How To Protect Your Hair From The Sun & Avoid Serious Damage To Your Strands

We've heard it a million times before: Protect your face from the sun. We know to lather up with SPF 50+, pop on an Audrey-Hepburn-esque oversized hat, and see our dermatologist twice a year to check for moles. The dangers of sun damage have been drilled into our minds for as long as we can remember — the scariest of which is skin cancer, and the slightly less terrifying, but still unwelcome, sun spots and unpleasant wrinkles. But what about protecting our hair from the sun?

Whether your hair has been color treated or is au natural, there are a number of summer habits — including soaking in the sun — that can cause serious, potentially permanent harm.

I spoke to Kirby Reynolds, a beauty guru who has seen everything from the inside of the Glamour beauty closet to the inner workings of a prominent blow-dry bar. She is currently working at Birchbox and shared with me the best practices for protecting hair from heat, light, and chlorine damage. The sun's harsh UV rays can cause color changes, drying, and even burning (yikes!), so Reynolds advises taking precautions before you step out in the sun, and following up with them afterwards.

This summer, let's all agree to treat our hair the same way we treat our skin: with lots and lots of care. Here are Reynolds' top eight tips.

1. Get It Wet

Just like your skin, your hair has pores that can let all sorts of gross things in if you don't protect them properly (fun fact of the day: hair follicles are basically just specialized skin cells). Before swimming in chlorinated water, Reynolds advises wetting your hair with fresh water to fill the pores, which keeps out the damaging chemicals and will help you avoid an accidental chlorine-green dye job.

2. Use Sunscreen

Frederik Fekkai Pre-Soleil Hair Radiance And Protection Mist, $7.99, Drugstore.com)

Yup —your hair needs sunscreen, too. (Apparently, it's a lot more like your skin than you'd think!). Try a hair protectant (Reynolds suggests Frederik Fekkai's Pre-Soleil Hair Radiance And Protection Mist) or DIY your own: mix one table spoon of regular sunblock with a cup of water in a spray bottle and spritz yourself generously.

3. Accessorize Intelligently

Riviera Turban, $48, Freepeople.com

We all know hats protect our faces from wrinkle-causing sun damage, but they serve double-duty by protecting our hair too! Scarves, turbans, and headwraps (basically anything that covers your head... obviously) work too, and let you try out all kinds of new looks on the beach!

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4. Deep Condition

Marula Oil Rare Oil Intensive Hair Masque, $20, Loxabeauty.com

Before heading out into the sun, apply a hair mask or deep conditioner to wet hair without rinsing. This provides protection from the UV rays as well as extra deep hydration to keep your locks from drying out.

5. Invest In A Heat Protecting Product

Living Proof Restore Instant Protection $17, Nordstrom.com

Heat protectors aren't just for flat irons and blow dryers — they're necessary when you're out in the sun, too. Find a product that also blocks UV's. Reynolds' favorites are Beauty Protector Protect and Detangle ($23.50, Birchbox.com) and It's a 10 Miracle Leave in Product (13.57, Jet.com).

6. Plan Highlights Accordingly

Franco Origlia/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Yes, we all want fresh, perfect highlights for our beach vacation (well, I do at least) but your best bet is to schedule any coloring treatments after your time in the sun. Sun can lighten your color, which may make you blonder than you would have liked. "I like to incorporate sun-coloring with salon-coloring," says Reynolds, which involves visiting the salon after the beach to even out. If you absolutely must go before your trip, consider going a shade darker than usual and letting the sun make up the difference.

7. Change Up Your Routine

You don't wear the same outfits in the winter and summer, so why would you stick to the same beauty routine? Keep in mind that your regular practices may not work when there's major sun exposure. Reyonlds advises cutting down on on shampoo and applying a reparative oil or cream at the end of the day. Washing my hair less frequently is something I can definitely get behind.

8. Don't Forget About Your Scalp

Paula's Choice "Sun Care Extra Care Non-Greasy Broad Spectrum SPF 50," $17, Nordstrom.com

I will never forget the time I got my hair braided on the beach in Florida when I was nine (early 2000s trends were the best, right?) and scorched my exposed scalp. It was not cute, and it hurt like hell. Be sure to apply lots and lots of high-SPF sunscreen across your hairline.

Images: Isla Murray/Bustle; Artem Kovalev/Unpslash; Pexels; Courtesy of Brands