How to Prevent—and Reverse—Summer Hair Damage
Heat, chlorine, sun, and seawater can all wreak havoc on your locks.
When it comes to summer hair, you might envision tousled beach waves, romantic braids, and sun-kissed highlights, but in reality, the season is one of the worst periods for your strands. Damaging UV rays from the scorching sun and dry summer air—not to mention the chlorine and saltwater—can leave your mane looking dull, brassy, frizzy, and brittle.
“These free radicals attack the keratin (especially the cystine bonds responsible for hair strength and elasticity) in your hair, making it more porous and prone to damage,” says Joseph Maine, celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of Trademark Beauty. “UV rays also weaken the protective lipid layer on the surface of your hair, making it feel rough and look dull. If you have colored hair, it breaks down both melanin and artificial colorants in your hair, causing your color to fade or lighten.”
And while textured beach waves are nice in theory, both saltwater and chlorine are loaded with minerals and metals that build up in your hair, leaving it depleted of moisture (hence the crunchy texture). “Calcium puts a white film on your hair while chlorine adds a green tint,” adds Maine.
So how can you counteract summer hair damage? Like skin damage, experts say the best way to tackle hair damage is by preventing it. “In addition to using a leave-in conditioner or product with UV filters, wearing a hat while in the sun is a great way to protect your hair and hair color,” says Maine. “If you’re going swimming, pre-wet your hair with filtered water before you get in, or use a swim cap.”
But if your hair is already damaged, don’t worry—there are still ways to restore the lost hydration come September. We asked Maine and Devin Rahal, a hairstylist in New York City, about the best types of products to repair summer-ravaged hair. Here are some of the winning selects from each category.
Color Wow’s Dream Filter literally acts as a filter for your strands. “This pre-shampoo treatment is the only at home treatment to remove minerals and metals from your hair,” says Maine. “Spray it throughout dry hair, and once your hair is fully saturated, leave it in for five minutes and shampoo it out in the shower. The minerals and metals will wash away and you will be left with cleaner hair.”
Any stylist will tell you to treat your scalp like you would with any other part of your skin—after all, healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp. In a response to what the famous drugstore skincare brand terms the "skinification" of hair care, Neutrogena recently launched the Healthy Scalp Collection, a range of shampoos and conditioners infused with typically skincare ingredients like hyaluronic acid and tea tree oil to treat your scalp. Those with dry hair can opt for the one with hyaluronic acid, which can help with a dehydrated scalp (and even hair thinning!) due to its incredible ability to retain moisture.
If you're battling split ends, seek conditioners with hydrating ingredients like honey, plant-based oils, and vitamin E, which are light enough to moisturize and penetrate the hair shaft without making it heavy. Garnier’s hydrating blend is crafted with honey, propolis, and royal jelly extracts to nourish parched ends.
Dry or damaged hair tends to oxidize (read: fade) more quickly than healthy hair. In order to restore your hair color to its former glory, use a toning treatment to balance out brassy tones. Perfect for blond, bleached, or grey hair, this anti-brass mask helps neutralize hair color that's turned so you can stay salon-fresh for longer.
It’s a splurge, but Maine recommends this Christophe Robin mask for adding moisture back to damaged strands. The luxurious deep conditioner will help infuse life (plus shine and moisture) into your hair with a blend of prickly pear seed oil and inula extract. After shampooing, apply it to the bottom half of your hair and then comb through. It rinses clean, yet leaves a weightless veil that helps shield hair from UV damage.
According to Rahal, people with damaged hair should limit how often they cleanse their hair. “When you do, follow it up by using a microfiber hair towel to gently blot out water, like this one from NuMe.” In addition to wringing or squeezing your hair (which roughs up the hair shaft), the coarse texture of a cotton or terry cloth towel can cause damage to the hair.
Virtue’s do-everything treatment is the ultimate hair hero: The keratin-infused formula binds to damaged areas and helps smooth frayed ends from the inside out, but it also detangles, reduces flyways from humidity, and shields against future damage. As the name implies, there’s no need to rinse—just scrunch into damp hair and go.
No time to hop in the shower? Apply this vitamin-rich oil when you don’t have time to get your hair wet but need a quick fix for ragged ends. It multitasks as a hair, body, and cuticle oil, as well as a sultry fragrance.