Does the Sun Lighten Hair?

Does the Sun Lighten Hair?

Are you ready to hit the beach, step out into a sunny day, or work on your tan in your backyard? If so, you might be wondering about the effects of sun damage on your skin and hair. The summer sun has long been associated with lightening and brightening hair. Many of us have grown up hearing the myth that spending time under the sun can naturally lighten our locks. But is there any truth to this popular belief, or is it just an old abuela's tale? Let's shed some light on the science behind hair lightening and expose the truth about the sun's impact on our hair color.


The Biology of Hair Color

A dark-haired woman at the beach.

The color of our hair is determined by a pigment called melanin. Melanin comes in two main forms: eumelanin, which is responsible for brown and black hair, and pheomelanin, which is predominant in blonde hair and redheads. The amount and type of melanin in our hair follicles are primarily determined by genetics.

Now, abuela wasn't entirely wrong when she said that sunlight, particularly ultraviolet or UV exposure, can affect the hair's appearance. However, these changes are not technically hair lightening. Instead, what happens is that the UV light and radiation affect the melanin in our hair, leading to a breakdown of the pigment.

UV rays have the ability to break down the eumelanin and pheomelanin present in our hair, causing them to become oxidized and broken into smaller molecules. That's a complicated way of saying that the sun can make hair appear lighter or faded. However, it's important to note that this lightening effect is not the same as the true lightening that occurs when hair is chemically bleached or lightened using hair dyes or bleach.


A Lighter Shade of Sun?

A young woman with red hair at the beach.

The impact of sunlight on hair color varies depending on numerous factors. Firstly, the natural color of your hair plays a significant role. People with lighter hair, such as blondes and redheads, tend to experience more noticeable changes in color due to the higher levels of pheomelanin, which is more susceptible to UV damage. On the other hand, people with darker hair may not notice a significant change in color even after prolonged sun exposure.

Additionally, the intensity and duration of sun exposure can influence the degree of color change. Spending extended periods of time in direct sunlight, especially during peak summer months when the sun's rays are strongest, can lead to more pronounced effects on hair color. It's also worth noting that frequent exposure to sunlight without proper protection can also result in hair damage, such as dryness, brittle hair, and split ends.

Other factors, like hair porosity and condition, can affect how sunlight impacts hair color. The porosity of your hair affects how well oils and moisture pass through the hair cuticle. Hair that is more porous is more prone to color changes, as it allows UV rays to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft. Similarly, damaged or chemically treated hair may be more susceptible to sun-induced color fading.

In case you're thinking that prolonged sun exposure could give you your new favorite hair color, it's important to note that, while those UV rays can cause subtle changes in color, they're not a reliable, sustainable, or controlled method of lightening your locks. Sun-bleached hair might sound great, but it's not exactly salon worthy.


How to Care For Sun-Kissed Hair

There's no doubt that the sun has an effect on our hair. Beyond what it can do to the color, the sun can damage the hair cuticle, leaving your hair feeling dry, frizzy, and brittle. A hat or scarf is an easy way to minimize the harmful effects of the sun, but you should also add Lu's Rescue Collection to your sun-protection toolkit. Rescue helps reverse sun damage by delivering game-changing nourishment and naturally restorative ingredients that help protect the cuticle.

Lu's shampoos, conditioners and styling creams also contain a secret weapon against the sun's harmful rays. Impossible Keratin™️, Lu's proprietary vegan keratin formulation, works at a microscopic level to add UV protection and gives your hair three times the strength and elasticity of regular keratin. That means more protection for your hair cuticles.


The Bottom Line

A dark-haired Latina woman enjoying the sun.

While the sun can cause subtle changes in hair color through the breakdown of melanin pigments, it won't dramatically lighten or bleach hair like chemical processes do. The extent of the color change varies depending on factors such as natural hair color, long periods of exposure, and hair condition. But with the right products and preventative steps, you and your hair can face the sun without fear.