We generally associate sunburn with our skin — hands, face, back, shoulders — the exposed body parts. But we easily forget about our scalp, mainly because we don't see it as a part of our skin.
Scalp skin is different from our other body parts, but it's still a part of our bodies and is capable of getting sunburned. Sunburn on the scalp is more common than we imagine it to be. Anyone who spends time under the sun is at risk of getting their scalp sunburnt.
While uncomfortable and often painful, it's not very difficult to treat sunburn on the scalp. Let's learn more about it.
Table of Contents:
- Why Do You Get Sunburn on Your Scalp?
- Symptoms of Sunburned Scalp
- How to Treat Sunburned Scalp?
- Take cold showers
- Choose a sulfate-free shampoo
- Use hair products with soothing ingredients
- Preventing Sunburn on the Scalp
- Does Sunburn Damage Hair?
Why Do You Get Sunburn on Your Scalp?
Sunburn is the result of harsh UV light. When you spend a long time under strong sunlight, your skin gets burned. This is a common phenomenon that most of us are accustomed to. Sunburn on the scalp is not different from sunburn on any other part of the body. The more time you spend in the sun, the higher the chances of getting sunburned.
Symptoms of scalp sunburn are similar to symptoms of sunburn on any other body part. Here's how you can identify a sunburned spot on your scalp.
Symptoms of Sunburned Scalp
You can identify sunburn with the following symptoms:
- Itching sensation
- The scalp becomes tender to touch
- Tiny blisters with fluid
- Pain, in some cases
It's fairly easy to identify a sunburned scalp. The general discomfort will continuously increase for as long as 24 hours.
You will feel the first signs of irritation and itching within a few hours of getting sunburned. Since you cannot get sunburn without spending time outdoors, you can easily distinguish between sunburn and other scalp issues.
Sunburns can sometimes be severe, though most of the time, the discomfort and pain would subside by themselves. In rare cases, you may experience symptoms like:
- Severe headache
In case you have any of these symptoms, get medical attention without delay. The longer you wait, the worse your symptoms might become.
How to Treat Sunburned Scalp?
Unless you have a severe sunburn, you can treat it at home with a few simple remedies. More than anything, you should stop going in the sun until the symptoms subside. If you absolutely must go out, wear a light hat or cap.
Let's look at some ways to treat sunburned scalp:
Take cold showers
Cold water is the best remedy for sunburn. As soon as you feel discomfort on your scalp, take a cold shower first. If you can't take a cold shower for some reason, pour room temperature/cold water on your scalp, at least. Do this first, and then move to the next steps.
Choose a sulfate-free shampoo
Sulfates are mild detergents found in shampoo. If you use sulfate on an irritated scalp, the pain and discomfort will increase significantly.
Use hair products with soothing ingredients
Some ingredients like aloe vera gel and coconut oil will soothe your scalp, eventually warding away the discomfort. Check out this coconut milk conditioner to get an idea of the kind of products you should be using.
Applying raw aloe vera gel is another great way of treating sunburn. Aloe vera has natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that will help your scalp heal faster.
Rose water is also effective against sunburn. Use a rose water spray on your scalp for quick relief.
Preventing Sunburn on the Scalp
Prevention is better than cure, and there's nothing more annoying than dealing with a sudden sunburn on your scalp.
It's not difficult to prevent sunburn. You only need to pay attention to two things. First, use an SPF cream, lotion, or gel. And second, wear a cap or hat.
SPF lotions are generally the best for the scalp since creams don't spread evenly through our hair and scalp. Gels are also good unless they are sticky or leave a white cast. But it's much easier to cover your head instead. You don't even need a hat or cap all the time – just wrap a scarf around your head, and you'd be good to go.
Does Sunburn Damage Hair?
Sunburn is a surface phenomenon. The top layer of your scalp gets the most damage and causes the most discomfort. Hair growth, on the other hand, is not a surface phenomenon.
Since sunburn doesn't do much damage to the hair follicles, it has little to no effect on hair growth or loss.
In other words, you don't need to panic about hair loss if you've got a sunburn on your scalp.
Even if there is some temporary hair loss due to sunburn, you don't need to worry about it. As soon as your scalp heals, your hair growth will go back to normal.
We hope this guide breaks down some of the most common myths about sunburn. The biggest myth is that it can lead to permanent hair loss.
Coming back to facts, it's important to recognize and distinguish severe sunburn from mild one. While mild sunburn is no big deal, severe one requires immediate medical attention.
If your symptoms don't subside in 5 to 7 days, consider consulting a doctor. You may also need OTC painkillers like ibuprofen or naproxen in some cases. But for the vast majority of people, sunburn on the scalp does not pose any risk.
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