When we’re trying to relax on our hard-earned days at the beach, the last thing any of us wants to do is worry about our hair. There are many specialists out there advising on how we can protect our hair from the salty water and intense sun, but a lot of it can seem not very easy or just too much work for when we’re on vacation.
To take away the pain of figuring out which pieces of advice to follow and which to set aside, we put together a step-by-step guide to keeping your hair healthy before, during, and after the beach. It’s science-based, it’s simple, it’s effective – so you can step out from under the umbrella once in a while without feeling bad about it and know that your hair will be back to its usual beautiful self in no time.
The Ultimate Guide: Haircare at the Beach
Pre-care: Before leaving for the beach
Tip #1: Apply sunscreen on your hair
If you’re at all into skin health and beauty, you know what a damaging effect the sun has on the skin long-term. It causes summer acne, pigmentation, and loads of other things. What many people don’t realize, however, is that the hair is equally as affected by the sun as the skin is. The harsh UV rays can dry out your hair, strip your hair color and destroy your hair pigment molecules – in the worst cases; it can even lead to severe burning or melanoma, which are not at all as infrequent as you might think.
Just like skin sunscreen, hair sunscreens are also SPF-based and contain similar ingredients with molecules that reflect UV light or absorb it, keeping it from ever getting close enough to damage your precious locks. Hair sunscreen comes in a variety of forms, from sprays to oils and powders.
This is a highly effective and easy way of ensuring that your hair strands and your scalp (yes, you read right!) are protected from UV rays. Your scalp is also very sensitive – imagine how much direct sunlight exposure it gets, and remember how hot the top of your head sometimes gets on vacation. So doesn’t it make sense that it’d need some serious sun protection?
Here are our recommendations of the best hair and scalp sunscreens:
Coola Organic Scalp & Hair Mist: A nice and easy mist you can just spray on your hair and scalp for instant protection. It’s SPF 30 and smells heavenly, as well as a cult favorite.
Vichy Ideal Soleil Hydrating Sun Protection Water: An effective and affordable spray hair sunscreen that you can most probably find at your local pharmacy or drugstore. It’s SPF 30, hypoallergenic, and also contains hyaluronic acid for an added boost of hydration.
Sugargoop! (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder: If you’re unwilling to apply sunscreen to your hair, afraid that it might get greasy, we hear you. A good tip is that you can apply the powder sunscreen you already use on your face for your scalp and roots as well – although it might be tricky to apply, and we’d definitely not use the same applicator. This one is a best seller and a great alternative to sprays – and SPF 35.
Tip #2: Put your hair in a protective hairstyle
Just like your skin, you can choose to expose less of your hair to the sun, thus minimizing the amount of UV ray damage you get. There are a few ways you can do this, the best one being to wear a hat. That blocks out a lot, if not most, of those pesky sun rays. Alternatively, you can also use a nice scarf (just make sure it’s not see-through).
If you’ve got longer hair, you may consider putting your hair in a braid or plait or even putting it up in a bun. All of this will ensure that not only will you protect your hair from the sun, but it’ll also not get too tangled up if it is windy at the beach so that when you get home, you won’t damage it more by trying to brush it out.
Bonus tip for colored hair: moisturize!
We know it sounds strange – applying conditioner to dry hair before leaving the house isn’t something many of us have heard of, but trust us on this. The sun rays oxidize your hair, which, if it’s been colored, has already been oxidized by that chemical process. This doubling-up effect can mean that the oxidation process will be accelerated by the sun, which you definitely need to protect yourself from. Additionally, dry hair can lead to dandruff – no, thanks!
By coating your hair with a nice masque or conditioner (it doesn’t need to be a special one – your normal conditioner can work), you are creating a barrier that will stop your cuticle from opening up and losing your artificial hair color. If that’s too much for you, consider using a leave-in conditioning spray – it’ll be lighter on your hair and still lend some protection.
FYI – you only need to worry about your hair color being affected if you’re doing back-to-back beach days. One day in the sun and sea will, in all likelihood, not alter your color.
During: While at the beach
Tip #1: Wet your hair before swimming
You know those showers they have next to the beach? Most people use them to wash off the salty water after they swim – but it’s an incredibly good idea to wet your hair before you actually go into the sea. Why? Your follicles will soak up the freshwater first, minimizing the absorption of the saltwater, which is bad for your hair. Don’t believe us? It can even cause hair loss.
Tip #2: Try not to wet your hair so often
While you should absolutely make the most out of your time at the beach and enjoy yourself, do be conscious of how many times you are getting your hair wet. If you’re swimming with your hair fully submerged more than one time a day, that’s quite taxing on your hair – maybe try and bring that down to one longer session.
Tip #3: Re-apply sunscreen
It depends on the type of sunscreen you’re using and its SPF, but generally, the best thing to do is re-apply every two hours and after every swimming session. If you’re forgetful, set up a timer on your phone.
Post-beach: When you get home
Tip #1: Be gentle
When you get home, you might notice that your hair is still slightly damp, messy, and tangled and perhaps also feels a bit dry at the ends. Your hair will be in a very vulnerable state, and it’s very important to be gentle with wet hair. Try to detangle it before getting in the shower, using a wide-toothed comb or a high-quality brush and beginning from the ends, then working your way up to your roots.
Tip #2: Skip the shampoo
We’re back with another counterintuitive tip, but we promise it works. The reason is that the salt in seawater is very alkaline, which you will need to counteract with an acid. That is what conditioner is. So if you apply conditioner first, it will balance the pH of your hair.
Because shampoo can tend to be too harsh after the beach, we recommend using a conditioner wash instead. This is cleansing and also moisturizing and will bring your back to its usual beautiful self in no time.
Don’t want to spend the money on an extra hair product or feel a bit uncomfortable about not using shampoo? No problem. You can even just apply conditioner before shampooing – it will still protect your hair from breakage and make a huge difference. Just don’t use an overly-stripping shampoo – that’s not a good idea in any circumstances, let alone after the beach.
Best post-beach co-washes:
Unwash Bio-cleansing Conditioner Hair Cleanser: A great all-around product that performed amazingly in lab tests, with palpable results and particularly great for color-protecting, this co-wash will keep your hair looking good, no matter the season.
Kérastase Discipline Curl Ideal Cleansing Conditioner: Great for curly hair and extremely dry hair, this co-wash will get your hair in its all-time-high moisture condition. Just keep in mind not to use it if you’ve got normal hair – it’ll definitely weigh it down.
Briogeo’s Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Quinoa Co-Wash: Briogeo makes great products for sensitive scalps – and with avocado, quinoa, and shea, this formulation will leave your hair feeling and looking moisturized and beautiful.
Bonus tip for blonde, bleached hair: aspirin wash
If you’ve got bleached, blonde hair, then it’s a good idea to add a little extra step to this routine. Dilute a bit of aspirin in some water and use it as a rinse; it will help remove those tones that ruin your color, such as green or yellow.
Dr. Amy Revene M.B.B.S. graduated from the University of Sharjah. She is currently working as a General Physician at New Hope Medical Center, Dubai. Amy has a passion for research and offers her expertise and opinions helping people in their quest to lead healthy, happy lives.