By Karie L. Frost
When it comes to the sun, we tend to turn a blind eye to the fact that it rules with an extremely unforgiving hand (in the form of far-reaching UV rays). Why worship a ball of fire that strips us of everything that is beautiful: our mane’s shine and silky texture, our skin’s softness and youth? Yet, we keep coming back for more.
Enough is enough! Though past sun-fun adventures are logged on tresses and countenances, beauty pros and dermatologists offer up solutions to counteract yesterday’s damage and today’s aggravation, as well as preventative tips and ingredient recommendations for sun-smart tomorrows.
Feeling fuzz-strated during the summer months is all too familiar for those with curly or coarse hair. But, thanks to the drying effects of the sun as well as heightened humidity, fearsome frizz can aggravate most everyone. First order of frizziness: “Remind your client that her hair should be 100% dry before she leaves the house,” says celeb stylist Ted Gibson, owner of NYC’s Ted Gibson Salon and tender of Anne Hathaway’s tresses. “If she touches her hair and it feels the slightest bit damp, she’ll experience frizz.”
Glossing creams, sprays and serums lend much frizz-ease, but as Gibson notes, less is more. “Start off with a small amount (pea size) and work up to a larger amount. Too much tends to weigh hair down.” Steer clear of shine sprays containing alcohol, which can be drying, and serve up products with UV absorbers, which Gibson says will block wind and sun from causing unwanted crimp.
You’ve heard it before: Prevention is key…and education is just as mighty. “People don’t realize that they endure sun damage through window panes,” says famed dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad. “Many people are exposed to the environment on a daily basis—even if only for an hour—yet they tend to put on sunscreen only when they go to the beach.”
This misguided effort, notes Dr. Mark Taylor, a laser surgeon at Gateway Aesthetic Institute & Laser Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, can be boiled down to what recent surveys reveal: People are confused about the proper use and effectiveness of sunscreens. (To bone up on the ABCs of sunscreen, check out “Quick Tips” on page 50 of the June 2009 issue of Launchpad.) “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests applying about one ounce of sunblock every two hours, and even more often if you’re swimming or perspiring,” he says, adding, “A small tube containing three to five ounces of sunscreen might only be enough for one person during one day at the beach!”
When we do think about the sun, we rush to protect our skin. But what about protecting that other precious beauty commodity: hair? “Like skin, hair needs sun protection,” says Louise O’Connor, owner and creative director of OC61 Salon in Manhattan. Dyed mops suffer the most; chemical processes ruffle the cuticle and leave the hair shaft dry, and UV rays only increase this straw-like texture. And then there’s that other solar stymie, haircolor fade. “UV rays cause oxidization on hair, meaning free radicals weaken the hair proteins, cell membrane complex lipids and hair pigments,” explains Wendy Belanger, PureOlogy PureArtist. To fend off fade—and other environmental stressors—O’Connor recommends “using protective products—those that have UV filters, hydrating oils and vitamins like B5—before, during and after sun exposure for the most impact. These will re-introduce vital lipids and proteins to hair, while also creating a barrier against further UV penetration.”
And then there’s that trusty friend: taking cover. “Wear a head cover or hat, and choose the right times for sun exposure (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is harshest),” adds John Kaytaz, creator of JKS International.
Keep the green in her wallet this summer—and out of her tresses. “Because dry hair—no matter the condition—sucks up moisture, it’s important to thoroughly wet hair with water before jumping in the pool or going in the ocean,” says Belanger. A soused mane tends to prevent chemicals and minerals from leaching their way into strands.
Adds O’Connor, “Chemically processed hair—especially extremely processed blondes—is even more porous than normal hair and will grab on to chlorine and minerals even faster.” She recommends slicking wet hair with a UV-protective leave-in conditioner prior to taking a dip.
For hair that’s already mean and green, Kaytaz suggests a good chelating product, as well as addressing pH levels in the hair. “Immediately after swimming in the pool or ocean, spritz on a pH-balancing product that will help neutralize any existing salt or chlorine in the hair so that these stressors don’t continue to oxidize hair when she’s out in the sun.”
Is your burn baby still burning? “It’s important to explain to clients that sun is a radiation, and its effects on the skin are as if you’re in an oven—UVB rays topically burn skin, but UVA/UVB rays’ free-radical damage goes deeper,” says Dr. Murad. He cites a lengthy list of consequences: first, sunburn and irritation; then tanning; dilated blood vessels; solar elastocisis (loss of elasticity); pre-cancerous lesions; and eventually skin cancer. “On a cellular level, free-radical damage causes cells to explode and leak water; the cells die,” Dr. Murad laments.
Once she’s burnt to a crisp, there’s little she can do to undo the long-term damage. Instead, she can address the short-term: hydrating skin (avoiding bath salts, oils and perfumes) with soothe operators that incorporate antioxidants to do a little re-con on injured cells and addressing discomfort. “To take the heat off, I suggest soothing vinegar soaks and taking ibuprofen to decrease inflammation,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Amy Derick M.D. of Derick Dermatology in Barrington, Illinois. She warns against additional sun exposure—no matter how tempting—plus scrubbing, shaving and peeling (another tempter!), and adds this chilling truth: “Although decreasing inflammation post-burn makes the symptoms more tolerable, it doesn’t negate the fact that she experienced UV-induced damage associated with sunburn.”
Her sunny disposition just got a little darker—in the form of solar-induced hyperpigmentation, fine lines, leathery skin and scorched strands. For hair, the fact that it can’t repair itself should be reason enough to baby it. Remember, the sun delivers free radicals that break down hair’s existing keratin, and cause the usually flat cuticle scales to lift, leaving her with a rather dull, straw hat of hair. Deep-conditioning products that plug up her now-porous locks with reconstructing keratin, lipids and proteins; help smooth and seal the cuticle; and deliver antioxidant defense from future damage will have her sun-baked strands on the mend—and looking lustrous—in no time.
For skin, which is very much a living tissue, the story is different. In theory, to attack past dermal photoaging, “we must repair the skin, promote cell oxygenation, and increase the number of healthy cells,” says Caroline Rushworth, Sothys USA director of education. She adds that adequately hydrating the skin helps stimulate the synthesis of dermal proteins (those plumping and firming heroes: collagen and elastin) and increases the hyaluronic acid concentration (skin’s tissue repair mechanism—which is greatly compromised by UVB exposure). Currently, topical retinoids, glycolic acid products, growth factors, and laser/light procedures show promise in evening skin tone and stimulating collagen and elastin degraded by sun exposure, notes Dr. Derick. But she’s quick to add, “The key to treating sun damage is to be sure to decrease all unnecessary future exposure to sun by wearing sunscreen and practicing sun avoidance.”