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 hair lacks water or there is a moisture deficiency, hair elasticity subsides, brittleness happens, leaving it fragile and vulnerable to further damage. Also, dry hair tends 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. How disappointing, right? Well, 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 are doing: 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 behaviour.
Although it is the water content in the medulla and cortex layers that accounts for hair moisture level, the cuticle is essential in enabling water to penetrate and depart from the hair shaft.
Being the outmost 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, etc., 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.
On another note, diverse causes of extrinsic hair shaft damage have been documented and can be roughly divided into physical causes and chemical causes. Frequent use of chemical agents in cosmetic products (e.g., bleaches, permanent waves, relaxers, or colours) 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.
Physical causes of hair shaft damage include friction damage, photodamage or 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. Regarding heat damage, hair dryers are one prominent factor and 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.
Why You Should Think About Hair Dryness In Summer
Heat damage and UV radiation
Hot air does more than just evaporating water - it can damage the hair cuticle layer. If you blow-dry, straighten or curl your tresses on a regular basis, heat damage can happen to the ultrastructure of the hair, as well as colour changes. In addition, research has proved that the hair surfaces show 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. According to studies, this damage can occur to the keratin proteins, lipids, and melanin. Eventually, physical modifications (e.g., loss of tensile strength, loss of shine, split ends, and poor manageability) happen due to decreased hydration and increased hair permeability. The hair damage will accelerate in the presence of copper ions from tap water taken up by the 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 rays sans hat, you are also depleting moisture from your hair. The damage can be even worse when you get outside with your hair remaining wet.
Read more about UV radiation and its impacts 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
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.
Firstly, the repeated expansion of the hair shaft when immersed in the water and the contraction after that gradually weaken the hair. Also, studies discovered 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).
Moreover, with its high salt content, seawater can 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.
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; thus, it opens hair cuticles. And raised cuticles mean rapid moisture loss!
Read more about saltwater and hair health.
Reactive cosmetic treatments of hair and nails often impair fibre structure, leading to an adverse effect on water absorption. Permeability, directly related to the diffusion coefficient, increased with the degradation treatment.
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 or weaker in its tensile strength. Also, many lipids are removed due to these chemical agents, leading to a more porous hair surface.
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. Also, this treatment influences the protein content in hair, impairing hair fibre resistance.
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.
While on vacation, maintaining a balanced diet can be challenging or become inferior to the gastronomic experience. Drink enough water throughout the day can be easily bypassed by most people during their trips. 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 the hair dryness, hair loss may happen due to a lack of sleep.
How To Alleviate Hair Dryness In Summer
As many potential damages eventually lead to lifeless dehydrated hair, it is essential to understand the best way to protect your hair from these elements.
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.
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.
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 not 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.
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. Apply 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!
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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2011.10.011
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. https://doi.org/10.4103/2141-9248.153623
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.