Ah, summer. As the season comes to an end, we’re reflecting on the many reasons it’s almost universally beloved: There are opportunities for sunshine and nature galore, lazy days at the pool, and epic wave riding, depending on where you live. But of course, nothing in life is free — and when it comes to your hair, the cost of summer fun can be serious damage, which you have to contend with as fall rounds the corner.
“The main aggressors for our hair are higher temperatures, UV radiation, sweat, humidity, salt, and chlorine,” says Juan Harana, a cosmetic chemist and Tara Nature’s Formula’s Product Formulation Manager. In other words, summer and hair aren’t exactly best friends. But that doesn’t mean you have to hide inside for the end of the season, or live with damaged locks throughout the next one.
“It is vital to understand that your hair needs to be protected whenever it’s exposed to aggressive conditions,” Harana says. “As [end of] summer holidays are planned, you can also plan how to care for your hair before exposing it. Anticipation can allow you to enjoy your time without regretting having damaged your precious hair.” As for damage that may already be done? That’s not a lost cause either. Ahead, discover key tips on how to protect your hair from any remaining summer damage, and resuscitate your locks after it occurs.
1. Recognize the causes and signs of summer hair damage
As Harana noted, summer is the perfect storm of aggressors when it comes to hair. The high temperatures can be dehydrating — particularly if you’re starting off with dry hair — while humidity can lead to frizz, once it’s absorbed by your hair and causes the fibers to swell. The sun’s rays aren’t great, either. “UV radiation penetrates…the hair fibers, producing a weakening of [the hair’s] protein structure — losing strength and elasticity — and pigmentation loss,” Harana explains. “This makes the hair frizzy and fragile, and can cause color loss.”
If your hair is on the light side to begin with, whether naturally or through dyeing, it’s even more prone to these effects. “People with blonde hair color have a smaller melanin concentration, which makes them more vulnerable to color loss through UV exposure,” Harana says. “That’s what happens to blonde people when they sunbathe and get highlights…their hair is becoming more fragile in the process.” He adds that color treated hair has not only been modified, but it’s also been through an “aggressive treatment,” making it weaker and more susceptible to the aforementioned protein damage. It’s also more susceptible to the loss of the lipid barrier, or “the fatty oils that protect the outer side of our hair from external aggressors,” Harana explains.
And then there’s the sweat, salt, and chlorine. The former “provokes the formation of a salt layer on your scalp, dries your hair, and can even block the scalp pores,” Harana says. The salt found in open water, as well as chlorine in pools, only adds to that damage and leads to itchiness, frizz, and split ends.
Keep in mind that hair type makes a difference, and not just when it comes to color. Harana notes that thin hair is generally weaker and more vulnerable to aggressors; and people with dry scalps tend to produce less sebum, or natural oil, meaning they have less protection against those pesky summer irritants.
2. Be gentle with your hair
So, what do you do to defend against all of these things? To start, try to limit your exposure. Harana notes that some people may experience scalp sunburns when outside (the likelihood depends on factors like the amount of sebum your scalp produces), so it’s important to protect that skin. “Leave-in products can provide SPF protection, but it’s not enough for everyone; and of course, its efficacy depends on how much you sunbathe,” he says. “A straw hat can become your most trust-worthy ally, blocking UV radiation and preventing these scalp burns.”
But the sun isn’t necessarily your hair’s only exposure to heat. Hot tools can also damage hair, so it’s best to lay off them as much as possible when the outside temps are high so you’re not doing double damage. While you’re at it, consider avoiding tight up-dos, aggressive brushing, and unrelenting hair bands — all of which can further strain your already weakened summer hair.
3. Establish a multi-pronged product plan
While there are steps you can take to protect against damage, it’s only natural that some will likely occur in the hottest season of the year. The good news: There are things you can do to resuscitate summer-affected hair; it just takes a holistic treatment plan that can address the myriad issues at hand.
First up: shampoo. Resist the urge to wash your hair daily, or on any rigid schedule, for that matter. “Routine is bad for your hair, so only wash it when it needs to be washed,” Harana says, recommending you only do so when your locks feel dirty or look greasy and not right before activities like sunning and swimming that expose your hair to aggressors. If you wash it too much, you could not only dry out your hair, but also strip away the protective sebum necessary for fighting those aggressors.
When you do wash, “use products that restore the moisture of your hair fibers,” like nourishing shampoos and conditioners that contain moisturizing ingredients and are free of sulfates, which can remove more sebum.
That said, it’s important to extend your product routine outside of the shower; and the best way to do so is with a hair mask, which Harana says is a “deep conditioning treatment specially designed for hair that needs extra [attention],” adding the fact that they can actively restore damage already done to your hair. Harana recommends using a mask once or twice a week: Apply it to your freshly-washed, wet hair (the “serving” size should be anywhere from the size of a walnut to the size of your palm, depending on the length and volume of your hair), leave it in for five-to-10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
4. Seek out restorative ingredients
Of course, not all shampoos and conditioners are created equal; and when you’re combating summer damage, it’s crucial to choose products that contain restorative ingredients that hit the issues head-on. It’s no surprise that oils are key, and Harana says a few have particularly great benefits. Look for argan oil (which moisturizes and nourishes with the help of vitamin E and fatty acids), olive oil (a moisturizer dating back to ancient Egypt that can not only soften hair but also help repair split ends), and grapeseed oil (a moisturizer and conditioner that nourishes and smoothes hair without leaving residue in its wake).
To complement the oil, look for a conditioner and mask — like Tara Nature’s Formula Nurture Conditioner and the Restore Mask — that contain shea butter, which Harana says nourishes and moisturizes the hair shaft. “It is particularly beneficial for processed and heat-treated hair, and is also believed to help promote new hair growth,” he says. The Restore Mask contains hyaluronic acid as well, which Harana says is a “highly effective moisturizer agent.” While hyaluronic acid is naturally present on our skin and scalp, it can lessen with age. Harana says its presence in a hair mask can counteract that by forming a film that traps a slight amount of water in your hair fibers, maintaining a level of moisture without making your hair look wet.
And then there are the fruits, which are healthy for more than your body — and Tara Nature’s Formula Nurture Shampoo is packed with them, namely açai berry, strawberry, and raspberry extracts. Harana says all three protect against UV damage, which is crucial for a healthy scalp and hair. Harana adds that açai also contains “fatty acids that treat frizzy hair, and moisturizes and forms a film that avoids moisture loss and strengthens hair;” strawberry “helps nourish and rejuvenate the scalp while improving the health of hair follicles;” and raspberry can boost your hair volume. That’s a powerful trio if we ever saw one, but it’s not all the fruit your hair can stand. Tara Nature’s Formula Nurture Conditioner and the Restore Mask also contain mango seed butter, which Harana says is “a rich moisturizer that prevents hair breakage and protects [against] sunlight damage.”
Now that you’re prepared to combat everything summer threw at your hair, there’s only one thing left to do: Get outside and enjoy the changing of the seasons!