can sunburn on scalp cause hair loss
By Tamim Hamid Posted on 07/26/2022

Can Sunburn on Scalp Cause Hair Loss?: How to Treat

Exposing our bodies to sunlight is often associated with a range of health benefits, from boosting vitamin D levels to improving overall mood. However, the effects of sun exposure can be a bit more complex regarding our hair and scalp. "Can sunburn on the scalp cause hair loss?" In this blog post, we'll explore the relationship between sunburn and hair health and the potential risks involved. Many factors are responsible for the progression of hair loss - lifestyle, environment, and genetics are all aspects that play a significant role that you can’t control.

But there’s one hair loss factor you can control. Do you know that prolonged exposure to the sun can damage the skin on your scalp? It can lead to sunburn, dryness, flaking, and irritation. While a sunburn on the scalp may not directly cause immediate hair loss, it can still adversely affect hair health. Sunburn damages the protective oils and cellular structure of the hair and skin, which leads to dryness and breakage. There are also claims that sunburn can trigger the production of a compound called superoxide, which may influence hair follicles, but more research is needed to establish a clear link.

Also, it is crucial to take preventive measures, such as using sunscreen on the scalp and wearing protective headgear to minimize the risk of sun damage and its potential impact on hair health.

Is the Sun Good For Your Hair Growth and Scalp?

Exposure to the sun has both positive and negative effects on your hair and scalp. On one hand, sunlight can benefit your hair by aiding in the production of vitamin D, which supports hair follicles and helps maintain a healthy scalp. On the other hand, excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation can have detrimental effects, especially for people with lighter and finer hair.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, exposure to the sun can damage the outer cover of the hair stand which is known as a cuticle. You are especially susceptible to hair loss acceleration from the sun if you have lighter or finer hair. The risk of hair acceleration increases if you frequently lighten your hair, use heat on your hair, or swim in chlorine pools.

Moreover, prolonged sun exposure can also lead to other issues like hair damage, hair color fading, and dryness. The rays from the sun break down hair proteins, which results in weaker strands. Also, the scalp is sensitive to sunburn, causing scalp irritation, redness, and even peeling.

What is Sunburn on Scalp?

Sunburn on the scalp is a type of skin damage that develops after ultraviolet radiation exposure from sunlight. The first layer of the scalp is made of skin so it is like any other kind of sunburn. Although scalp skin is slightly thicker than regular skin, it can still get sunburned. The symptoms of scalp sunburn include redness and pain. Sunburn can happen along the hair parts, hairline, in areas of hair thinning or baldness, or all over the scalp.

You have hair which is supposed to protect your scalp. However, it is not 100% effective. That’s why people who have less hair, thin hair, or no hair are more likely to develop scalp sunburn since there is no protection from hair.

Symptoms of Sunburned Scalp Hair Loss

When the scalp is severely sunburned, it can negatively impact the health of the hair follicles, resulting in temporary or even permanent hair loss. Understanding the symptoms associated with sunburned scalp hair loss is crucial for early detection and intervention. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

Thinning Hair

If your scalp gets sunburned, it can lead to hair problems. One symptom you might notice is thinning hair. Thinning happens because the sunburn damages the hair follicles. As the damaged hairs fall out, your hair looks and feels thinner than before. This thinning can occur gradually or suddenly, depending on the severity of the sunburn.

Excessive Shedding

Another sign of hair loss from a sunburned scalp is excessive shedding. When the hair follicles get damaged by the sun's harsh rays, they can't hold onto the hair strands as tightly. This causes more hairs than usual to fall out during brushing, washing, or even just running your fingers through your hair. You may notice clumps of hair coming out or lots of stray strands on your clothes.

Brittle and Weak Hair

A sunburned scalp can weaken the hair strands, making them more prone to breakage. If your hair feels dry, brittle, or lacks elasticity after sun exposure, it could be a sign of sunburn-related damage.

Delayed Hair Regrowth

After experiencing hair loss from sun exposure, you may notice that hair regrowth is slower than usual. Normally, hair follows a cycle,i.e., old hairs fall out, and new ones grow in. But sunburn damage disrupts this hair growth cycle. It can take several weeks or even months for new hair to emerge from the affected areas.

How to Treat Sunburned Scalp Hair Loss?

The good news is that there are ways to limit sunburned scalp hair loss. Here are some ways you can limit hair loss because of sun exposure.

Protect your head from direct sun exposure

It’s important to protect your head from direct sun exposure, especially when you go places like the beach in the spring and summer. It’s important to wear a hat or a scarf on your head or use an umbrella to keep the sun’s rays off of you.

Learn More: Does Wearing a Hat Cause Dandruff?

woman wearing a hat
Wearing a hat never hurts

Don’t go out in the middle of the day

As tempting as the warm weather is, it’s better to go out earlier and later in the day rather than mid-day. The sun's rays are strongest in the early afternoon, especially during warmer seasons, so it's better for your hair to prevent hair loss if you do most of your adventuring outdoors in the mornings and evenings.

Swim with a cap in chlorinated pools

As previously mentioned, chlorine also contributes to sunburned scalp hair loss. Swimming in pools with chlorine, especially outdoor pools, can lead to sunburned scalp hair loss, which can cause significant damage to your hair. It’s better to wear a swimming cap when in chlorinated pools or avoid chlorine altogether by swimming in saltwater pools if possible.

Don’t over shampoo your hair

Another tip to avoid hair loss from sun damage is not over-shampooing your hair. Shampooing too frequently, especially with harsh shampoos, can strip your hair of its natural oils. These natural oils help protect your scalp and hair from sun damage. When your scalp and strands are dry and unprotected, they become more vulnerable to burning and shedding from sun exposure. So, stick to gentle, moisturizing shampoos, and don't wash your hair more than every few days.

Trim and condition your hair

One way to help prevent hair loss from a sunburned scalp is to trim and condition your hair regularly. Frequent trims clear your hair of dry and damaged split ends that could break off. Using a deep conditioning treatment also helps keep your hair strong and moisturized. With healthier, stronger strands, your hair is less likely to fall out excessively if your scalp gets sunburned.

Use sunscreen on your body and your hair

You are probably focusing most of your sunscreen on exposed parts of your body. However, its easy to forget to apply it on your scalp. There are different sunscreens which are specifically meant to be used on your scalp and hair to protect them from the sun damage.

Can You Reverse the Effects of Sun-Damaged Hair?

Yes, you can reverse the effects even if your hair has fallen victim to sunburned scalp hair loss. There are ways to reverse it back and get your hair healthy and beautiful. Nevertheless, if you are facing early or late stages of hair loss, it’s important to follow all of the advices above when it comes to taking care of your hair in the sun. There are also other ways which can help your hair regrow and even better than ever before.

Don’t use as much shampoo

According to Men’s Journal, using too much shampoo can be a factor in hair loss, especially after hair loss and thinning started by sun damage. You can preserve your hair’s natural oils that nourish the hair throughout the day and protect your hair if you cut down your shampoo usage to half or even a quarter of what you normally use, especially with sun-damaged hair.

That being said, it is important to regularly condition your hair. You really shouldn’t go for days on end where you aren’t conditioning your hair unless you’re substituting it with a hair mask. Your hair needs moisture and nutrients - the sun and some shampoos will severely strip your hair of natural oils that are essential.

sun benefits for hair

Consider Laser Light Therapy

Laser hair regrowth treatment is the most powerful and effective treatment for reversing hair loss and is recommended by 4 out of 5 hair growth professionals. The Theradome helmet, particularly, is a doctor-recommended treatment for hair loss that the FDA has cleared for safe and effective home treatment.

Despite some common misconceptions about laser hair regrowth therapy, the Theradome helmet is easy to use, effective, safe, and actually very affordable. It’s also not painful, as some might believe. While it does take some time to start seeing real results, it is one of the best ways to reverse the effects of sun damage on hair and hair loss.

Imagine a future where hair loss from sun damage is just a distant memory. Theradome's laser helmet can make that a reality. Don't hesitate – invest in your hair's future now!

Learn more about the Theradome.


Does Sunlight Cause Gray Hair?

Sunlight itself directly doesn't cause premature gray hair. However, it can indirectly contribute. Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause premature aging of skin, specifically gradual loss of melanin which is the pigment responsible for hair color. As we age, melanin production decreases, leading to lighter-colored hair growth, which can eventually appear gray or white.

Thicker, coarser, and naturally oily hair can withstand UV radiation exposure better than thinner hair. However, it is best to cover hair if you are exposed to the sun for a long period of time.

How to Protect Dyed Hair From the Sun?

Artificial hair color is more easily damaged by sunlight than natural hair color. That is why protecting dyed hair from the sun is important to maintain hair color and overall hair health. To protect your dyed hair, you should cover it up when you are out. Also, look into some hair care products such as sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners as well as hair-specific sunscreen. 

Does sun make your hair grow?

Although sunlight does not directly cause hair to grow, its exposure triggers the production of vitamin D in your body, which plays a role in maintaining overall health, including your hair follicles. Additionally, moderate sun exposure can also improve the overall health of your scalp by reducing fungal and bacterial growth.

Will hair grow back after scalp sunburn?

Hair will usually grow back after sunburn as the scalp heals. However, the regrowth timeline can vary, and new hair may take several weeks to months to emerge.

Can sunburn cause thinning hair?

Severe sunburn can lead to temporary thinning hair as it can weaken the hair strands, making them more prone to breakage. However, proper care, protection, and allowing the scalp to heal can help restore hair thickness.


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Tamim Hamid

Tamim Hamid

Inventor and CEO of Theradome

Sayyid Tamim Hamid, Ph.D, is the inventor of the world’s first FDA-cleared, wearable phototherapy device to prevent hair loss and thicken and regrow hair. Tamim, a former biomedical engineer at NASA and the inventor of Theradome, brings with him more than 38 years of expertise in product development, laser technology, and biomedical science. Tamim used his laser knowledge, fine-tuned at NASA, and combined it with his driving passion for helping others pursue a lifelong mission in hair loss and restoration. He is now one of the world’s leading experts.