I get confused at all the UV’s: UVA1, UVA2, UVB and UV…C?
Anyways. Sunscreen is good. Even the worst sunscreen is better than no sunscreen.
Sunscreen is also good for hair. The UV rays will break down the structure and strength of your hair, much like it does to old fabrics or paintings.
Covering your hair is a great thing, especially in the summer: It protects hair and scalp from sun and drying out. Not to mention salt or chlorine or whatever you can expose it to.
But sunscreen is a good thing to invest in when it comes to hair.
The active ingredients in sunscreen come in two versions: Physical and chemical.
Physical ingredients sit on your skin’s surface forming a protective barrier and don’t have the ability to be absorbed into your skin. Physical sunscreens protect your skin from the sun by deflecting or blocking the sun's rays. They start protecting immediately upon application and don’t degrade with exposure to sunlight.
Physical sunscreen ingredients
Zinc oxide (TiO2) protects you from UVB and most of UVA providing more UVA protection than titanium dioxide. Listed at the top of the FDA monograph as effective sun protection and considered the best broad spectrum protection. Zinc oxide is also known for its mild antimicrobial and wound healing properties. Zinc oxide is generally safe. It can be used on delicate skin and is a main ingredient in diaper rash cream.
Titanium dioxide (ZnO) protects you from UVB and short UVA radiation but not long UVA known to cause sun damage and aging in humans. Derived from the highly reflective chalky, white mineral, titanium, it's non-irritating, non-comedogenic, and for cosmetic use micronized by forming many small micro particles allowing your own skin tone to show. Titanium dioxide can be problematic for some people. (If you break out from mineral make up and physical sunscreen, titanium dioxide could be the culprit.)
Chemical ingredients work by absorbing the sun's rays. Some chemical filters can scatter sun rays, but still mostly just absorb them. Chemical filters tend to be more irritating to skin. If it gets in your eyes, it can make your eyes sting and water. Some can also cause allergic reactions. Chemical filters offer more coverage against UVA and UVB rays than physical sunscreens, but the range of protection will depend on the particular active and its stability. You must wait 20 minutes after application for effective sun protection.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients
Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA) PABA protects against UVB but not UVA. It was discovered to have harmful health effects and so its use is highly discouraged.
Avobenzone, Extensive UVA and limited UVB
Cinnamates (octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), UVB
Cinoxate, Extensive UVB and limited UVA.
Dioxybenzone (UVB, UVAII), Extensive UVB and considerable UVA.
Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX)Extensive UVA and limited UVB.
Ensulizole(Phenylbenzimiazole Sulfonic Acid), UVB
Ethylhexyl p-Methoxycinnamate, high incident of contact irritation, non comedogenic, widely used), UVB
Homosalate, Minimal UVA and extensive UVB.
Menthyl Anthranilate, Considerable UVA and extensive UVB.
Meradimate(Menthyl Anthranilate), UVA
Octinoxate(Octyl Methoxycinnamate), UVB
Octisalate( Octyl Salicylate), UVB
Octocrylene, Limited UVA and extensive UVB.
Octyl dimethyl paba, UVB
Octyl Methoxycinnamate (OMC) Limited UVA and extensive UVB.UVB
Octyl Salicylate, Minimal UVA and extensive UVB.
Oxybenzone (benzophenone, benzophenone-3), Considerable UVA and extensive UVB.
Padimate O, Minimal UVA and extensive UVB.
Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), UVB
Parsol 1789, UVA
Phenylbenzimidazole, Minimal UVA and extensive UVB.
Salicylates (octyl salicytate (OCS), high incident of contact irritation, widely used), UVB
Sulisobenzone (UVB, UVAII). Considerable UVA and extensive UVB.
Trolamine salicylate, Minimal UVA and extensive UVB.
With this in mind, I took a look at my own usual SPF and was pleasantly surprised: My Garnier Ambre Solaire contains titanium dioxide and some chemical sunscreen ingredients and the Elvital Colour-vive spray that boasts of “UV nutri-filter” I had my serious doubts about, actually does contain chemical sunscreen ingredients. Pleasant surprise, I had my doubt if it actually contained any actual SPF or not, especially since there is no regulation when it comes to slapping “SPF” or “UV” on a hair product.
Adding your own sunscreen
I recommend people getting a good, expensive hair spray with SPF. Seriously, this is one of the few instances where I will recommend salon products or a good splurge. Use it to mist over all exposed parts of your hair and scalp, especially in the summer.
Of course you can always add sunscreen on your own. I find I can add a good tablespoon of heavy sunscreen to my 200 ml of Sunsilk leave in-conditioner without it messes with the texture or end result. It may not add up to a lot of active SPF, but any protection is better than none.
You can also add a little bit of a SPF spray to a normal leave in-conditioner spray, but I haven’t experimented with how much it can “take”.