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Summer Fun

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Protecting hair from surf and sun

People are well aware that they need to protect their skin from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. But few may know they need to devote as much attention to protecting their hair.

In addition to exposing hair to potentially harmful UVrays, time outdoors in the sun can leave hair brittle, dull and more prone to breakage. People fail to realize that the scalp also is susceptible to sunburn and can take a beating when in the sun for many hours. If your hair is particularly thin, you may be more at risk for sun-related trauma to the scalp. Combine damage from the sun with the drying factor of chemically treated pool water or saltwater, and you have a recipe for bad hair.

There are a number of ways to protect the hair and still enjoy some fun in the sun.

* Wear a hat when out in the sun. A hat will serve as a barrier from direct sunlight. A hat will protect your face while covering your head and most of your hair. When swimming, opt for a swimming cap that will cover the hair and guard it from pool chemicals or seawater.

* Use a leave-in conditioner. Leave-in conditioners or even regular conditioners can be combed through your hair before you head to the pool or beach. The conditioner will coat the strands of hair and protect it from drying out and other sun damage.

* Rely on an SPFproduct. There are leave-in treatments for hair and scalp that are a conditioner and sunscreen all-in-one. But if you need something that works in a pinch, simply dilute a little standard sunscreen with water and spritz it through the hair, paying attention to the scalp and other easily burned areas, like the ears and nape of the neck. You can also mix sunscreen with a little conditioner and work it through your hair.

* Rinse your hair after swimming. Saltwater and pool water may continue to cause damage after you finish swimming. Once you're through, rinse your hair with cool, clean water to get out as much salt or chemical residue as possible. Also rinse out any sand that may have become lodged in your hair, as sand can rub against hair and cause breakage. When you have time for a shower, use an after-sun shampoo specially designed to thoroughly clean hair after it has been exposed to the sun.

* Keep hair from turning green. Few people hope to have their hair turn green after swimming in a pool. Unfortunately, such a transformation is somewhat common, particularly for those with blonde or light-colored hair. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the chlorine itself that causes hair to turn green, but rather oxidized metals in the pool water that bind to the protein in the hair shaft. Copper is the metal that produces the green tint and is often found in algaecides. The chlorine added to the pool may speed up the oxidizing process but is not the actual cause of the color. Special shampoos that chelate the metal in the hair follicle can help remove the green. Also, try rinsing your hair with a mixture of clean water and baking soda after swimming.

* Avoid excessive hair styling. Highlighting or coloring the hair directly before a fun-in-the-sun vacation can dry out or frizz hair even further. Furthermore, the sun and the saltwater will naturally highlight hair even further, so you could end up with a different color than you initially intended. If you have colored your hair, keep it pinned up and under a hat when out in the sun. Also, minimize drying hair with a hair dryer, and cut down on your use of heat-based styling aides. These appliances can just compound hair damage.

It is important to protect the hair and scalp when spending significant time in the sun. Whether you cover up or lather on sunscreen, there are a number of ways to reduce hair damage that results from sun exposure.