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Sun Protection Recommendations for Your Scalp

Sun protection is very important, especially when it comes to your scalp. Discover ways to protect your scalp from UV rays and how to treat scalp sun burn.

We all know the importance of wearing sunscreen on our faces and bodies, particularly in the summer and on vacation. But what about sun protection for the scalp?

Scalp sunburn is fairly common, as your head is one of the areas on your body most prone to getting burned. The sun’s UVA and UVB rays can also damage your hair, too.1

Read on to find our tips and advice for protecting your scalp and hair from sun damage – so you can enjoy the sunshine and maintain a healthy scalp.


Your scalp can get sunburned just like any other part of your body, so it’s important to protect it from damaging sun rays.

Your hair can also sustain sun damage, making it dry and brittle and even leading to premature graying.

Wearing sunscreen and hats are among the best ways of protecting your scalp from sunburn – as well as staying out of the sun.


Any body part exposed to the sun can burn – including your scalp and any part of your head not fully covered by hair, such as your parting.2

Repeated sun exposure that results in sunburn anywhere on your body can lead to skin damage, diseases and other complications over time, including:2

Premature skin aging: this can entail dry, rough skin; weakening of the skin’s connective tissues, reducing its elasticity and strength; new freckles and discolored spots.

Precancerous skin lesions: these are scaly, rough patches that develop in sun-damaged areas of the skin. They often affect the neck, face and head, especially on those with skin that is prone to sunburn. These lesions can evolve into skin cancer – so be sure to check your scalp and hair parting for any skin changes.

Skin cancer: repeated sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancers like melanoma, even if you don’t get sunburned. As an area of your body most exposed to the sun, your scalp is vulnerable to developing skin cancer without proper protection when you’re out in the sun.

Since you can’t usually see your own scalp, make a point to check it regularly in the mirror and by feeling for anything unusual or changed. Doing so could help you catch some common scalp conditions before they get worse, like scalp psoriasis. You could also ask someone else to check it for any new lesions or skin changes. Contact your health provider if you find anything concerning.3

Besides the potential long-term consequences, in the short-term, sunburn is painful and irritating. You might suffer:4

  • Tender skin.

  • Skin that feels hot or tight.

  • Swelling.

  • Skin peeling (this happens after a few days, and on the scalp this might look like dandruff).



While it might be mostly unrealistic as many of us have to go outside at some point during the day, avoiding direct sun exposure is the best way to protect your skin from sun damage.

If you can, stay out of the sun between 10am and 4pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest. If you are outside during those hours, try to stay in the shade, cover up with hats and clothing, and remember to reapply sunscreen to exposed skin regularly.2


It’s recommended that you use sunscreen with least SPF 30 all over your body, including your scalp, even when it’s cloudy outside. Don’t forget your ears, the back of your neck and your hairline.

Mineral sunscreens contain physical blockers like zinc oxide to deflect the sun’s rays away from the skin. These offer the best protection for sensitive skin and lighter skin tones.

Apply a generous coat of sunscreen to every exposed area of your skin 30 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply every two hours. Reapply more often if you’re swimming, or if it’s a hot day and you’re sweating a lot.2


Create a physical barrier between your scalp and the sun by wearing a hat when out and about, and sitting under an umbrella at the beach or pool.

Remember, sun protection isn’t only important in the summer – sun damage happens all year round. Protect your head and scalp with sunscreen and hats no matter the weather, as cloud cover only reduces sun exposure by 20%.5


Of course, if your scalp is exposed to the sun, so is your hair. While not as serious as scalp sunburn, your hair can also sustain sun damage.

Sun damage to your hair can cause:1

  • Dry, brittle, frizzy hair.

  • Color removal (irreversible sun-bleaching).

  • Premature graying – heat damage can accelerate the hair graying process.

To avoid this, use a hair sunscreen or heat protection spray, which creates a buffer between hair strands and the sun’s rays. However, this doesn’t provide scalp sun protection or prevent cell damage as it doesn’t contain SPF. You should also use a sunscreen containing SPF on your scalp.1


If you do suffer a mildly sunburned scalp, don’t panic. You can treat it at home by taking a cool shower or bath – bathing with baking soda or oatmeal can help soothe inflamed skin – and applying a topical aloe vera cooling gel.4

Once your skin is cooled, you can apply petroleum jelly to keep it moisturized and help prevent scarring. You should also take care to drink enough water so you don’t become dehydrated.4

Going forward, help prevent lasting sun damage by always using scalp and hair sun protection, such as sunscreens, and try to have a hat with you on sunny days. Find more information on caring for a dry scalp in our guide, and try our Nioxin scalp relief kit.








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