4 Tips to Reduce Breakage and Retain Length this Summer


Style Icon KaraYou spent all winter (as well as the cold spring) protective styling, and now all you want to do is let your hair loose for the summer. Continuing on with the discussion of summer hair care, let’s discuss some things to consider if you want to enjoy your hair — especially “out and free” — while retaining some of the growth you get this season.

1. Protection from the sun’s UV rays – wear hat or use oils/products with SPF 

Just as your skin can undergo damage from the sun’s rays, so can your hair. Summer arrives. Your hair color gets lighter. Your strands feel weak and brittle. If you notice any of these transformations in the season of sun, then you might be experiencing ultraviolet (UV) damage. Here are some specific findings from research:

– UVB radiation affects the cuticle and is responsible for protein (particularly keratin) breakdown in the hair
– UVA radiation penetrates to the cortex and is responsible for melanin degradation, or hair color changes
– UV radiation affects hair lipids, leading photodamaged hair to have increased porosity, rough surface texture, and reduced strength

Protecting your strands from excessive, prolonged sun exposure is an important component to maintaining healthy hair. What are some forms of protection? Wear a sun hat or sit under an umbrella to provide a barrier between your hair and UV rays. Apply hair products containing sunscreen (beware of marketing ploys). Apply olive oil (SPF of 7.549) or coconut oil (SPF of 7.119) to your hair prior to leaving the house; these two oils have the highest SPFs amongst a group of studied herbal oils but higher SPFs may (or may not) be necessary for your hair.

2. Protection from chlorine or salt water – apply conditioner or oils

For some of you, summer means more time in the pool or ocean, and this can translate to exposure to chlorine or salt. After long exposure to these elements, hair can become dry and brittle. Before jumping into the pool or ocean, you can protect your hair by applying conditioner (an inexpensive one will do) or a thick oil (e.g., castor oil), either of which can form a slight barrier between chlorinated/salt water and your strands. After you’ve enjoyed your swim for the summer day, you can rinse and condition your hair, OR if chlorinated/salt water did interact with your strands, wash your hair with a shampoo designed to remove chlorine. Do read Jc’s post for more details on protecting your natural hair while swimming.

3. Breakage from out/loose styles – choose low-maintenance ones and moisturize galore

For many naturals, summer is the time to wear our hair out and big, but overdoing it can hurt length retention for some.   You obviously don’t have to protective style 24/7, but wearing a bun or pin-up from time to time may be useful.  When wearing your hair loose, choose styles that are low manipulation (or low maintenance) such as 2nd/3rd day loose styles that only require fluffing the next morning.  Use the pineapple method to help preserve your style while sleeping; for those with denser, kinkier textures, check out this video on how to maintain your twist-outs/braid-outs over night.

As for moisture? Keep it coming during dry, hot weather, especially if your hair is out.

4. Too hot for bonnet/scarf – sleep on satin pillow

I must admit that on some summer days, I just don’t feel like wearing a bonnet or scarf to bed. Now, we all know that the cotton pillowcase can yield breakage if we don’t protect our hair on a consistent basis. If you’re like me and want to sleep without anything covering your hair, at the very least, use a satin pillowcase in place of your usual cotton.

1. Deep Kaur C, Saraf S. In vitro sun protection factor determination of herbal oils used in cosmetics. Pharmacognosy Res. 2010 Jan-Feb; 2(1): 22–25.
2. Jeon SY, Pi LQ, Lee WS. Comparison of hair shaft damage after UVA and UVB irradiation. J Cosmet Sci. 2008 Mar-Apr;59(2):151-6.
3. Santos Nogueira AC, Joekes I. Hair color changes and protein damage caused by ultraviolet radiation.J Photochem Photobiol B. 2004 May 27;74(2-3):109-17.
4. Lee WS. Photoaggravation of Hair Aging.Int J Trichology. 2009 Jul-Dec; 1(2): 94–99.


Ladies, do you struggle with length retention during the summer? If so, how do you address this issue?