hair while still being effective in protecting it against damage from the sun’s UV rays.
Best Sunscreen for Hair Comparison
|Thinkbaby Sunscreen||Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen||Coppertone defend& Care||California Baby Super Sensitive||Block Island Organic|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10%) Octisalate (4.5% )||Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10%) Octisalate (4.5%)||Titanium Dioxide (12%)||Zinc Oxide (22%)|
|Water resistance||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes|
|Price||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon|
5 Best Sunscreens for Hair
After thorough research into what is required to protect hair against the sun’s UV rays, which included discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for hair. Each product provides broad-spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, is water-resistant, and gentle enough for daily use in your hair.
1. thinkbaby Sunscreen SPF 50+
- SAFE, NATURAL PROTECTION: Thinkbaby sunscreen provides effective SPF 50+ sun protection for babies. The broad spectrum UVA & UVB baby sunblock is suitable for daily use on infants’ sensitive skin, offering gentle defense against the sun’s rays.
- EASY APPLICATION: The hydrating sun cream is quick and easy to apply to even the most active babies, and protection begins instantly. The fast absorbing kids sun lotion won’t leave skin feeling oily or sticky, and has no unpleasant chemical scent.
- CLEAN MINERAL FORMULA: The first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods Premium Care requirements, Thinkbaby vegan, Leaping Bunny certified sun creams contain no PABA, parabens, phthalates, BPA, oxybenzone, avobenzone, petroleum, gluten, dairy, or toxic chemicals.
- WATER RESISTANT: Your baby can splash, swim and play in the water safely. Our children’s sun cream provides the highest water resistance per the FDA, offering babies continuous protection for up to 80 minutes in the pool or sea before the sunscreen should be re-applied.
- REEF FRIENDLY: Safe for babies, and safe for the earth. Produced in the USA, our sunscreen’s active ingredient is non-nano Zinc Oxide, and the formula is highly biodegradable, non toxic and does not contain any known chemicals harmful to coral reefs.
Last update on 2023-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Thinkbaby Sunscreen SPF 50+ is SimplySunSafe’s winner for best sunscreen for hair! This sunscreen provides broad-spectrum protection through its active ingredient zinc oxide (20%). It is the perfect option as a sunscreen for your hair because it is extremely effective yet also gentle.
Thinkbaby Sunscreen’s formula is great for hair because it will not cause dryness or damage. It is paraben, gluten, phthalate, and PABA free. As a bonus, it’s also free from strong fragrances. This means its slight natural scent won’t be annoying (not as a strong chemical sunscreen) when applied to your hair.
One of the best things about this formula is that it is light and creamy. It is very easy to apply and leaves hardly any white cast when rubbed in properly. This is a really important feature for a sunscreen for your hair. Yes, you will mix the sunscreen with water, but you want to be sure that the formula itself is not too thick or chalky to rub in well so that your hair doesn’t end up oily or greasy.
This sunscreen provides the highest level of water resistance (80 minutes) which is just what you want to ensure that your hair is properly protected for as long as possible. In the sunscreen’s formula are also some ingredients including sunflower oil and jojoba oil which help to make your hair softer and smoother. That’s a great plus!
Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen is very reasonably priced (especially if you opt for the 6-ounce version), and an overall excellent option for protecting your hair against potential damage from the sun’s UV rays!
On top of all this, thinkbaby’s sport version (thinksport) is the SimplySunSafe choice for best sunscreen for bald head and sunscreen for the neck. This product really does have all bases covered!
- A high concentration of zinc oxide (20%)
- Very water-resistant (80 minutes)
- Gentle enough for daily use
- Won’t leave hair oily or greasy
- Extra ingredients that promote hair health
- A slightly noticeable natural smell
2. Supergoop! Everyday SPF 50 with sunflower extract
- Non-comedogenic, avobenzone based formula easily absorbs into the skin allowing skin to breathe and sweat
- Replenishes moisture through a unique beta-glucan proven to deliver better long term moisturization than hyaluronic acid
- Natural extracts of citrus, basil and Boise de rose provide a subtle sensorial experience with no unpleasant “sunscreen” smell
Last update on 2023-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
This is a lotion formulated for the face and body that defends the skin from photoaging and dehydration. A broad-spectrum block sunscreen produced from an array of natural ingredients that are effective in protecting the skin and hair. The product is infused with Sunflower extract that is rich in beta carotene that serves as a shield, Rosemary leaf extract that has a calming effect on the scalp and skin and is rich in antioxidants and Rice bran extract which are soothing agent that helps protect from UVA and UVB -induced damage on the skin and hair.
Its non-comedogenic properties ensure that it does not clog the skin and scalp. It is kid-friendly and it does not irritate the skin. It is fast-absorbing, water-resistant, lightweight and hydrates the body. This product is super easy to use and It can be used on the entire body and as an everyday lotion. It is non-sticky and has a fine texture.
In addition, it has a pleasant smell of natural extracts of citrus, basil, and Bois de rose that doesn’t leave you unnecessarily self-conscious. In spite of the brilliant plaudits, this product is commonly ripped off. Fakers have found an unlikely favorite in it!
- Great for sensitive skin and thin hair
- Does not irritate or clog the skin
- Water-resistant for 80 minutes
- Contains no Zinc Oxide
- A lot of rip off products exist
3. Coppertone Defend & Care UltraHydrate Whipped Sunscreen Lotion SPF50
- Stops up to 98% of damaging UV rays Defend your skin against the sun's rays with this sunscreen that helps maintain vibrant, healthy-looking skin
- Nourish your skin with antioxidant, Vitamin E, and moisturize with an ultra-hydrating formula in a whipped lotion that absorbs quickly, leaving skin feeling soft and smooth
- Keep your pores clear and avoid breakouts with this specially-designed face sunscreen that delivers broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection and is water resistant (80 minutes)
- Apply whenever your day takes you outside, on your morning commute, running errands, or spending a day at the beach with friends and family
- This pack includes one 5-ounce SPF 50 sunscreen lotion bottle
Last update on 2023-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
This broad-spectrum sunscreen is designed to repel the harmful UVA and UVB rays while retaining the moisture of the body, leaving your skin supple. This moisture-retaining property and breathability of this sunscreen make it a reliable facilitator of hair growth and scalp care. The moisture ensures that the scalp is not irritated and hair growth is uninterrupted. For balding people, the product nourishes your skin with antioxidants and Vitamin E nourishes the hair roots and without causing unnecessary hair loss.
When used on the ordinary skin, it moisturizes and absorbs quickly, leaving skin feeling soft and smooth. This sunscreen is especially suitable for facial hair. One does not need to get a separate product for the head, beard, and limbs and it works just as well for the skin. Its whipped formula ensures that it does not feel heavy on the skin and it sinks fast into the dermis.
One let down of the sunscreen is that it feels greasy on the skin and it leaves white streaks on clothing. This makes it a difficult product to defend despite its amazing properties!
- Water-resistant for 80 minutes
- Lightweight and easy to use
- The aerosol bottle allows for easy dispensing
- Good for the face and skin
- It is greasy
- it leaves a white streak on clothing
4. California Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30+ Sunscreen
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California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen is a favorite here at SimplySunSafe, and here it is yet again for another sun protection purpose! This sunscreen provides broad-spectrum protection through its active ingredient titanium dioxide (12%).
It is an extremely gentle sunscreen that will provide sun protection for your hair without negative effects on your hair’s quality!
The formula is hypoallergenic, PABA-free, and fragrance-free. It will not cause any skin irritation whatsoever, and therefore will not cause damage to your hair.
California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen provides 80 minutes of water resistance that allows you to go about your day-to-day activities in the sun. Not that the formula may melt if you are heavily sweating, and that this means you’ll likely have to reapply it a bit more often.
The formula is a bit thick so you will need to make sure you mix it well with water before applying it to your hair. Spend time working it in like mousse to ensure that you don’t end up with any visible residue or clumping hair.
California Baby Super Sensitive is a little pricey but will provide you with effective sun protection for your hair. It is certainly worth testing out to see if it could work as your hair’s sunscreen!
- Water-resistant (80 minutes)
- Extremely gentle, will not leave your hair dry or damaged
- Great for daily use
- A bit pricey
- May melt and run with excessive sweating and/or water activity
- No zinc oxide
5. Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF30
- AWARD WINNING & MADE IN THE USA - Top Rated 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, & 2015 Best Beach & Sport Sunscreen (Environmental Working Group – EWG, Skin-Deep)
- NATURAL & ORGANIC - Reef safe mineral sunblock - NON-NANO ZINC only (safest UV filter). Non-irritating physical sunscreen - no chemical UV filters - for men, women, children and toddlers
- LIGHTWEIGHT APPLICATION - Non-oily, non-greasy, fast drying. Apply in small dollops and spread quickly. Perfect for the face and body. Great for all skin types including sensitive skin. Gentle and safe for adults, teens, kids and babies
- NON-TOXIC & CRUELTY FREE - Non-irritating, gluten free and no harsh chemicals, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, dyes, or artificial fragrance. Vegan, not tested on animals and eco-friendly
- EFFECTIVE ANTI-AGING - Daily SPF 30 & broad spectrum ultra violet UVA UVB protection decreases skin aging and risk of skin cancer. Suncare packed with antioxidants like vitamin E and botanical ingredients
Last update on 2023-05-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
You deserve a product that leaves you unbothered about your hair and this product guarantees that. It can be used anywhere, by anybody and at any time. The SPF 30 & broad-spectrum ultraviolet provides UVA and UVB protection, reduces skin aging and the risk of skin cancer. It contains non-nano zinc that enables it to protect your scalp and hair. It is well infused with antioxidants like Vitamin E and other natural botanical ingredients such as green tea, shea butter, coconut, and aloe, eucalyptus, and jojoba that leaves the best of mother nature working her magic on your hair and body. It is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
It’s a non-greasy, non-oily, lightweight product that ensures ease of application. Apply it in small quantities and spread quickly. It is excellent for all hair types and sensitive skin. The Block Island organic sunscreen is non-toxic and does not irritate the skin, it contains no gluten, harsh chemicals, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, dyes or artificial fragrance and it is suitable for all ages. It is also entirely eco-friendly and reef safe containing no oxybenzone or octinoxate.
On the other hand, it contains highly comedogenic coconut oil which, despite being a natural product, may clog the skin pores. It also leaves white creases and wrinkles on the tanned skin!
- Moisturizes the skin and scalp
- Good scalp and hair protection
- Leaves white streak on the skin
- It clogs skin pores
This guide was written for those who are trying to find a sunscreen for their hair. Hopefully, by reading this guide, you gained a better understanding of how to best protect your hair against the sun’s UV rays, and found a product that fits your needs!
SimplySunSafe recommends thinkbaby Sunscreen SPF 50+ as the best sunscreen for hair but all 5 recommended products are great options that will sufficiently protect your hair.
Remember, it’s always better to test a few products when you’re searching for a sunscreen. Once you have tested different products, you will be able to make a more informed choice as to which sunscreen fits your specific needs in protecting your hair sufficiently. Then you’ll be able to enjoy the sun without damaging your hair!
I love learning new things and hearing about new products from other people! So if you use or know of any other sunscreens that are good for hair, please let me know in the comments. I’ll take a look and maybe I’ll even add them to this list!
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