How to Protect Your Hair From Sun, Chlorine, and Salt Water
Sun. Chlorine. Salt water. The best parts of summer can leave our hair a complete mess come Labor Day. Our locks take a beating during the warmer months, leaving strands dry, color-faded, frizzy, and greasy. Even air conditioning can do a number on hair.
So what gives? Is there any way to keep our hair healthy and still enjoy a dip in the pool? Luckily, there are plenty. We tapped New York City-based hairstylist Nathan Rosenkranz to understand what happens to our hair during the summer, what we can do to fix it, plus a few ways to rehabilitate our hair come fall.
Lock in moisture
Sun exposure, salt water, and sweat can pull moisture from your strands, leaving them dry and prone to breakage. To avoid this, “start with wearing a nice wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off of your hair,” says Rosenkranz. This will help keep the sun’s rays off your hair, thus protecting your hair from dryness and preserving the color (with the added bonus of protecting your skin!). Double up by using a product that both moisturizes and shields your hair from UV rays. Rosenkranz recommends Bamboo Beach Summer Sun Recovery Spray from Alterna Haircare ($22; dermstore.com).
Create a shield
"In the summer we're more frequently exposing our hair to the chemicals in pools, salt water, and spending more time in the heat, all of which will strip your hair of its beautiful color," says Rosenkranz. Before going for a swim in the pool or ocean, he recommends wetting your hair completely and thoroughly applying a leave-in conditioner. “Your hair will absorb the conditioner instead of the chlorine or salt water,” he says. Try EverPure Damage Protect Leave in Treatment from L'Oreal Paris ($9; amazon.com), which is sulfate-free and also works to restore damage.
The key to combating frizzy hair is locking out the humidity. “Humidity is like Miracle Gro for flyaways,” says Rosenkranz, “so anyone who is prone to frizzy hair will be suffering extra during the humidity brought on by summer showers.” You can do this with an oil, like Oleo Miracle Replenishing Oil from DESSANGE Paris ($12; amazon.com). It's loaded with three oils—argan, camelia, and pracaxi, which work together to leave your hair both smooth and soft.
A sweatier body leads to greasier hair. "When it's hot, your scalp sweats, transferring the naturally occurring sebum throughout the hair more, which can cause the hair to look greasy," says Rosenkranz. "Not a good look!" To fix this, he recommends using an absorbent dry shampoo, like Batiste Dry Shampoo ($6; amazon.com).
Air dry the right way
Give your heat-styling routine the cold shoulder. “The intense heat from constant blow drying dries out your hair and sets it up for major breakage,” says Siobhan Quinlan, a hairstylist at Art + Autonomy Salon in New York City.
Have straight or wavy hair? "After showering, blot hair with a towel, then finger-comb to keep your texture intact,” says Vanessa Ungaro, a hairstylist and cofounder of Lauren+Vanessa salon in New York City. “Scrunch up strands pre-product to avoid losing natural texture, then apply a styling cream for soft, not crunchy, waves.”
If your hair is curly: "Brush with a wide-tooth comb while it’s soaking wet, then squeeze—don’t rub—with your towel," says Quinlan. Next, apply a moisturizer and a mousse or curl cream. Once your hair is totally dry (not a minute before, or you’ll create frizz), use your hands to separate curls.
"Hair, especially when color-treated, loses its shine over time and even more quickly when it’s in the sun or hot water,” says Lauren E. Hack, a hair color specialist and cofounder of Lauren+Vanessa salon. Here are three easy ways to bring back shine: At the salon, get a clear gloss—a shiny seal that gradually washes out. Reap similar benefits with an at-home glaze, like Oribe Glaze for Beautiful Hair Color ($58; nordstrom.com); use it in place of conditioner. For all-natural radiance, grab apple cider vinegar, which removes product buildup and closes the cuticle so light better reflects off hair. Mix one cup water with two tablespoons ACV in a spray bottle. After shampooing, mist it on and massage. Rinse after three minutes, then apply conditioner.
While damaged hair can be the result of a summer well spent—pool parties! beach days!—dry ends are a buzzkill. Quinlan recommends slathering on a hydrating mask before working out or going to the beach (the heat will help the mask penetrate deeper), then rinsing it off in the shower. For more serious rehab, says Quinlan, opt for an Olaplex treatment at a salon: "It’s a three step system that goes deep into the hair shaft to repair broken bonds. Two steps are done in the salon, while the third is a conditioner you use at home to prolong the benefits—softer, healthier, shinier hair." (Find participating salons at olaplex.com.)
Cut it out
It may be tempting to put off a haircut until fall, but pros say now is the most crucial time to go in for regular trims. “Hair grows faster in summer, and when you don’t cut off split ends, they move farther up the hair shaft and leave hair looking worse,” explains Quinlan, who advises getting dustings (quarter-inch trims) every six weeks. To avoid leaving the salon unhappy with the length, Ungaro recommends pointing to exactly where you want your hair to end. “Bringing a picture is always a good idea,” she adds
How to rehab hair after summer
If you haven't spent the summer protecting your mane from the sun and surf, you can repair damaged locks once the weather starts to cool. "First, look for good treatments," says Rosenkranz. He has been recommending Caviar Moisture Intense Oil Crème Pre-Shampoo Treatment ($30; sephora.com) to revitalize your hair. You apply the treatment 15 minutes before shampooing. "In addition to boosting the moisturizing benefits of your existing shampoo and conditioner regimen, it moisturizes to revitalize dehydrated strands, leaving hair supremely smooth, soft, and shiny." The big takeaway here: moisture!