How to Protect Your Hair During the Summer

Swimming pool and ocean water, along with the sun, can damage your hair. Here’s what to do.

Swimming pool and ocean water, along with the sun, can damage your hair. Here’s what to do
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That sun. Those waves. This warm weather.

If there's ever a time for shiny, vibrant, luscious hair, it's summer. But your locks may actually take a hit over the next few months. Sun and water can be damaging, leading to faded color, split ends and a brittle, dry texture. "A lot can go wrong," says Gregory Patterson, a stylist and instructor at Blow, the New York Blow Dry Bar. "Hair color is such an investment, and keratin treatments are super expensive. Hopping in the chlorine or salt water can just strip them right out of the hair and cause it to look dull and dehydrated."

Not exactly the look you were going for, right? Fear not: There are plenty of tricks to protect your hair this summer. That way, you can enjoy the warm weather without having to spend the fall and winter repairing the damage. Patterson and other hair care experts shared their favorite tips:

Consider your geography. If you're close to the equator, the sun will be much more intense. That means it's more likely to dry out your locks and oxidize your color. "I'm a guy, and my hair is pretty simple," says Chris Lospalluto, a stylist at Sally Hershberger in New York. "But I was down in Barbados a couple weeks ago, and it's close to the equator. The texture of my hair was almost completely different. It created a little bit of a wave." In those situations, it's smart to take extra precautions, Lospalluto says.

[See: Do's and Don'ts of Healthy Hair.]

Get a haircut. It's always best to get a trim before summer. The sun will do extra damage to hair that's already dry, so if you remove those dead ends, you'll be in better shape. Though experts generally recommend getting a trim every six to eight weeks, Lospalluto suggests holding off during the summer. "You'll probably need one in August, but everyone's at the beach," he says. "Just stretch it a few more weeks, let the ocean beat it up and then come in for a conditioning treatment, and we'll refresh it and fix it up."

Start in the shower. If you've been out in the sun and forgot to protect your hair, you can still give it the nourishment it needs. Opt for a hydrating shampoo and conditioner, Patterson says. At Blow, such products provide "intense hydration" – largely thanks to a combination of soy and corn protein. Make sure products don't contain harsh sulfates, parabens or sodium chlorine, which will weigh down your locks.

[See: 10 Best Foods for Your Hair.]

Use UV-shielding products. You slap sunscreen on your skin to prevent burns. And likewise, an array of products are specifically designed to protect your hair from UV rays. These can help prevent highlighted hair from lightening too quickly and looking fried, and they can keep dark hair from turning brassy or red. Most are finishing products such as UV-based hairspray or leave-in conditioner. "Some of them really do work," Lospalluto says. "I mean, it's not pushing the sun back into the solar system, but they can make a difference." Keep in mind that products always need to be applied to damp hair. Otherwise, they'll sit on the surface and won't sink into the hair.

[See: Try These At-Home Sunburn Treatments.]

Dampen your locks. Spray some water on your hair before you go into the pool or ocean. It adds an extra layer of coating, so when you go swimming, your hair isn't as likely to absorb 100 percent of the chlorinated water. "You won't have this huge concentration of chlorine or salt water blast your hair and dry your hair out," Lospalluto says. "It'll be diluted because your hair is already wet." Otherwise, if you're starting out with dry blonde hair, there's a good chance it will be green by the end of the summer, he says.

Brush carefully. Since hair is most fragile when it's wet, don't rip a brush through it after swimming. Spray some detangler on it, and then use a wide-tooth comb to minimize breakage.

[See: Cheers for Beer ... Shampoo, That Is.]

Choose strong hair bands. Summer heat practically demands we throw our hair back, and a ponytail with no part can even protect the scalp from exposure to the sun. The problem is that pulling it too tight can cause hair to break – or just "snap the hair off," as Patterson says, particularly if it's already dry. Pulling your hair back when it's wet is even more damaging. Aim for loose buns and ponytails, and let your hair down before going to sleep at night. Alternate the way you put it up, too – tie it low one day, high another and to the side the next. That way, you're not always stressing the same strands.