Monday, May 17, 2010

Summer's coming. Is your hair protected?

Warm weather is finally here and, to be honest with you, I'm really excited about the season change. I'm a summer baby so I tend to shy away from cooler temps. The unusually cold weather this past winter was exceptionaly harsh on my hair and I couldn't wait for the humid air to come in. My excitement soon wained, however, when I found out about the dangers of UV rays on the health and vitality of the hair.

Basically, UV radiation has the potential to penetrate (and cause damage to) the very core of the hair shaft, the cortex. If the sun's rays have the ability to damage the cortex, you know it's doing wrong to the cuticle layer. That's some serious stuff. Not only do I have to worry about repairing damage from the chemical process, I also have to think about protecting my hair when I'm out and about. Ultra Violet rays are also said to have the ability to negatively impact the lipids in the hair which are crucial for creating manageability and shine in the hair strand. Now you know why some people who spend lots of time in the sun seem to have drier looking hair. When most of us think about using sun protection, our thoughts focus on long days at the beach or sun bathing in the back yard. Although those examples are the most extreme cases of where you would need ample sun protection, the truth is, we're exposing our skin and hair to harmful UV rays even during our morning drive to work or if we happen to be sitting near a window.

The thought of losing much needed protein just by the simple act of going outside freaks me out. It's also motivated me enough to become more proactive in this area of my hair care. At first I pondered the idea of becoming a hermit but that didn't last too long before I had to figure out some more realistic solutions. Since I'm in the car alot I've decided to keep a silk scarf handy to wear during my drives to and from my destination. Even if I'm wearing a curly style, I can still place the scarf over my hair without necessarily tying it down. Although a silk scarf isn't considered a bona-fide sun UV protective clothing, it will still offer up more UV protection than if I just went commando with no covering to the hair at all. I did find comfort when I read that silk contains tryptophan and tyrosine which are both said to have the ability to absorb ultraviolet radiation

Next, my thoughts went to some other natural alternatives that could also help in the fight against the sun. I remember reading once about UV protection listed as one of the added benefits of some natural oils. I went hunting on the internet and found this list from
  • Hemp seed oil-SPF 6
  • Shea Butter-SPF 6
  • Macadamia oil-SPF 6
  • Sesame Seed Oil-SPF 4
  • Jojoba Oil-SPF 4
  • Coconut Oil-SPF 2
It's good to know that we can always rely on our trusty natural oils to come in and help save the day. I know you may be thinking, "a 6 SPF doesn't seem like strong enough protection." That logic seems to make sense when we compare to the high SPF levels of skin protectors. The truth is, however, once you venture into the hair care world of sun protection, most products you'll find will contain an SPF of 10 or lower. So an SFP of 6 is somewhat comparable to some of the commercial products on the market.

I will tell you that I was at the Aveeda store the other day and found myself drawn to their display of hair products made especially for sun care. If you decide to seek out a protective product, look for ingredients such as Octyl Methyosycinnamate. You can also use a little leave in conditioner if you know you'll be in direct sun for a few hours. If you do opt for a product aimed at providing sun protection, look for finishing products like leave-ins and moisturizers. Using an SPF conditioner may not provide the right amount of protection once the conditioner is rinsed out.

Lastly, we can take some comfort in the fact that darker hair has a little more natural protection than lighter colored hair because of the melanin but, if we take into account the fact that our hair has been compromised during the chemical process, we ought to think smart and protect our hair the best we can. If any of you are dealing with dry hair, you can not afford to let the sun rob you of the hard work of your conditioners. Why work so hard to avoid heat damage from styling tools only to loose ground from damaging UV radiation? Extend your sun protection to the next level, think of your hair next time you are in the sun.

This has been a public service announcement from the good folks at relaxedhairhealth.

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