Hair Dryness In Summer: You Can Fight It!

WrittenbyLuat Duong
Last updated

Hair dryness appears to be a ubiquitous problem during hot summer months. Once the hair is damaged, it is prone to dehydration, which often results in moisture deficiency.

When there is a moisture deficiency in your hair, hair elasticity subsides, and brittleness happens, leaving it fragile and vulnerable to further damage. Dry hair also has a tendency to absorb moisture from the environment, making it frizzy most of the time.

Imagine heading out all day long to submerge in the warm bright sunshine, or to take an enjoyable swim in the sea just to come back with brittle, hay-like hair at the end of the day. Disappointing, right?

The good news is you don't need to let that happen.

Hair dryness during the summer months is preventable. And this is exactly what we aim to help you with, by giving you intensive knowledge about this matter in this article.

    How Hair Becomes Dehydrated

    Hair is a biological material constantly exposed to multiple external factors, such as humidity, sun rays, temperature, chemical treatments, etc. All of these factors influence and modify hair properties, altering its physical composition, and therefore its texture and look. 

    Although it is the water content in the inner layers (medulla and cortex) that accounts for hair moisture level, the cuticle is essential in enabling water to penetrate and depart from the hair shaft. 

    Being the outermost layer, the hair cuticle layer is more prone to damage. Such surface damages can lead to raised cuticle scales, increasing hair permeability and paving high hair porosity.

    This, in turn, leads to a lower capability to retain moisture and causes dehydration or moisture deficiency.

    One more reason for hair dehydration is an insufficient hair care regimen. As hair care demands may change when you experience changes, such as seasonal changes, environmental changes, hormonal changes, and more.

    Keeping a rigid hair routine or developing an under-demand routine will be insufficient for your hair to thrive. As a result, hair quality can depreciate, and hair dryness occurs.

    Read more: The 3 Kinds of Hair Regimens: Creating A Healthy Hair Regimen For You


    hair dryness in summer


    On another note, diverse causes of extrinsic hair shaft damage have been documented and can be roughly divided into physical causes and chemical causes.

    Chemical hair damage

    The frequent use of chemical agents in cosmetic procedures is one critical cause of hair shaft damage.

    With either too frequent or incorrect use, these cosmetic products may inflict structural changes on the hair surface and alter hair texture.

    Chemical hair damage is caused by the following:

    • Hair bleaching
    • Permanent waves
    • Hair relaxers
    • Hair dyeing

    Read more: Does Hair Dye Cause Hair Loss?

    Physical hair damage

    When it comes to physical causes of hair shaft damage, they comprise these things:

    • Friction damage
    • Photodamage
    • Heat damage

    While friction is a major damage factor to the hair surface, especially in wet hair, photodamage may also lead to severe hair alteration.

    Exposure to ultraviolet radiation damages hair fibres, and sunlight can lead to dryness, rough surface texture, decreased colour and lustre, and increased stiffness and brittleness.

    In discussing heat damage, hair dryers are one prominent factor that can cause hair damage such as roughness, dryness and loss of hair colour. Repeated cycles of wetting and blow-drying can cause multiple cracks on hair cuticles. 

    The best way to avoid physical damage is to simply minimise practices and the use of tools that lead to damage. However, all is not lost if your locks are already dry and worn-out. You may still be able to revitalise them with the proper aftercare and adequate nourishment.

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    Why You Should Think About Hair Dryness in Summer

    The effects of heat damage and UV radiation

    Hot air does more than just evaporate water. It can also damage the hair cuticle layer!

    If you blow-dry, straighten or curl your tresses on a regular basis, prominent heat damage can happen to the ultrastructure of the hair, causing colour changes as well.

    In addition, research has shown that the surface of hair shows an overall tendency to become more damaged as the temperature increases.

    Damage to hair from prolonged exposure to UV and visible light has also been widely reported. Multiple studies have indicated that this damage can affect the hair's keratin proteins, lipids, and melanin.

    Eventually, physical modifications happen due to decreased hydration and increased hair permeability. These changes can be:

    • Loss of tensile strength
    • Loss of shine
    • Split ends
    • Poor manageability of hair

    That means your hair may suffer from the influence of ultraviolet radiation while you enjoy the many outdoor activities this summer. If you are soaking up the sun rays sans hat, you are also depleting moisture from your hair.

    The damage can be even worse when you go outside with your hair remaining wet.

    That's why using heat protection is essential while you're out and about during the hotter months, and not just when you reach for your blow dryer or hair straightener.

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      UV radiation on hair

      Adapted from “Transepidermal UV radiation of scalp skin ex vivo induces hair follicle damage that is alleviated by the topical treatment with caffeine”, by Gherardini et al., 2019, Int. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 41(2), 164-182

      The effects of water on hair

      When thinking about summer, we all think about an exciting swim in the sea or regular visits to swimming pools. However, without proper care, you will risk dehydrating your hair strands to a great extent with each visit to the pool or the sea.

      Yes, even your hair can get dehydrated from too much water!

      When immersed in the water, the hair shaft expands and contracts after. When this is repeated through a water-related activity like swimming, it gradually weakens the hair.

      One expert has even revealed that a long-lasting wet stage can be harmful to the hair shaft and even dangerous to the cell membrane complex (the materials sealing hair cells together). 

      Read more: Does Washing Hair Everyday Cause Hair Loss?

      Want to swim in the sea and get those beachy waves?

      Think again. With its high salt content, seawater will draw water out of your hair and scalp. Natural oils in your scalp could also be reduced thanks to the cleansing effect of salt water, and too much could end up drying and making your scalp itchy.

      The same thing happens when you submerge into the pool water. The chlorine causes pool water to have a higher pH than that of healthy hair, which means that it opens hair cuticles. And raised cuticles mean more rapid moisture loss!

      Read more: Is Saltwater Good for Your Hair?

      saltwater effect on hair

      The truth about chemical hair treatments

      Reactive cosmetic treatments of hair and nails often impair fibre structure, adversely affecting water absorption. 

      In particular, bleaching and permanent waving processes damage disulfide bonds in hair strands. As a result, the hair fiber is more accessible by external H2O, disrupting hydrogen bonds and making the fiber more extensible and weaker.

      Many lipids are removed due to these chemical agents in the bleaching process, leading to a more porous hair surface.

      Read more: 10 Easy Steps To Fix Extreme Bleach-Damaged Hair

      Oxidative dyes are often used in permanent dyeing. This process mostly uses sodium hydroxide, increasing the pH to 9.0–10.5 to open hair cuticles so that the pigment molecules can reach the cortex, eventually removing hair melanin.

      It damages mainly the cuticle, causing partial or total loss of this layer and reducing hair softness and glow. This treatment also influences the protein content in hair, impairing hair fibre resistance.

        Travelling stress

        Whether you are taking summer vacations to the beach, your summer cottage, or abroad, you may have noticed your hair often get in worse shape following your getaway trips. This is not just because of warmer temperatures.

        While on vacation, maintaining a balanced diet can be challenging or become inferior to the gastronomic experience.

        It is also easy to forget to drink water throughout the day while travelling. The result: your whole body, including your hair, suffers from dehydration!

        When traversing multiple time zones, you may encounter acute sleep deprivation. Sleepless nights with endless fun could result in hair impact that lasts for months. Besides hair dryness, hair loss may happen due to a lack of sleep.

        When your thoughts are preoccupied by all the fun and the exciting places you get to visit, you may have less time to think about your hair (we don't blame you!).

        Put your mind at ease with the Hair Growth & Nourish Routine For Men or Hair Growth & Nourish Routine For Women. These are our most comprehensive hair care routines, so you don't have to choose between having fun and caring for your strands while you're on the go.

        Read more: Why Is Your Hair Falling Out With White Bulb?

        travelling stress hair damage


        How to alleviate hair dryness in summer

        As many potential damages eventually lead to lifeless and dehydrated hair, it is essential to understand the best way to protect your hair from these elements.  

        1. Firstly, using a hair dryer at a distance of 15cm with continuous motion causes less damage than drying hair naturally. Going against the follicle creates frizz, so always dry hair from scalp to ends and do not turn the dryer up to the highest setting.
        2. It is advisable to use hot tools only if necessary. In case you need to employ heat styling, make sure you use preventive measures, such as thermal protection products, prior to heat exposure. Also, remember to wear a hat when you are out under the sun, especially at noon time when the UVR is the strongest, and the heat is the highest. 
        3. Rinse hair with clean water or distilled water before entering a pool or sea. That way, your hair will absorb much less chlorine or salt water. And don't forget to wash your hair with clean water after the swim as soon as possible. There is nothing worse than hair saturated with salt water and then being steamed by the sun.
        4. To repair overly dry or very brittle hair, you can do deep conditioning (e.g., with a hair mask) to intensively provide your hair with moisture and protein. Conditioner can work as a hair mask when you leave it on for about 10 minutes.
        5. Applying an emollient, such as hair oil or cream to soften and moisturise hair after each wash, is highly suggested. In addition, certain hair oils can help fight heat damage as well!
        6. Before, during, and after travel, you can nourish your hair profusely with decent shampoo, conditioner, mask, and hair oil. These treatments can bolster your hair integrity, thus resisting disturbances from travelling.


        Lee, Yoonhee & Kim, Youn-Duk & Hyun, Hye-Jin & Pi, Long-Quan & Jin, Xinghai & Lee, Won-Soo. (2011). Hair Shaft Damage from Heat and Drying Time of Hair Dryer. Annals of dermatology. 23. 455-62. 10.5021/ad.2011.23.4.455.

        Fernández, E., Barba, C., Alonso, C., Martí, M., Parra, J. L., & Coderch, L. (2012). Photodamage determination of human hair. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, 106, 101–106.

        Rafieepour, A., Ghamari, F., Mohammadbeigi, A., & Asghari, M. (2015). Seasonal Variation in Exposure Level of Types A and B Ultraviolet Radiation: An Environmental Skin Carcinogen. Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research, 5(2), 129–133.

        Robbins CR, Chemical and Physical Behaviour of Human Hair (5th ed), 2012. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-25611-0.

        O'Connor SD, Komisarek KL, Baldeschwieler JD. Atomic force microscopy of human hair cuticles: a microscopic study of environmental effects on hair morphology. J Invest Dermatol. 1995 Jul;105(1):96-9. DOI: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12313377. PMID: 7615985.

        Barba, Clarides & Martí, Meritxell & Manich, Albert & Carilla, J. & Parra, J. & Coderch, L.. (2010). Water absorption/desorption of human hair and nails. Thermochimica Acta. 503. 33-39. 10.1016/j.tca.2010.03.004. 

        Luat Duong

        Luat Duong is a Copenhagen-based writer and content strategist specializing in hair loss and health. His work has been featured in MyHealthGuide, The Right Hairstyles, and Woman's Era. He is a graduate of Vaasa University. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.