Here’s Why Your Hair Gets Lighter in the Sun

long hair as background

Excepting people who have super, super dark hair, most of us notice more natural, lighter highlights during the summer months – at least if we spend time in the sun. Browns get streaked with golds, and those who are already blonde can appreciate some white streaks once they’ve spent a good amount of time by the pool.

What makes our hair bleach naturally in the sun, though? If you’re curious, read on – we’ve got answers!

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First off, the bad news – the lightened locks are a result of damage, so even though they look like free highlights, so much sun exposure is not actually healthy for your hair.

The extra exposure to the harsh, summer sun wears down the melanin in our hair. Melanin is a polymer that gives our hair and skin its pigment and color, and protects what’s underneath from radiation by absorbing and scattering the harmful ultraviolet light.

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It’s not foolproof, though, which you know from things like sunburns and moles that develop on your skin after too much exposure to the sun’s harmful effects. Melanin breaks down, too, and that’s when your hair starts to lose its pigment (or color).

Your skin does the opposite, ramping up melanin production to provide extra protection from the sun, which is why we tan after spending time in the sun.

Our hair is made of dead cells, unable to change in order to defend itself.

Too much sun not only bleaches your hair, but can cause it to become dry, frizzy, and brittle – which no one really wants.

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To avoid sun damage up top, wear hats or other head coverings whenever possible, and you can also spray your hair with sunscreen if you don’t mind needing a shower at the end of the day.

It’s summer, so you’ll probably need one anyway.

I’m just saying.