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Sean Kuraly
Columbus Blue Jackets Player

Can Sunburn Cause Hair Loss? Unveiling the Connection between Sunburn and Thinning Hair

Summertime brings with it the lure of basking in the warm rays of the sun. However, while enjoying the sun’s warmth, it’s essential to understand the potential risks it poses to our bodies, including our hair. In this blog, we explore the intriguing relationship between sunburn and hair loss. Can a sunburn truly cause hair loss? And why might a sunburn be considered one of the first signs of thinning hair? Let’s dive into the details.

While sunburn primarily affects the skin, it is not a direct cause of hair loss. Hair loss occurs when hair follicles, the tiny structures responsible for hair growth, become damaged or disrupted. Sunburn does not directly damage hair follicles, which means it doesn’t cause immediate hair loss.

However, prolonged and severe sunburn can indirectly contribute to hair loss. Here’s how:

  1. Scalp Sunburn and Hair Follicles: Sunburn on the scalp can cause inflammation and damage to the skin, including the delicate hair follicles. Repeated or intense sunburns can lead to chronic inflammation, interfering with the natural hair growth cycle and potentially resulting in hair thinning over time.
  2. Increased Sensitivity to DHT: Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a hormone derived from testosterone and plays a role in male and female pattern hair loss. While sunburn doesn’t directly increase DHT levels, it can make the scalp more sensitive to its effects. This heightened sensitivity may accelerate the miniaturization of hair follicles, leading to hair thinning and eventual hair loss.
  3. Dry and Brittle Hair: Intense exposure to the sun can strip moisture from the hair strands, leaving them dry, brittle, and more prone to breakage. Although this doesn’t directly cause hair loss, weakened hair shafts are more likely to snap and result in a perceived thinning of hair.

One interesting aspect of sunburn is that it can act as an early sign of thinning hair. Here’s why:

  1. Scalp Exposure: A sunburn on the scalp can reveal areas where the hair is thinning or receding. When the hair becomes sparse or the scalp starts to show through, the skin is more susceptible to sunburn, as it lacks the natural protection provided by a full head of hair. Thus, a sunburn on the scalp may be an indicator of hair thinning in its early stages.
  2. Increased Scalp Sensitivity: As mentioned earlier, sunburn can increase the scalp’s sensitivity to DHT, which is a key contributor to hair loss in individuals with genetic predispositions. This heightened sensitivity may be an indication of the underlying factors contributing to hair thinning.

To protect your hair and scalp from sun damage, follow these preventive measures:

  1. Use Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen to your scalp, especially if your hair is thinning or if you have exposed areas. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  2. Wear a Hat: Opt for wide-brimmed hats or caps to shield your scalp from direct sunlight.
  3. Seek Shade: When spending time outdoors, take breaks in shaded areas to reduce prolonged sun exposure.
  4. Limit Sun Exposure: Avoid spending extended periods in direct sunlight, particularly during peak hours when the sun

Dr. Matthew Lopresti

Chief Surgeon