We often think a dry scalp is more likely to occur in the winter months, when the air is dry and the temperatures are frigid. And while winter certainly can do damage to your scalp, sometimes the summer sun can make things even worse. You can actually get a dry scalp due to sun damage, which can not only be itchy and painful, but downright embarrassing.
No one wants to experience a dry and itchy scalp for any reason, but sun damage isn’t something to take lightly when it comes to the overall health and well-being of the skin on your head. While people with less hair, or those who are bald, might experience more direct sun damage, even having a full head of hair can’t protect your scalp completely from the harmful rays of the sun.
It’s important to know not only what to do ahead of time to protect your scalp, but how to find treatment for a sun-damaged scalp, in order to start feeling relief.
Dry scalp, of course, can be irritating, but sun damage to the top of your head can lead to some other serious health issues, including hair loss, severe burns, and in some occasions, even skin cancer.
Taking the proper precautions and making sure you ‘heal’ a dry scalp from sun damage as soon as you can is the best way to prevent these more serious health concerns from creeping up, and causing even more damage than you ever expected.
This step-by-step guide to repairing a dry scalp due to sun damage will help cover both of those topics, so you can enjoy the hot summer sun without worrying about possible damage to your skin.
Table of Contents:
How to Repair Dry Scalp Due to Sun Damage
Step 1: Take Preventative Measures
What’s the best way to treat sun damage? Preventing it from happening in the first place! While there is no foolproof way to ensure that sun won’t get to your scalp, there are certainly precautionary measures you can take to lessen the exposure, and the effects.
Typically, when we go out into the sun, we use sunscreen all over our exposed skin, but often forget to apply it to our scalp, because we think our hair will protect us from the harmful UV rays. Unfortunately, those powerful rays can do damage to your hair itself, let alone the scalp, drying both of them out, and even risking a sunburn on your head.
You can apply virtually any type of sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30 onto your scalp, but there are actually specific products designed for your head, usually in the form of sprays and mists. These can be easier to apply to your scalp than a cream or lotion-style sunscreen, and won’t leave your head feeling greasy or oily at all.
If you know you’re going to experience direct sun for an extended period of time, a hat can also be used as a great preventative measure from letting the sun’s rays hit your exposed skin. It doesn’t matter which type of hat you choose, as long as it protects the sun from directly hitting your head. For even more protection, double up with both a hat, and sunscreen!
Step 2: Soothing a Sunburn on Your Scalp
Unfortunately, sometimes a sunburn can still happen, under the right circumstances. If you used the precautionary measures listed above, chances are a burn will never be as bad. But, if you spent some time out in the sun with your scalp exposed, it can lead to pain and damage to your skin that can eventually lead to an itchy, dry scalp.
The first thing you’ll likely notice from a sunburn on your scalp is the uncomfortable pain that can come along with it. This can make it hard to do even everyday things, like taking a shower, or even sleeping. There are a few different solutions to try when it comes to soothing your scalp, and lessening the overall sting of the burn.
One such solution is a lukewarm shower: A hot shower can irritate the already-burned skin, and make it even more prone to drying out and peeling/flaking. Make your showers a little cooler than you normally would, and try a repairing shampoo and conditioner on your head. There are actually specific shampoos that are meant to use ‘after the sun,’ and they can not only work to soothe the skin, but add moisture back into your hair and scalp to prevent itching.
There are, of course, other serums, gels, sprays, and lotions you can apply to your hair and scalp to help soothe the burning sensation. Some are very specific hair products made to help with this sort of thing, but you can always simply look for ‘stand bys’ when it comes to healing your skin as well. For example, anything with aloe vera is likely to help take away the sting of a burn, and can help to rehydrate your skin.
The best thing you can do, not only to soothe the burn, but to prevent your scalp from drying out from the sun, is to put as much moisture back into it as possible. Your hair will naturally produce oils, but the sun can dry your hair out as well, so it may not be producing as much as it normally does. By nourishing your hair and scalp with hydrating products, you’re less likely to experience the itching, flaking, and peeling that comes from a dry scalp.
Step 3: Stop the Peeling
If you’ve experienced sun-damaged skin before, you know that after a while, the skin attempts to heal itself by ‘peeling.’ While this is generally a good sign that shows your skin is regenerating, it can also be itchy and irritating. When the skin from your scalp starts peeling and flaking, it can be twice as irritating. Constant scratching and itching on your head can cause for a lot of flaking, and by consistently itching, you could irritate the skin even more.
To fight back against peeling on your scalp, try a rinse with white vinegar in the shower. This can help to get rid of residue, and make the peeling less irritating and itching. Specialty shampoos designed for dandruff relief can also work to stop the itching sensation.
While this part of the ‘process’ can be somewhat embarrassing, since the peeling and flaking can look like dandruff, it should actually be considered the best part, because it means the skin on your scalp is repairing itself and actually healing. If you can get through several days of the itching sensation that comes along with peeling and flaking, the pain from the sun damage should subside, and everything should be back to normal again.
For several days after the peeling stops, continue to use a specialty shampoo, and moisturizing products for your scalp and hair, to ensure it’s back in good health, and you don’t risk your scalp drying out again.
Step 4: Post-Sun Damage Scalp & Hair Care
While you’re treating your scalp for sun damage, it’s important to stay away from things that can irritate it even more, like flat irons, hair dryers, curling irons, etc. Alcohol-based products and styling mists should be avoided as well, as they can cause even more sting, and could make the entire process even longer when it comes to healing.
Once your dry scalp has healed, it’s a good idea to get your head checked out, either on your own, or by a friend, hairdresser, or someone you can trust. Sun damage can cause serious problems sometimes, and it’s important to be aware of the dangers of things like skin cancer. If you’re able to look at your scalp, be aware of any strange marks or moles that seem new, or irritated in any way. If you discover something strange on your scalp, see a dermatologist as quickly as possible to get it looked at and diagnosed.
Treating Dry Scalp Due to Sun Damage
Again, the best treatment for dry scalp due to the sun is to try preventing it in the first place. Staying out of direct sunlight as much as possible is always your best option when it comes to the health of your skin, but things like hats and sunscreen can go a long way if you have to be in the sun.
If you do experience a sunburn on your head, or a dry scalp from the sun, the best thing you can do is soothe it, and add natural moisture back to your hair and scalp to reduce flaking and peeling. Your skin will naturally want to heal itself, so help it along by making sure it’s fully hydrated at all times, and your dry scalp should heal relatively quickly.