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.
Broad spectrum protection
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 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 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||Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral||EltaMD UV Pure||California Baby Super Sensitive||BADGER Baby Sunscreen|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (14.5%) & Titanium Dioxide (2%)||Zinc Oxide (10%) & Titanium Dioxide (5.5%)||Titanium Dioxide (12%)||Zinc Oxide (18.75%)|
|Water resistance||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||40 Minutes|
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.
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 like 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!
- 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
- Slightly noticeable natural smell
Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen is another excellent option for use in your hair. This sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection through its active ingredients zinc oxide (14.5%) and titanium dioxide (2%). It is an effective, yet practical customer favorite for hair protection against the sun.
The formula is designed to be used on all types of skin, including sensitive, which makes it an ideal choice for use in your hair. It includes shea butter, which is intended to provide a boost to the skin, that actually acts a moisturizing agent in hair. So you definitely do not need to worry about drying out your hair with this sunscreen!
Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral is free of parabens and fragrances. So you won’t have to worry about an annoying smell in your hair all day!
The sunscreen provides 80 minutes of water resistance, which is important to take into consideration when thinking about the oils in your hair and possibility of sweating. The formula is thick, but will not be a problem once you mix it with water, and spend time working it into your hair as you would with a gel or a mousse product. This process will result in no visible residue!
Alba Botanica Mineral Sunscreen is another top option for sunscreen for your hair. It has all of the must-have features that you need and customers love it as well! It is worth giving this product a try!
- Gentle formula
- Reasonably priced
- Extra ingredients that moisturize hair
- Water resistant for 80 minutes
- Thick formula
EltaMD UV Pure is another great option for a hair sunscreen. This sunscreen provides you with broad spectrum protection through its active ingredients zinc oxide (10%) and titanium dioxide (5.5%). It’s a gentle yet effective sunscreen that will do well in protecting your hair against sun damage.
This formula is specially designed for use on all types of skin, which means that it will be gentle on your hair, as well. It is a lightweight lotion that is good to mix with water for daily use in your hair.
EltaMD UV Pure is non-comedogenic and free of parabens, oils, dyes, fragrances, hormones, and gluten. This formula is simple and will not cause your hair to be dry or damaged. The light scent it leaves is pleasant and will not bother you.
EltaMD UV Pure provides water resistance for 80 minutes, but it can sometimes melt away a bit earlier. This is something to be conscious of when using this product just in case you need to reapply it earlier.
This product is very reasonably priced and like by customers! It has landed at number 3 on this list mainly due to the water resistance issues. However, this is certainly a product you want to test out to see if it may be right for your hair!
- Water resistant for 80 minutes
- Lightweight formula, no greasy or oily feeling left in hair
- Designed to be very gentle
- Good for daily use
- Very reasonably priced
- May melt or run with excessive sweating and/or water activity
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 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
The final choice for sunscreen for your hair is BADGER Baby Sunscreen Cream. This sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection through the high concentration of its active ingredient zinc oxide (18.75%). It is a good option for use in your hair.
This sunscreen is approved by pediatricians for use on the skin of babies and children so you can imagine how gentle it is. It is hypoallergenic, and includes extra ingredients such as sunflower oil, beeswax, and vitamin E oil. These ingredients not only make the sunscreen suitable for daily use in your hair, but will add to the health of your hair, as well!
The formula includes chamomile and calendula, which results in a light scent. This is noticeable and whether it is pleasant or not is a matter of personal opinion that you will need to test for yourself! I like it, but you might not.
It is a rather thick cream which will require time and effort to work into your hair so that you are not left with visible residue or clumping.
While BADGER Baby Sunscreen Cream is water resistant, it only provides 40 minutes of water resistant protection, which is the main reason that it has landed last on this list. It simply means that more frequent reapplication will likely be necessary.
BADGER Baby Sunscreen Cream is reasonably priced for its quality, and is a good option for protecting your hair against the sun. Try it out for yourself to see if it could be the right product for your hair!
- Gentle formula
- Good for daily use
- Extra ingredients for moisturizing hair
- Lower level of water resistance
- Very thick formula
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 about 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!