Our crowning glory -- and Samson's source of strength -- human hair has long been a fascination and an obsession. What a shame that summer can reduce this glorious body adornment to ruins. What's the worst that can happen -- and how can you "head off" or heal the damage?
WebMD spoke to experts to get tips for coping with five summertime hair problems.
Problem No. 1: Sun Scorching
Without hesitation, Phillip Wilson, once voted the best hairstylist in 100 years and president of the Angles & Collections Salon and Day Spa, tells WebMD that the sun is the biggest enemy of hair during the summer.
Wilson, who often journeys to the Sundance and Cannes film festivals to tend to his movie star clients, says not only in Hollywood do 85% of women have color-treated hair. "That's the figure nationwide," he says. "Sun dries hair out. If it's already processed, it's already depleted and can become dry straw."
To combat this, Wilson says, "the coolest thing on the market" is leave-in conditioners. "If not overly used," he adds, "they start the styling for you, adding volume at the roots."
David Bank, MD, director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic, and Laser Surgery, in Mount Kisco, N.Y., also recommends a pretreatment with an SPF spray made for hair. "We see some skin cancers of the scalp and these not only protect hair, but guard against those," he says, adding that SPF sprays are a light mist. What level of SPF? "Whatever you can get your hands on -- 15, 30," Bank says.
Hats can also protect hair from the sun, but there is a trade-off -- hat head.
Problem No. 2: Green Hair
If a swimming pool is not properly balanced, metals such as copper in the water can leach onto hair. You know that nice green patina of a copper picture frame? It looks less fetching on the head.
Again, treated hair, especially the blond shades, tinges the most. "Chlorine is a nightmare!" exclaims Wilson. He recommends pretreating your hair with a pH balancer to try to get it to a pH of 3.5, which is acidic. "This almost creates a barrier [to greening substances in the water]. It's like a mist."
Bank is not sure that a spray might not wash out. "It might not solve the problem."
He recommends rinsing hair thoroughly before going into either a chlorinated pool or the ocean. If the fresh water has saturated the hair, the salt or chemically treated water may not be able to get under the protective scales on the hair shaft as readily.
Problem No. 3: Using Chemicals to Change Texture
Japanese straightening techniques, defrizzers, straighteners for African-American hair, dyes -- any chemical process can weaken hair, Bank points out. "When you add chemicals to sun, it's a double whammy. Even chemicals to prevent frizzies in the humidity of summer can have a mild weakening effect."
Wilson has another archenemy: 6% peroxide. "People put this in their hair, even the biggest stars," he says, "thinking it will create highlights in the sun. There is nothing more damaging! It blasts open the cuticle and if nothing is deposited underneath and the sun glares down, it can turn the hair to shredded wheat. This cannot be fixed sometimes, either."