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Scalp Sunscreen: How To Protect Your Scalp From UV Damage and Sunburns

Your scalp skin is easily forgotten when applying sunscreen on a sunny day. Learn about the dangers of scalp sunburns and what sunscreens work best.

Read on

We were taught as kids to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin areas when venturing out into the sun, but there may have been one key area that is chronically overlooked.

Smudging a little extra sunscreen into the part of your hair or, if you don’t have a lot of hair up top, misting it all over your scalp, isn’t something that people regularly do. But, maybe we should be considering the sun exposure to our scalps more.

Below, we will cover scalp sunscreen, including the risk of not applying sun protection to your scalp, which strength sunscreen you should be picking for your scalp, and how to best apply sunscreen to your scalp, part, or hairline.

What is scalp sunscreen?

There is not really a sunscreen that is designated for your scalp, even though some are marketed that way. 

If you see a “scalp sunscreen” it is likely that it has just been formulated to help with the ease of application to your scalp, and that it is also taking into account the feel and look of the formula to keep your hair from looking greasy or caked in cream.

Scalp sunscreens are also probably taking into consideration that the skin on your scalp is more closely related to the skin on your face, and can be prone to developing acne. So, they may be formatted with more gentle skin ingredients than your run-of-the-mill body sunscreen that tends to be greasier.

You can choose a sunscreen that is labeled as good for use on the scalp, or you can just find a good face sunscreen that has an application route that works well for what you have going on, hair-wise. But, in a pinch, if all you have on hand is sunscreen for the body, you are still better off to use that for scalp protection than not using any at all on a sunny day. The end goal is to block those UV rays, and all sunscreens can likely do that job.

Why is my scalp suddenly burning?

If you are suddenly experiencing scalp sunburns for the first time in your life, that could be the first sign that your hair is thinner than it used to be.

Talk to your doctor about any hair thinning that is concerning you, in person or online, to see if hair loss treatments are a good option for you.

In the meantime, put a little UV protection on your scalp to avoid sun damage to your scalp skin, hair, and hair follicles.

What are the risks of not applying sunscreen to the exposed areas of your scalp?

Aside from the obvious sunburn, prolonged UV exposure on the same portion of skin can lead to skin problems such as skin cancer -- even on your scalp.

As it turns out, you can get skin cancer on your scalp as well. And since a cancerous or pre-cancerous lesion on your scalp may take longer to find than one on exposed skin, they tend to be more serious by the time you start treating them.

It is a good idea to get a dermatology skin check at least once a year, and if your derm doesn’t always include a scalp check in the visit, ask for a quick once-over of your head as well. Oftentimes, lesions on the scalp from sun damage are discovered by hairdressers since they are up close and personal with your scalp, and are usually combing through and parting in different ways than you normally would.

How to pick out and apply the best scalp sunscreen for you

The best scalp sunscreen is one that you like enough, and is easy enough, for you to use regularly. But, the best one for you may also depend on what your hair is like.

If you have pretty thick long hair, you are likely pretty covered in the sun-protection department for the majority of your scalp. But, any parts in your hair, and the front hairline may need some protection. Especially if you part your hair the exact same way every day (as most people do), that little strip of skin is being left pretty exposed to the elements. If your hair is thick and dense, aim for a powdered or spray sunscreen that you can quickly work onto your part and hairline. Often, ones that are made for the scalp will go on non-greasy, and shouldn’t affect the hair look you usually go for.

If you have thinning hair, but you are not bald, you may need a little more protection. Go for a spray or a mist that you can get onto your scalp by lifting up the hair you have and using your fingers to work it around on your scalp.

If you are bald or you have a very close and short haircut, you may be able to use a spray, lotion, gel, or even cream sunscreen as it will be a similar application to the rest of your body. However, you may still want to use a sunscreen made for the scalp or face to avoid using that feels or looks too greasy and may lead to pimples on your scalp.

What strength sunscreen should I apply to my scalp?

Start with at least an SPF 30 for a scalp sunscreen, as this should be the lowest sun protection factor to consider using when choosing a sunscreen for the rest of your body or face.

For even more protection, go higher. You can often find SPF 50+ for face and scalp sunscreens.

Remember, no matter that SPF strength you choose, it is recommended to reapply every 2 hours, or after swimming or sweating.

What are the best ways to protect your scalp and hair from UV damage?

Sunscreen is a great way to protect your scalp from the sun, but it isn’t the only option. Usually, the best approach is to combine sunscreen along with a few of these other measures as well.

  • Wear a hat: Wearing a hat can help physically protect the skin on your scalp from the sun.
  • Hang out in the shade: When you can, opt to sit or hang out in a shaded area where the UV rays will be less intense.
  • Time out your visit: The sun’s rays are the most intense between 10 am and 4 pm, so choosing a visit to the beach or park outside of these hours may help you may your sun exposure less intense.

Strut Health prescription hair loss treatments online

If you are noticing a new sensitivity of your scalp to the sun, or are getting scalp sunburns on the regular, you may be experiencing hair thinning.

Here at Strut Health, we offer prescription hair loss medications for men and women that want to address hair loss or thinning. You can have a free online telemedicine visit with our U.S. licensed doctors today. If you are a good candidate for treatment, your prescription can be shipped to your front door.

If you have any questions or concerns during your treatment, our staff and doctors are available for free unlimited follow-ups.

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