How to Treat Scalp Sunburn

Hollie Shirley / Hair & Skincare Editor

Caught too many rays this summer? Scalp sunburn can be really painful and is often an afterthought when it comes to picking up your holiday essentials – but what can we do to protect our scalp?

Sunburn on the scalp can be incredibly painful, and dangerous if left untreated. We all know that excessive exposure to the sun will lead to sunburn and  It’ll show your scalp no mercy regardless of the number of strands covering it. So for today, we are going to show you how to protect your hair from the sun.

But first, how can you tell you that a scalp is sunburned?

Any skin (and that includes your scalp) exposed to too much of the ultraviolet (UV) light in sunlight burns. For the scalp, symptoms such as redness, feeling warm or hot to the touch, tenderness or pain, itching, small, fluid-filled blisters are markers of sunburn damage. When severe, symptoms can range from headache, fever, nausea to fatigue.

Usually, it’d take a few hours for the first symptoms of sunburn to appear, but you can only determine its full extent after 24 hours or longer.

See your doctor if your sunburn symptoms include extreme pain, high fever, headache, confusion, nausea or has been infected (increasing pain, swelling, pus draining from an open blister, red streaks extending from an open blister).

 

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Now that you know what a sunburned scalp looks like let’s discuss how it can ultimately damage your hair.

Typically,  sunburn on your scalp will not cause hair loss unless the skin in the burned area is peeling, and even that should regrow. However, in extreme cases, sunburns may damage your follicles and interfere with hair growth in the burned region. If you have less natural protection from the sun’s UV rays, your hair will thin out. If this is the case, adjust the level of protection you provide for your scalp.

Okay, then what?

Don’t panic. You can prevent scalp sunburns without having to avoid the sun altogether. All you need is scalp sun protection, and silk headcovers are great at doing just that. The UV light is most intense between 10 am to 4 pm. Wear a silk head wrap or at the very least a hat if you intend to be out in the sun at this time. This will prevent sunburns to your scalp while conserving your hairs’ moisture and nutrients, thus promoting hair growth.

Headcovers with loose weaves allow UV light through to your scalp. And if that happens, it wouldn’t matter if it’s silk covering; your scalp will burn.

But what if my scalp is already sunburned?

Here are steps you can take to reduce the pains and effects of a sunburned scalp.

  1. Avoid more exposure to the sun to reduce the pains of your already burned scalp. Wear a silk head cover if you need to go under the sun. However, do not wear a head cover if you have open wounds; consult with your doctor.
  2. Next, keep your hair moisturized. Wash, condition and deep condition properly. Leave-in essential oils and ensure that your hair and scalp is never thirsty. Avoid hair products that contain sulfates and dimethicone. They eventually cause more irritation.
  3. Shower in cool (or at most lukewarm) water. Hot water will cause your burned scalp more discomfort.
  4. Home remedies like mixing baking soda and water or mixing finely ground oatmeal with bath water can serve as an immediate reliever to sunburned scalps. Cold compresses also soothe the pain.
  5. Keep your hair away from heat. Dry and style your hair without heat.
  6. Drink water and keep hydrated. Staying hydrated will keep your scalp moisturized too.
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Ultimately the easiest way to prevent sunburn is to avoid the sun. Easy ways to prevent sunburn on your scalp from appearing in the first place include:

  • Wear a hat on days where you will be out in the sun for extended periods, even if it is a little overcast.
  • Invest in a scalp specific sunscreen and reapply it throughout the day.
  • Try to stay out of the sun where possible – seek shade and keep cool!
  • Apply aloe vera gel to your scalp if it starts to feel like it has had too much sun – treating sunburn early will prevent it from getting worse.

 

Hollie Shirley
Hair & Skincare Editor

Hollie Shirley is SILKUP’s hair and skincare editor. She’s obsessed with all things hair care and results-driven skincare, that is kind to the environment and your wallet. She has a weakness for limited edition eyeshadows and is always testing out the newest and greatest deep conditioners. Hollie has a passion for hair and is studying Trichology, working towards becoming a Member of the Association of Registered Trichologists.