Ruth Griffin: Healthy holiday hair
Protect your locks from sun damage with these top tips
Summer is the time of year where we really start paying attention to our hair. Did you know after just two weeks of sun exposure your hair colour loses 37pc of its intensity? Not to mention the dehydration, frizz, lack-lustre locks, the chlorine-induced green tinge that blondes can acquire, and burnt scalps. Below, stylist Andrew McElroy gives his top tips for combatting these problems.
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Ask the expert
Hairdresser Andrew McElroy, owner of Andrew McElroy Hair Concepts in Co Wicklow, shares all his top tips to look after your hair this summer
How does the summer sun affect our hair?
When your hair is exposed to the sun, UVA and UVB rays will damage the cover of the hair strand, known as the cuticle. Most of the damage caused by the sun is simply due to the evaporation of the natural oils that keep the hair looking shiny and healthy.
Does the scalp need protection in hot weather?
Absolutely - your scalp is skin and is equally at risk to sun damage as the skin on the rest of your body. Skin cancers are easily overlooked, which can delay their detection.
Does exposure to UV rays weaken the hair long-term?
UV rays not only destroy the individual hair strands, but also the follicles that grow them. The protein bonds break down and the hair will lose shine and strength. UV exposure alters pigment in the follicle strands, so colour will fade from your hair. This is why hair looks lighter after a time in the sun.
How can blondes stop their hair from getting a green tinge on holidays?
Chlorine plays a part in turning blonde hair green, however, it's traces of metal in swimming pool purification systems - such as copper which is used to prevent algaecide slime forming in the pool - that cause the real problem. All hair colours can absorb these metal deposits, however they are less visible on darker hair. There are many products available to reduce the risk of pool-damaged hair. If you don't have professional remedies to hand, a simple trick is to saturate the hair with clean water and comb through a small amount of conditioner before you get into the pool, to act as a barrier. When you get out, rinse your hair, then put your sun hat back on. If you do go green, get a professional treatment at your hair salon. Don't follow the old wives' tale of rinsing your hair with vinegar or lemon - they are acidic and will cause further damage.
Are there special concerns for those with grey or white hair?
People with grey/white hair have little or no pigment at all in their hair. As a result the hair can often lack moisture and natural oils, and can look dry and brittle. It is important to protect this hair. It's equally, if not more, vulnerable to becoming green-tinged, so follow the rule sopposite when swimming in a pool.
Can sea salt damage Our hair?
The sea obviously has a high salt content that will dehydrate your hair leaving it dry and brittle if too much moisture is lost. Your hair can become dull and tangled. Sea salt damage will also give coloured hair a very hard texture making it difficult to blow-dry and hold a curl.
What are your favourite hair products for summer?
The "Solarium" range by ALFAPARF Milano (€10.90-€13.50 from salons nationwide) aims to ensure complete protection before and after sun exposure.
Andrew’s summer haircare tips
* The best prevention against sun-damaged hair is simple: wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers all your hair. A hat provides almost 100pc protection from scalp and hair damage in the areas it covers. Go out early or later in the day, as UV rays are not as strong.
* Get your hair sun-ready by using quality homecare products. Buy the best products that you can afford and consult with your hair stylist to ensure they are suitable for your hair type. For already damaged hair, I strongly advise professional in-salon treatments to reconstruct the hair as the focus needs to be on hydration, restoring protein bonds, and helping protect colour and colour treatments.
* The best tip I can give is to invest in suncare products for your hair the same way you invest in suncare products for your skin.
* I have heard of people making their own hair sunscreen using SPF and water in a spray bottle and spritzing the hair and scalp. My concern with this is damage to the hair, because there are many unknown foreign chemical compounds to deal with.
* Try instead sun-blocking shampoos and conditioners. They can be expensive but they provide protection and convenience.
* If you are using sunblock or an SPF shampoo, it is also very important that you use a deep moisturising conditioner, as the SPF can draw out much of the hair’s moisture, causing more damage.
* Don’t use a lightening serum or even lemon juice because the acids will cause the hair to become dry and weak.