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Suncreens for Scalps

Sunscreen For Scalps

By Amalah

Thanks for being such a fascinating writer! I love your work.

I have a non-baby, non-relationship, somewhat-vain query: Is there a way to keep my scalp (my part in particular) from getting sunburned? I don’t mind rubbing sunscreen into my hair when I’ll be at the beach (and therefore in the ocean) all day, but I do mind my hair looking greasy and gross in “normal” life. And a hat just isn’t always an option. Is there another way to protect the top of my head?

Thanks again!


There are a few options out there for protecting your scalp beyond the usual suspects of a hat, umbrella or scarf. Some of them, unfortunately, are only slightly better than rubbing straight-up sunbock on your scalp and others offer somewhat dubious actual SPF protection for your skin. But let’s see if we can’t come up with a suggestion that works:

1) Spray-on sunscreens. There are several actual SPF-containing products that claim to be formulated for the body AND scalp. And your hair too, in the case of Shiseido Refreshing Sun Protection Spray. Then there’s Banana Boat Quik Dri Sport Body & Scalp Spray and Nioxin Scalp Guard. The potential problem with all of these, based on user reviews, is that they all seem to be VERY Your Mileage May Vary when it comes to their effect on your hair. Some people report no problems at all, while others report greasy, oily or crunchy-with-residue hair. Of these three, the Shiseido seems to have the best user ratings across the ‘net, but I cannot personally vouch for it. Update + Additional Thoughts:  Please take care when trying new sunscreens out especially for protection/coverage.

(There’s a version just for your bald-headed little ones too, by Baby Blanket, though I usually just use whatever spray sunscreen I’m using on the rest of ’em, or more often — big floppy embarrassing baby hats.)

2) “Hair protectant” sprays. These are more like leave-in conditioners aimed at protecting colored or damaged hair from the sun (and saltwater and chlorine, etc.). These aren’t really sunscreens but contain oil-based or natural “UV filters.” Okay then! Aveda makes one, as does Redken, Rene Furterer, Phyto Plage and a few other hair care brands. I used the Phyto Plage Beach Protectant spray while in Jamaica last year to protect my newly red semi-permanent hair color and it did its job quite admirably…if a bit on the oily side. I did not have any problems with scalp sunburn on that trip (though I did spend a lot of time under umbrellas and hats), so while these aren’t SPECIFICALLY aimed at protecting your scalp, you might find that they work just fine for non-super-intense sun exposure while being a bit better for your hair. I definitely recommend using them on wet hair in the morning, pre-styling, to minimize the greasiness that can happen if you spray it on dry hair later in the day.

3) Powdered mineral makeup with SPF. If you’ve got really oily hair, you already know: Those spray-on products are going to make your hair look like crap. I hear you. If I’m not careful, my hair sometimes looks like I dipped my hairbrush in a Fry Daddy. And the only solution is to load up on the powdered dry shampoos. I’ve yet to come across a dry shampoo with SPF (HI FREE PRODUCT IDEA!), but you CAN achieve a similar Macguyver-job by using a translucent (colorless) powered makeup with SPF. Think Bare Escentuals Mineral Veil with SPF or any of the 2,303,243,770 drugstore-variety knockoffs. Just make sure you go with translucent so you aren’t leaving flesh-toned flecks all over your roots. Personally, I think an all-in-one brush/applicator package design would be perfect, like this one by Peter Thomas Roth. (Bare Minerals also sells a refillable buffing brush) Bonus: Since you can actually use the product as a finishing powder to keep your makeup sweat-proof and fresh, you aren’t stuck with a super-highly-specialized single-use purchase.

Interestingly enough, though, while searching for relevant links to the mineral makeup options, I stumbled across something I did not even know existed until this very moment: Honest-to-God plain ol’ powdered sunscreen. Obviously meant for your face, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work just fine on your hairline or part as well: GO!screen Natural BrushOn Powder Sunscreen for Kids and Adults (update: no longer available; here’s an alternative). (And much more expensive options by iS Clinical and Colorescience.) See, we’re all learning TOGETHER here.

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Published June 1, 2011. Last updated December 14, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Kate

    June 1, 2011 at 11:55 am

    My sister has super sensitive skin and has to use the powder sunscreen everywhere or her skin totally freaks out (think hives and ezema with a nice smattering of inflamed and clogged pores). I know you could get samples of it from Sephora in the past and while I don’t know if you still can they have a great return policy.

  • tasterspoon

    June 1, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Kind of an indirect solution, but when sunscreen and hats aren’t an option, I try to fix my hair to eliminate a gaping part – pull it straight back, scrunch it curly on top – or do one with lots of zigzags. I move my part around from day to day, too. I have had my share of part burns, so I sympathize.

  • Sarah

    June 1, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Second the no-part hairstyle. If anything was made for a ballerina bun or a sporty pony, it was a day at the beach. Pull it straight back and voila! Side benefit: no drowning as you surface from an enormous wave and your hair is blocking all your airholes. Hate.

  • Olivia

    June 2, 2011 at 8:08 am

    With my short hair style, I always have a part showing some scalp. The light, spray sunscreens work okay, but I’m curious to try a powdered sunscreen. I had never heard of them before.

  • Erin S

    June 2, 2011 at 9:13 am

    I use powdered sunscreen every day (I have sensitive skin) and love it. HOWEVER, you have to be sure to NOT BREATHE IT IN as you’re powdering your face up. It also sticks better if you put on moisturizer first, and this helps to minimize the amount of free powder floating around in the air. Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide are the active sunblocking ingredients in these formulations and while they don’t actually penetrate your skin cells, the lining of your nose / mouth / airway are much more “porous” to these compounds which, yes, can be toxic once inside cells. Just as you wouldn’t spray normal sunscreen into your mouth, you don’t want to be inhaling powder sunscreen every time you apply.

  • Amy in StL

    June 3, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Wow, powdered sunscreen? I’ve used the Peter Thomas Roth stuff and it made my face break out. I also used the Redken spray you mentioned before heading to a birthday party with my boyfriend. That was an unfortunate hair day. I may try my PTR brush on my part and see how that works – it’s better than weird itchy flaky part!

  • Leslie

    June 4, 2011 at 8:28 am

    can’t wait to try this. It hurts so bad when your head is sunburned! I have tried different products over the years and can’t wait to give this a whirl

  • Ali

    March 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Just had some basal cell cancer removed from my scalp and am looking for sunscreen to protect the bald scar that remains. I sure wish now I had used something on my scalp years ago when the damage was done. I have to now prevent exposure to sun even while walking down street. Will have to try the powdered stuff. Thanks!

  • […] easy fix: Bring out one of the new “hair sunscreens” that are popping up everywhere. Like your SPF, you’ll want to apply this product every single […]