Why Does Hair Get Lighter In Summer?
by BRENDA L. / JUN 1, 2023
Reading Time: 9 Minutes
If you’ve been spending enough time under the sun during summer – when it shines brighter than ever – you may have noticed a fascinating change in the colour of your tresses. With the help of intense summer sun, sea water, and sometimes even chlorine for the poolside fans, hair does often become lighter. Whether it's subtle highlights or a noticeable lift, this natural phenomenon has intrigued many people – not only becoming a beauty statement that fashionistas everywhere tried to recreate with their hairdressers, but also being associated with a lifestyle of leisure and outdoor activities (i.e., the surfer look). In today’s blog, we will dive (pun intended) into the science behind why hair gets lighter in summer, explore tips for caring for your hair during the hot season, and discover ways to enhance your natural highlights – or how to prevent them from showing up, in case you’re not a fan. So, let's unravel the secrets behind sun-kissed locks!
Understanding The Science: Why Does Hair Get Lighter in Summer?
Well, the answer is pretty straight forward: sun exposure is the main culprit behind hair lightening over summer. Sunlight contains ultraviolet rays (also known as UV rays), that penetrate the hair shaft and break down the melanin in your tresses. Melanin is the pigment responsible for colour in your body, from hair to eyes to skin tone.
Whilst some people love getting a tan during summer, UV exposure can be dangerous and damaging for your skin – this is why it’s essential for you to slather yourself in sun blocker before going out. SPF creams won’t stop you from getting a gorgeous tan, but they will significantly reduce your skin damage and the premature appearance of wrinkles, stains, and other unpleasant consequences of excessive exposure to sunlight.
UV rays from sunbeds aren’t any safer, so don’t get tricked in believing that you can resort to these tanning methods without using any protection! Back to the melanin on your hair, the UV breakage in your tresses’ pigmentation leads to a gradual lightening effect, especially in individuals with lighter hair shades. Here’s a list of other factors that may contribute to your hair getting lighter in summer:
- Heat and humidity. High temperatures and humidity cause the hair cuticles to lift slightly, allowing the sun's rays to reach the melanin with more ease. If you’re vacationing in a hot and humid environment such as a tropical destination, chances are your hair is at risk of lightening quicker.
- Chlorine and saltwater. Frequent swimming in your hotel’s pool (likely filled with chlorinated water) or in the sea for the ultimate mermaid experience can strip away the natural oils and colour from your hair, enhancing the lightening effect of sunlight.
How Does The Sun Affect Hair Extensions?
If you’re a human hair extensions fan, you may want to pay attention to how much sun exposure they get during the hottest time of the year. Even more so if you wear permanent hair extensions that you can clip off and store away before hitting the beach!
The summer season can have a huge impact on Remy hair extensions. Just like natural hair, hair extensions can undergo lightening effects due to sun exposure and UV rays – ruining the quality and colour of your precious investment. On top of that, human hair extensions are more prone to dryness, brittleness and damage caused by excessive sun exposure – as they do not benefit from your natural scalp oils as the rest of your tresses would.
To protect your hair extensions during the summer months, consider using a UV-protective spray specifically formulated for extensions. Minimise heat styling (now more than ever!) and focus on sulfate-free and alcohol-free hair products that are jam-packed with nourishing ingredients.
How Can I Prevent My Hair From Getting Lighter?
Many people love the lightening effect they get on hot summer days spent on the beach, but if this is not you don’t worry: there’s still a way for you to protect your tresses and keep your colour vibrant and lively, combating the lightening effects of UV rays exposure.
- Limit sun exposure. This may sound like a given, but better safe than sorry – I’ll reinstate the concept. The number one thing you need to do in order to prevent your hair from lightening during summer is to reduce its exposure to direct sunlight, especially during peak hours (11AM-4PM). Seek shade under a beach umbrella, and wear a cap, a headscarf, or a bandana if you’re going for a walk or a swim.
- Use protective hairstyles. I cannot stress this enough, protective hairstyles are a real life-saver for more than a reason. Braids, buns, and trendy updos won’t only keep you looking like absolute fire all summer long – they will also protect your hair and hair extensions from excessive sun exposure, wind and friction!
- Use UV-protective hair products. Invest in good hair products that contain UV filters to protect your tresses from sun damage. Other ingredients, such as Argan oil or Shea butter, will provide you with nourishment and hydration to keep your hair soft and manageable.
- Rinse your hair after swimming. If you’ve been swimming with your hair down, whether it was in saltwater or a chlorinated swimming pool, make sure you always rinse your mane with fresh water immediately after. This way you will get rid of any chlorine or sea-salt residues in your hair and scalp. Make sure you use a moisturising shampoo and conditioner to restore balance and softness in your tresses.
How To Enhance Natural Highlights?
If, on the other hand, you are not worried about the lightening effect of sunlight, saltwater and chlorine on your tresses – but rather intrigued about the beach-bum effect, then there are several ways you can enhance this naturally sun-kissed effect. Remember that these methods are not designed for added hair, so if you’d like to achieve a highlighted finish with extensions, then why not explore balayage hair extensions instead?
If you’re experimenting with your natural hair, however, here’s a list of homemade remedies that you can try to enhance your sun-kissed look, so that you can look radiant and glowing even after your holiday is done and gone.
Lemon juice and a pinch of salt? More like lemon juice and a pinch of… Sunlight! This recipe is a well-known granny secret for gorgeous, sun-kissed locks. The acidity in the lemon juice acts as a natural lightening agent, and combined with the effects of UV rays on your tresses will produce gorgeous highlights. Simply dilute fresh lemon juice with water and spray or it on your hair before heading out into the sun: the longer you spend under direct sunlight, the more powerful the effects of lemon juice magic will be. Remember to protect your skin from the sun's rays during this process!
Chamomile Tea Rinse
If chamomile tea usually reminds you of sleepless nights or PMS crying sessions, let me delight you with this news: from now on, you can associate the delicate, soothing smell of chamomile to a radiant, deliciously highlighted hair look. Brew a strong cuppa with your favourite chamomile tea infusion, let it cool down, then pour it on your tresses as a final rinse after shampooing and conditioning. Gently massage it into your scalp and hair, ensuring that the beverage soaks in your locks. Allow your hair to air dry or use a cool setting on your hairdryer. Repeat this process a few times a week to gradually enhance your natural highlights.
Honey And Cinnamon
Combining honey and cinnamon creates a nourishing and fragrant hair mask that can accentuate your natural highlights. This mixture is a popular homemade lightening product that has been used by women for generations, together with the lemon juice method I’ve mentioned earlier on this post. The recipe is super easy: mix equal parts honey and cinnamon to create a thick, creamy paste. Apply this mixture to your damp hair, focusing on the sections where you desire more pronounced highlights. Leave the mask on for a few hours (or even overnight!) to allow the ingredients to work their magic. Rinse thoroughly, et voila!
How To Take Care Of Your Hair In Summer?
During summer, especially if you put your tresses through some intense sunbathing session, giving your mane some good old TLC isn’t just a treat – it’s a real necessity. Keep focused on these key points to make sure your hair can have a break from its very own tanning sesh and restore its balance.
Proper hydration is essential for maintaining healthy hair, skin and general balance – all-year-round. Make sure you drink plenty of water and use moisturising hair products to prevent dryness and brittleness in your tresses; don’t forget to use hair oil (or Moisture Lock Spray) to seal your cuticles and prevent any loss of hydration in your locks.
Protection from UV Rays
Shield your hair from harmful UV rays by wearing hats, head scarves, bandanas, caps, or using UV-protective hair products. These measures will help minimise the damage caused by excessive sun exposure!
Minimise Heat Styling
If your hair has been going through some natural highlighting process, and is dealing with chlorine, saltwater and hot, humid weather, give it a break – ditch heat-based styling for a while. If you can’t live without a good blowout, try heatless styling techniques instead. Read more about it in our blog: How To Get Heatless Curls In 12 Easy Ways.
Deep conditioning your tresses on a regular basis will make sure they stay nourished, moisturised, soft and silky. Soft hair is more manageable, which makes your life much easier (and your hairdos look much better)! Incorporate deep conditioning treatments into your hair care routine, or make them at home! Find your recipe in our post: DIY Hair Mask Recipes For All Hair Types.
Summer is a great season, full of fun, outdoor activities, and fun opportunities to get together. The sun, summer holidays and swimming pools opening their doors are all enticing thoughts, but… What does it mean for our hair? Well, a fascinating hair colour transformation, for sure. The combination of sun exposure, heat, and environmental factors contribute to the natural lightening effect that characterises the sun-kissed beach bum vibe some of us love so much.