MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Summer Sun Lightens Your Hair

If you’ve ever wanted to change your hair color, there may be no cheaper way to lighten your locks than simply spending time in the sun. But why does spending time in the summer sun cause some folks’ hair to get naturally blonder?

While summertime highlights may seem to breathe new life into your ‘do, the opposite is actually happening because hair gets lighter in the summer due to sun damage. Too much sunlight exposure actually wears down your hair’s melanin, a polymer that gives hair & skin their pigmentation. Melanin has evolved to absorb & scatter ultraviolet light as a way to protect our delicate human DNA from radiation. But melanin isn’t perfect against the sun’s harmful rays, and if you spend enough time in the sun your melanin will start to break down. And, when this happens, your hair loses pigmentation. That’s why strands of hair that have lost melanin end up resembling naturally blonde or fair hair.

The sun also affects the melanin in your skin, but in basically the opposite way. Instead of losing pigmentation after spending too much time outdoors, your body ramps up melanin production to give you extra protection. That’s why the sun makes most people’s skin look darker (or “tan”) instead of bleached. But your skin is a living ecosystem, while hair is made up of dead cells, so it’s unable to defend itself against sun damage.

While you might not mind your summertime hair color change, that’s just one symptom of overexposure to UV rays. Sun-bleached hair can also become dry, frizzy, and brittle. It’s actually better to protect your hair from the sun by wearing hats or other head coverings, especially if you’re out in the middle of the day, when the sun’s rays are at their most intense. You can also treat your hair with SPF products just as you would your skin.

Be safe outdoors this summer! And, if you’ve got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved, send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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