A thought bubble shows a photo of a large surgical wound on a man's scalp.

Protecting the Scalp from the Sun's Harmful UV Rays

I love hats, all kinds, but especially baseball caps. I don’t play baseball but have found these American classics to be very effective at shading my eyes and keeping large parts of my head and scalp protected from the sun’s rays. As a wildlife photographer, you will find me outside in almost any weather with different levels of sunlight. My ballcaps are my go-to scalp protectors, although wide-brimmed hats completely around my head would be even better.

Protecting your scalp without a hat

There is a problem, though. I cannot wear baseball hats every time I am outside. In fact, there are times when I cannot wear any type of hat at all. This is especially true in my line of work as an actor. The wardrobe bosses make the decisions about what I can and cannot wear on my scalp. I wrote about this in a past article. Sometimes, the only thing between me and the sun is my thinning hairline!

I don’t like how sunscreens feel on my hair

In the past, I have just sprayed sunscreen on my head but this presents a huge problem in itself. Most sunscreens (even the ones designed to protect the scalp) leave an unpleasant residue on my scalp in my hair. That stuff makes my hair look oily and feel stiff almost like hairspray, and that is rarely the look I am going for on or off the movie set.

Sun and scalp risks

It’s getting to be that time of the year again when I will need to protect my scalp without a hat. In my research, I found some interesting tidbits that can help all of us and provided me with some "aha" moments.

  • According to Dr. Hadley King from New York City, horizontal skin surfaces (perpendicular to the sun) are particularly exposed to the sun’s rays. No wonder my scalp burns so quickly.
  • The scalp is often neglected. Think about swimming the pool or at the beach.
  • Thick hair can protect the scalp but hairlines and the part exposes skin.
  • People with fine, thinning, or no hair, are more susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun’s rays. ( I knew this.)
  • As an aside, sun exposure can make one’s hair dry and brittle and damage its growth cycle. I need all the help I can get.

Protecting the scalp

Here are some recommended options to consider for protecting the scalp that don’t involve dipping your head in a vat of lotion:

  • Spray and mousse options: You may have to try a few different brands to find one that doesn’t leave a residue making you look like you are 1940’s movie star. These tend to have chemical ingredients and don’t leave a white cast. Pay attention to alcohol content, which may dry out your hair.
  • Sunscreen powders: they can absorb oils from your scalp but may come off more easily leaving you unprotected. Many contain mineral ingredients as opposed to chemicals.
  • If you have a thick head of hair, apply any form of sunscreen to the whole scalp parting the hair as you go. Spray sunscreen at least eight inches from the scalp, focusing on thinning or balding areas. Rub the product in and wait at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. As always, reapply after two hours or after getting wet.

Now, it’s your turn. Can anyone recommend a product that they like?

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