Expert's Opinion

Here Comes the Sun

By Philip Pelusi, Hair care expert | April 7, 2014

The surprisingly damaging effects of the outdoor’s beautiful rays.

When we think about the rays from the sun, the things that usually come to mind are wonderful.  Warm, relaxing, vacation, freeing, fun and a golden tan.  But the truth is that besides generating some beneficial Vitamin D within our bodies, these warm and fuzzy feelings are really a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  The wolf being the damaging Ultra Violet rays from the sun and their detrimental effects on our skin, scalp and hair.  For the most part, my clients are well aware of importance of sun protection for the skin on their face and bodies.  So common in fact that SPF-containing “day” moisturizers have become an important part of our daily skin care regime, even if we don’t plan on going into direct sunlight for the day.  I heartily agree with this preventive philosophy and have taken the same protective approach when it comes to the scalp and the hair.
First, let’s explore what Ultra Violet rays do to the scalp.  Basically, it’s the same trauma as face and body, but concentrated on the scalp.  As with face and body skin, Ultra Violet Rays break down the collagen and elastin on the scalp making it weaker, and just like face and body, the potential for skin cancer is heightened with increased exposure to Ultra Violet rays.  Interestingly, the scalp is one of the most overlooked areas when it comes to sunscreen protection and because of the hiding power of our hair, sun damage as well as precancerous and cancerous conditions may go undetected. 
UV damage is also cumulative.  Because of this, delicate young scalps need special protection.  But baby boomers also need protection, not only because they have accumulated a lifetime of UV damage but also because aging scalps produce fine hair strands that need to be kept strong so they can look as healthy and vibrant as possible.  The more we age, the more the effects of UV damage are noticeable on the skin and scalp.  Age spots, pre-cancerous spots and dry patches show up more and more as we mature, showing the telltale signs of past years of sun exposure.  The aging process also includes hair’sloss of melanin, nature’s perfect UV absorber, so as hair becomes more progressively grey this exposes the hair and scalp to more and more UV damage.  This damage manifests itself in damage to the hair fabric and a dull appearance.  And lastly, protecting your scalp is critical if you want to have healthy hair.  If you want to have healthy hair, get and keep a healthy scalp.
Next, let’s investigate what UV rays do to the hair.  Hair can get a “sunburn” just like the skin and scalp, and in our experience this is something we have found most clients and stylists are not aware of.  Yes, we are aware that shine and the condition of the hair diminish due to sun exposure and there is color loss as well.  But let’s delve into what is physically happening to the hair when exposed to UV light.  Those same UV rays that break down the collagen and elastin in the skin also attack hair’s lipids and protein resulting in dry, dull, damaged and color faded hair.  First, UV rays attack the cuticle of the hair as it is the most exterior layer of the hair fiber.  The cuticle layers of the hair act as scales or tiny shields that are locked together by lipids which also help the cuticle to adhere to hair’s cortex.  The cuticle’s role is critical in that its job is to protect hair’s inner structure and guard against damage to the protein, moisture and color molecules that lie below in the cortex.  Also when the cuticle is healthy, it lies flat against the cortex like shingles on a roof, smooth and silky reflecting light and allowing the beautiful color to shine through from beneath.  But when the cuticle is abraded and broken it looks more like a pothole-filled road.  The cuticle is therefore no longer a smooth surface from which light can reflect uniformly, resulting in hair fabric that has no shine and luster. 
A broken cuticle layer is also perilous to the cortex below as it is left exposed.  And when the cortex is exposed only bad things can come from that.  It is basically like leaving the hair fiber’s door open for color molecules, protein and moisture to just fall out or be stripped away.  Also these broken potholes leave the cortex exposed for even more damage.  These potholes are weaker areas that no longer have the armor of the cuticle on top of them.  So when the damaging processes such as chemical treatments and heated styling hit the hair, their damaging effects go straight to these weakened spots, further weakening hair’s structure.  This is similar to how your favorite pair of jeans get worn spots in them.  Also these potholes make the hair much more porous and less able to hold onto deposited color and reparative treatments.  In addition, as the cuticle wears away, each strand becomes more difficult to work with and cannot hold a style, and becomes less resistant to damage, tangling and breakage.
While many grooming products may contain UV absorbers to protect the hair against the damaging effects of sunlight, I have found that for the best results a combination of UV absorbers specifically for hair combined with UV absorbers for the skin with an SPF rating helps ward off the damaging effects of UV light.  That is why I recommend a balanced protective philosophy for hair and scalp in the form of UV filters and SPF sunscreens in my hair care and scalp enhancing products.  The passion I feel for sun protection led me on a mission to not only put UV filters in every hair care product I create but also to create the first hair groom with an SPF rating, our Tela Beauty Organics by Philip Pelusi Guardian SPF 18.  Its greaseless and weightless feeling on the hair is feather-light and without a traditional greasy sunscreen feel.
As with day moisturizers, products with a SPF rating of 15-18 should be used to protect the fragile scalp.  Also as with day moisturizers our SPF protection system covers both UV-A and UV-B portion of the Ultra Violet Spectrum, with UV-B protecting us against sunburn and UV-A protection guarding against skin damage, and skin cancers.  I recommend using a greaseless and weightless hair groom that contains at least SPF 15-18 for the needed scalp protection that also delivers the desired detangling and grooming effects.  Make sure to apply before leaving the house and like traditional sunscreens, reapply throughout the day because as with all sun protection products, the effectiveness of sunscreens diminishes during the day as well as during swimming and athletic activities.    
Natural plant derived UV light filters are also excellent sources for protecting the scalp and hair fabric.  These herb based ingredients may read like a cooking recipe but actually do an amazing job of fortifying and protecting the hair from the sun.  And because these ingredients are substantive to hair, they penetrate into the hair fiber for long lasting effectiveness.  My proprietary UV blend contains Ingredients such as Matricaria, Asafetida, Horseradish, Blackberry, Grape Seed and Sage along with Fennel provides natural antioxidant protection to the hair. 
I also employ another unique naturally derived UV filter, Sodium Copper Chlorophyllin, as Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives plants and algae their green color and traps light needed for photosynthesis.  This property makes it an excellent UV absorber, protecting hair from the harmful rays of the sun that can degrade hair fabric and cause loss of tensile strength as well as synthetic color.

And lastly, my passion for sun protection for the hair also lead me to create “Color Lock”, a product that can be used either during color application or as an at-home color fade prevention product.  When used during color service, several innovations in sun protection are deposited into the hair’s cortex along with the color molecules.  Sunflower Seed Extract, proven to have at least 30% improvement in color-loss protection from shampooing and 3 times more efficient against UV radiation, protects both hair color and helps maintain its strength.  Additionally, the incorporation of a broad spectrum UVA/UVB absorber provides long lasting protection of hair’s amino acids that is up to 300% more effective than our competition; helping retard the decomposition of a key amino acid Tryptophan, when hair is exposed to UV radiation, which can also lead to a loss in tensile strength and synthetic color.  These protective agents are delivered by my exclusive coconut/protein derived micro-emulsion that penetrates deeply into hair forming a protective shield that seals in hair color and protects hair’s strength.

For product recommendation and more information contact us at Tela Beauty Organics by Philip Pelusi at either or

About the Author
Philip Pelusi is an internationally recognized stylist, photographer and product artist. Having gone from one salon to 13 locations as well as a magnificent industry centerpiece in New York City, Pelusi has created a philosophy, two product lines, P2 by Philip Pelusi and Tela Beauty Organics by Philip Pelusi and systems for success. Philip created and trademarked, within the industry, the phrase “A Cut Above The Rest” to coincide with his creation of the registered Volumetric haircutting technique around which he built his empire.

More info: