Now that we’re in the thick of the summer, you probably want to focus on things like perfecting your tan, meeting your friends for long-overdue picnics, and living what everyone describes as your best life. What you don’t want to be thinking about is hair loss—and you definitely don’t want to be bothered by how the sun might accelerate it.
Like most things we’ve covered here, a quick internet search can send you down a dark rabbit hole full of myths and old wives tales about the relationship between sunscreen and hair loss. “Experts” across the internet will try to convince you that being in direct sunlight and using sunscreen is an easy way to broil your hair into oblivion. Sounds ridiculous? That’s because it is ridiculous.
So like most things we’ve covered here, we’re here to help you take a deep breath and debunk some of the most common myths about sun damage, hair loss, and whether or not the two of those things are related. Here are a few questions that you might have Googled and gotten dicey answers to before landing on this guide.
It’s been a minute, but good news: A Keeps expert previously debunked this myth in our guide on summer hair loss myths. The guide is worth reading, but we’ll give you a cliff’s notes version since you’re already here.
When you’re on the beach or out for a hike, extended exposure to the sun might make your scalp feel like it’s on fire. While that’s definitely an uncomfortable experience, hair loss expert and Keeps medical advisor Dr. Antonella Tosti notes that it’s not a direct cause of hair loss. However, Dr. Tosti notes that a lighter shade of hair during the summer months is a sign of damage that’ll likely result in your hair becoming dry.
We’re willing to bet that many of your parents still shout at you for not reapplying sunscreen frequently enough while outside. But can sunscreen cause hair loss? More importantly, can sunscreen prevent hair loss? If the latter were the case, you’d probably slather it on every day, right?
Unfortunately, we’re not going to be the ones to tell you that using sunscreen will prevent hair loss.
In fact, peer-reviewed studies have shown that there is no correlation between the two. As recently as last year, a study published by Elsevier found that there’s insufficient evidence to prove that any amount of sunscreen can prevent hair loss.
On the other hand, does sunscreen cause hair loss? The answer to this question is also no. There’s no evidence to prove that using sunscreen accelerates your hair loss. While it might be a bummer that sunscreen can’t prevent hair loss, there are still a lot of great reasons to use it whenever you’re outside for extended periods of time.
We alluded to this in the previous section, but your scalp absolutely needs sunscreen. In 2019, board-certified dermatologist Samer Jaber told New York magazine that people with bald heads should be using sunscreens that offer at least 30 SPF. Dr. Jaber suggests an even higher SPF to ensure that your scalp doesn’t get sunburnt.
Most experts agree that in addition to SPF ratings, men dealing with hair loss should also consider sunscreens that offer daily moisturizing. The New York Times recently put together a list of their top facial sunscreens and how to put sunscreen on the scalp. Additionally, some facial sunscreens offer water and sweat resistance, which can be a nice benefit during the warmer summer months.
While there are several options for men looking to protect their scalps from the sun, it’s important to reiterate that you should be applying sunscreen to your scalp whenever you’re out and about.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever taken a hat off and seen precious strands of hair strewn about on the brim? It happens to the best of us, and as a result, it’s hard not to wonder if wearing a hat is accelerating hair loss. Once you’ve landed on this conclusion, it’s an easy decision to ditch all of your headwear, right?
This is the part where we give you some good news: There’s no evidence that suggests hats cause hair loss. In fact, we’ve debunked this myth several times in different guides. While you might occasionally see a few strands of hair “fall out” after you remove a cap, it’s likely that this delicate hair has already been shed from your head and was sticking to the hat like a cheap souvenir.
So if you’re looking for an alternative to applying sunscreen to your scalp, look no further than your collection of hats. Not only can they protect your scalp from overexposure to the sun, but they can also add a bit of extra flair to your wardrobe.
We’ve probably said this a dozen times throughout this article, but if you walk away with anything, just remember that there’s no direct evidence that sunscreen can cause hair loss. As restrictions ease across the country, you’re going to be tempted to be outside for long periods of time. And if you’re dealing with male pattern baldness, we’d urge you to protect your scalp by wearing sunscreen and protective headwear during the summer.
There are a few things to note, however. You should keep in mind that too much exposure to the sun could cause changes in the texture of your hair. Dryness is a real thing, and when your hair gets too dry, it’ll appear thin to the naked eye. In addition to dryness, chlorine, excessive sweating, and salt water can affect your hair—but all of these factors also don’t contribute directly to hair loss.
Looking for proven solutions to treat male pattern baldness? Check out our guide on finasteride and minoxidil, which are the only two FDA-approved products to treat men’s hair loss.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Finasteride is an oral medication used to treat male pattern baldness in men only. It is not for use by women. When used by men, finasteride is generally safe but it can also cause serious side effects, including but not limited to allergic reactions, sexual dysfunction, depression, and high-grade prostate cancer. Most patients find that problems with sexual function resolve when they stop taking the medicine. For full prescribing information, view the drug label information.
Image credit: Jack Archer