Q: Do I Need Special Products to Protect My Hair From the Sun?

It depends.
Michelle Villett
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It depends.

Wow, the reader questions are flying in fast and furious lately. Here's another one from a reader we'll call L. for short:

I am having my hair coloured for the first time in about year. I was wondering if there were products that can protect your hair from the sun, much like sunscreen for hair. If so, are they necessary? Same with shampoos, do you really need shampoos that claim to protect your colour?

L. and I have already corresponded a bit on email about this, and then I thought I'd better post everything I talked about in case you, too, are equally perplexed about this subject. So here goes:

First of all, YES—there are sun-specific hair products out there. (Of COURSE there are. Beauty companies have products for EVERYTHING these days. I swear, if my beauty regimen incorporated all the stuff I have for all my different body parts, I'd never make it out the door each day.) Kérastase's Soleil range for "sun-exposed" hair is perhaps the best-known, but there is also Redken's Color Extend Sun line and the Sun Protect collection within Schwarzkopf Professional's BC Bonacure line.

Now, the bigger question is: now that it's summer, should we all be switching to these types of products? My answer is...

It depends.

First of all, just how much time do you plan to spend in the sun? I think switching to a full sun-protection line is a wonderful idea if you know you'll be outdoors for extended periods of time—like on vacation or working in an outdoor job or playing a regular outdoor sport—because all of these products have UV filters that will protect hair from damage and fading.

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However, I'm not sure they are totally necessary for normal day to day life during the summer months. Why? Two reasons: a) stuff in the sun category is not necessarily going to offer you the neat styling "extras" (such as smoothing, volume, etc.) that you get with products geared toward your end look, and b) many hair products offer UV protection as a matter of course these days, so you can usually get enough of them for your needs with a product labelled "colour-protection."

Which brings me to the second part of your question—do you need to use colour care products?

And THAT depends too. Are you colouring or are you highlighting your hair?

If you are indeed colouring it with an all-over colour (as opposed to highlighting), then YES, you definitely need products that specifically say they are for colour-treated hair. (NOT hydrating products, as those will disperse your colour molecules and make it fade faster. Thanks to Charles Baker Strahan for that "aha" moment.)

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If you're just highlighting though, it's more important to replenish lost moisture (as the bleach dries out your hair), so go for products that are more hydrating (although colour products certainly won't hurt). This is why I periodically need to switch up my many volumizing shampoos with more moisturizing ones.

Now on to product recommendations.

If you ARE interested in a sun protection product, check out the ranges I mentioned above, OR you might just want to try supplementing your usual shampoo and conditioner with a spray-in protection type of product. A couple to try: Redken Color Extend Sun Solar Screen SPF 12 Sunscreen for Scalp & Replenishment for Hair and Schwarzkopf Professional BC Bonacure Hairtherapy Sun Protect Spray Conditioner for Sun-Stressed Hair.


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Summer Protection Gel Mask Conditioner

And for colour protection, there are SO MANY options it's hard to narrow it down. You can't go wrong with any of the big salon names—Kérastase's Réflection line is the one I probably hear hairstylists recommend most often, but Redken, Schwarzkopf, L'Oréal Professionnel, Joico and Pureology will all do the job too. (A good place to buy all these salon brands is ExclusiveBeautyBoutique.com. Free shipping in Canada when you order $75 or more!)

At the drugstore level, BIG NEWS: the revamped Pantene hits shelves this month (stay tuned for my post with more details), and I am loving their Colour line, which has three different subcategories: Shine, Volume and Smooth. I'm using it now and it's great quality, especially for the price.

I hope that helps both L. and anyone else out there confused by all the hair prodz out there! If you have any more recos, please add them in the comments!