Sunscreen For Scalps
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?
Oh wow, sunscreen. WE’RE GOING OLD-SCHOOL SMACKDOWN TODAY!
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.
Published June 1, 2011.
Last updated December 14, 2017.