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Summer Scalp and Hair Health

Editor’s note: Everybody loves the pool during the summer, especially with the great hot weather we’ve had lately in Central Florida. Here’s an article that provides the information you need to keep your hair and scalp at its best during the relentless heat. Enjoy the water, but keep your hair looking great.

Story: Dr. Joyce Davis

In the summer months, our hair and scalp take a beating from the sun, oil and sweat buildup, chlorinated water and excessively coloring our hair. While some of these are unavoidable, there are many ways to reduce and prevent damage. I have all of the tips you need to beat the heat and keep your scalp and hair healthy this summer!

Shampoo less often: In the warmer months, our skin goes into oil overdrive, which gives the illusion of greasy strands. To counteract this, our first impulse is to shampoo more often. This is a scalp and color no-no since it causes your scalp to dry out and be itchy, as you’re eliminating the hair’s natural oils that nourish the scalp and hair. Additionally, excessively shampooing your hair causes the color to fade, with the need to color your hair arising sooner than usual, so try to limit washing your hair to twice a week max, if possible.

Protect yourself: We all love being in the warm summer sun, but it’s actually your hair and scalp’s worst enemy.  While the sun is great for getting a few highlights, it’s actually detrimental to those who color their hair as it fades the color at the roots and burns the scalp. This results in over-coloring your hair, since the need to blend your color becomes more apparent, in addition to the possibility of dried out skin and dandruff. We recommend wearing a hat, spraying your roots with some SPF or staying under an umbrella. If looking for a healthy hair color option, try Clairol Nice’n Easy. The formula has damage-blocking technology to keep the hair cuticle healthy and smooth, and provides conditioning in every step!

Minimize Pool Damage: To minimize chlorine damage to your strands and your scalp, lather your hair with coconut oil before jumping in the pool. Chlorine not only fades color and causes color to change completely, it’s super harsh on your scalp, which may result in irritation. Since hair is very porous, deep conditioning your hair with coconut oil seals the strands and stops the hair from absorbing chlorinated, chemically-charged pool water that breaks down hair and results in faded color, split ends and itchiness.

Protect your hair from the elements: prep the night before by sleeping with a rich conditioner in your hair (tucked under a shower cap to avoid a mess). I’d recommend a thick conditioner, such as the ones that come with Clairol Nice’n Easy kits. In the summer, your hair gets “baked,” so the conditioner that comes with the color kit can freshen and condition hair against the elements.

Skin and scalp Protection is key: To avoid major burns to your hair, scalp (and face!), a wide-brimmed hat offers ultimate sun protection. While baseball caps are a popular choice, they only shadow the top of your scalp and forehead, so it’s not ideal for sun protection. Straw hats are also great since they’re perforated, allowing your scalp to breathe on a hot summer day while withstanding humidity and water.

How to treat a scalp burn: If your scalp gets burned from unexpected sun exposure, don’t worry, it’s treatable! Cool compresses or ice packs, as well as oral aspirin or ibuprofen 2-3 times daily, (with food, so that you don’t get stomach irritation), helps reduce the sunburn and lessen the pain. If your scalp gets flaky or itchy, try a dandruff shampoo and conditioner to reduce irritation.

Dr. Joyce Davis is a board-certified dermatologist teaching at Mount Sinai Medical Center. New York Magazine ranked her as one of New York’s top dermatologists and she has been recognized as one of the top 5 percent of New York City physicians. 

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