Protect Your Scalp and Hair on Vacation

Ahhh, vacation! Cool dips in the pool, lounging on the beach, soaking up the sun -- you can finally relax. Unfortunately, your scalp and hair may have other plans. Vacation -- and more specifically, the sun, humidity, chlorine and other things that come with it -- can damage your strands. If you don’t protect your hair and scalp properly, you may end up with a frizzy style, fading color, dry hair and more as souvenirs. 

Luckily, protecting your coif (and looking great for all those vacation photos) is a cinch if you follow a few simple tips, says Aaron Pursell, a stylist at Cutler Salon in New York City who has worked with Alicia Keyes.

1. Protect against chlorine.
Chlorine and other chemicals can change your hair’s color and strip away moisture, leaving it dry and unruly. The solution: Wet your hair in the pool’s shower before you dive in. When strands are full of fresh water, they can’t absorb as much of the pool water -- or its damaging chemicals.

Leave-in conditioner can also add a layer of protection to scalp and hair. After wetting hair, blot with a towel, then coat your strands. Concentrate on the ends; they’re the most porous and prone to damage, says Pursell.

2. Stop humidity-causing frizz.

If the forecast includes humidity, there’s also a high chance of frizz. To keep your do smooth, start in the morning, right after your shower. Apply a hydrating, anti-frizz cream to damp hair, which will smooth the outer layer of strands and lock out humidity. “If your hair has moisture in it already, it’s less likely to frizz, and the cream will help weigh down your hair,” says Pursell.

Let hair air-dry, and most importantly, keep your hands off. Your fingers can create friction, which opens up the cuticle (hair’s outer layer), inviting frizz to follow.

3. Prevent sun-faded hair color and burned scalps.

Just as you protect your skin with sunscreen, it’s also smart to shield your hair. The combination of heat and UV rays can fade your color -- not to mention burn your scalp.

A hat or scarf provides the best protection, but unless you plan on wearing them from sunup to sundown, also bring along a UV-protecting spray. When you get outside, spritz it from roots to tips. Then, throughout the day, shake out and move your hair around. If you wear a ponytail, change its position after a few hours or try wearing it down (or vice versa). This keeps rays from hitting one area of scalp or hair for too long, says Pursell.

4. Counter the drying effects of hard water.

Are you camping or staying in a remote area? The well water that’s common in these areas has a high mineral content, which may leave a residue on your hair that makes it dry and tangle-prone.

Using a super-moisturizing shampoo and conditioner with silk amino acids or plant oils (like avocado or olive oil) can help, but if you still emerge from the shower with tangles, gently brush your hair while it’s soaking-wet with a boar-bristle brush. (They’re easier on tangles than plastic bristles.) Start from the ends up; never drag a comb or brush through tangles from the top down. Next, blot hair with a towel to absorb the excess water, and comb through with a wide-tooth comb. Before bed, apply a leave-in conditioner -- especially on the ends, which tend to get the driest. The conditioner acts as a hydrating and softening hair mask, but it won’t feel goopy or slick as you sleep.

By taking a few extra minutes to protect your scalp and hair from the sun, chlorine and other strand saboteurs, you can fully focus on what’s really important: enjoying your vacation!