Explaining the role of professional hair care products in photoprotection

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Hair photoprotection
Hair photoprotection involves protecting the hair from harmful ultraviolet radiation. It is done mainly by the use of professional hair care products like hair colors. This treatment plays an important role in maintaining the cosmetic value of the hair shaft.

At first glance, the whole issue of photoprotection for hair might seem irrelevant as the hair shaft is a nonliving structure, but hair photoprotection is very essential for maintaining the cosmetic value of the hair shaft.

Undoubtedly the hair shaft is a nonliving portion but harmful ultra-violet radiation can severely affect any normal hair fiber that has not undergone any hair treatments like permanent coloring.

The necessity of hair photoprotection
Hair photoprotection prevents the damage of hair lipids by harmful UV rays. The damage of hair lipids makes the hair dull and dry. Normal, healthy lipids coat the hair shaft and impart shine and smoothness to the hair fiber. Hair that is devoid of healthy lipids appears frizzy and is subject to fractures even while combing.

Although the hair fiber is nonliving, ,excess exposure to the sun leads to dryness, reduced strength, rough surface, decreased luster, stiffness, and brittleness of the hair.

Also, excess exposure to sunlight increases the division of cystine chemical disulfide bonds that are present in the hair shaft. This disruption of the chemical bonds in hair weakens the hair shaft. A strong linkage of the cystine disulfide bonds is necessary for healthy hair shafts. The healthy attachment of the disulfide bonds prevents the hair shaft from fracturing.

Another major effect of sunlight on the hair shaft is the maximum increase in oxymelanin production which leads to the dilution of hair pigment and results in lightening of the normal hair color. However, a normal presence of oxymelanin pigment is necessary as it is the only inherent natural factor that protects hair from harmful radiation.

Types of Hair photoprotection from the harmful rays
Hair photoprotection from harmful ultraviolet rays can be of various types including:
  • Intrinsic hair photoprotection
  • Topical hair photoprotection
Intrinsic hair photoprotection
Intrinsic hair photoprotection is an effective way to prevent the harmful effects of ultra-violet radiation. In this type of photoprotection various hair coloring products like semi-permanent, and permanent hair dyes are used.

Semi permanent dyes for photoprotection

Semi permanent dyes can effectively protect hair from harmful rays, though it is widely known that they affect healthy hair growth. Though effects of semi-permanent dyes on hair that is exposed to the sun is damaging, this damaging effect is largely outweighed by the antioxidant effect of the color that is deposited on and in the hair shaft.

A large amount of hair photoprotection is achieved if a shade that is darker than the natural hair color is applied. For an example-: Red color is more effective in providing photoprotection when compared to blue or other lighter dyes.

Permanent dyes in intrinsic photoprotection

Permanent dyes are the most popular hair coloring products which play a significant role in intrinsic photoprotection. They penetrate more deeply into the hair shaft creating color because of an oxidation/reduction reaction. As they penetrate deeply into the hair structure they provide better protection from sunlight by reducing the protein damage in the hair fiber.

Though permanent dyes are the best professional hair care products that provide better protection from sunlight, they damage the healthy hair shaft. They also contain some harmful chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and ammonia which are not beneficial for the normal health of the shaft.

Topical Hair photoprotection
Another way to shelter hair from sunlight is topical hair photoprotection, which means the application of professional hair care products like instant conditioners, styling gels, and hair sprays. These styling aids beautify the hair as well as protect it from harmful radiation.

Though this topical hair protection is used by a large number of people, it often fails to create an even film over the entire scalp surface. Also it is very difficult to provide every hair fiber an equal quantity of sunscreen cosmetics.

But still it is safer when compared to other photoprotection methods. Some of the modern hair conditioners are based on silicones, such as dimethicone. These conditioners can deposit a thin layer of sunscreen on the hair shaft, though it is likely that the film will not evenly coat each hair shaft.

Effective Photoprotection

Among professional hair care products, deep conditioners are more useful in photoprotection when compared to instant conditioners. Deep conditioners stay on the hair shaft for a longer time and so the sunscreen ingredients are more likely to adhere to the hair shaft while instant conditioners are quickly rinsed away before towel drying.

Blow-drying conditioners, styling gels and hair sprays have to be massaged into the hair thoroughly when it is wet to get adequate results. While styling gels are also useful in photoprotection, their contact with the hair fiber is restricted which minimizes their effectiveness.

Apart from professional hair care products a better approach to hair photoprotection can be obtained also by the use of clothing like a hat, scarf, or umbrella. Women who enjoy the outdoors may find dyes more beneficial, which can prevent hair shaft weakening from ultra-violet exposure. Currently, hair dye is the best sunscreen, though conditioners and other styling aids offer more limited but safer photoprotection than that of the dyes.

Zoe Diana Draelos, “Sunscreens and Hair Photoprotection”, 24 (2006), Dermatol Clin 81 – 84
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