Does Surfing Make Your Hair Lighter?

It’s a common sight to see sun-bleached blonde surfers walking the beaches. Many surfers notice their hair gradually lightening over time spent in the ocean and sun. But does surfing actually make your hair lighter? Let’s take a deeper look at the effects of surfing on hair color.

Sun Exposure Lightens Hair

The sun’s ultraviolet radiation has a bleaching effect on hair color. Surfers tend to get more sun than the average person:

  • 2-4 hours continuously outdoors several days a week
  • Reflective sunlight off the ocean surface increases UV exposure
  • Waves, currents and focus on riding make reapplying sunscreen haphazard
  • Wet hair is more porous and prone to drying damage from the sun

So surfing definitely exposes you to more UV rays which lighten hair over time.

Sun Effects Vary By Hair Color

Natural hair color impacts how readily surfing can lighten your locks:

  • Blonde hair has less pigment so lightens the fastest
  • Dark brown or black hair has more pigment so resists lightening
  • Redheads have large pigment molecules that break down easily
  • Gray hair lacks pigment and doesn’t lighten further

So blondes and redheads notice lightening quicker while brunettes maintain color longer.

Sun Exposure Bleaches Hair Strands

Here’s how the sun physically alters hair color:

  • UV rays break down melanin which gives hair its pigmentation
  • The melanin in the hair cortex absorbs photons and loses electrons
  • This oxidation of melanin molecules leads to smaller, less visible pigment
  • With less melanin, the reflection of light off hair increases, making it appear lighter

It’s similar to how the sun fades and bleaches fabric over time.

The Sun Dries Out Hair Too

Solar radiation doesn’t just bleach hair, it also evaporates moisture:

  • The sun’s heat causes water molecules on wet hair to energize and turn to gas
  • As water leaves the hair shaft, it becomes dry and porous
  • Chlorine and saltwater also leach moisture from hair leaving it brittle
  • Dry, damaged hair reflects more light which enhances visible lightening

So sunlight combined with ocean water leaves hair dried out and more prone to sun bleaching.

Other Factors That Promote Lightening

Beyond the sun, some additional surfing variables contribute to lighter locks:

  • Repeated saltwater exposure further degrades hair cuticles
  • Rubbing against surfboard wax erodes the protective cuticle layer
  • Ocean minerals react with hair fibers promoting moisture loss
  • Warm tropical waters accelerate cuticle opening and drying
  • Repeated hair washing strips natural oils restoring color vibrancy

Surfing’s total environment of sun, sea, and gear makes hair more vulnerable to bleaching elements.

Preventing Sun-Lightened Hair

If you wish to minimize lightening, consider these preventative measures:

  • Wear a wide-brim hat to shade hair and scalp when paddling out or taking breaks
  • Frequently apply broad spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen on parts to protect vulnerable hair
  • Rinse hair with fresh water post-surf to remove drying salt and minerals
  • Use moisturizing shampoos and leave-in conditioners to restore hydration
  • Get regular trims to cut off dry, damaged ends prone to further bleaching

Being proactive combats the bleaching effects from surfing and prolonged beach time.

So while heredity dictates your natural hair color, the sun and surf certainly can lighten your shade over a season or years in the water. Embrace the sun-kissed surfer hair look or take steps to maintain your original color. Either way, protecting hair health should be the priority for looking great and feeling your best.

Frequently Asked Questions About Surfing and Hair Lightening

The sun and sea take a toll on hair. Here are answers to common questions about how surfing accelerates bleaching of natural hair color.

Does wearing a wetsuit hood prevent sun-bleached hair?

Yes, wearing a fitted wetsuit hood blocks UV exposure to your hair and scalp while surfing. Just be sure to rinse out salt and minerals with fresh water after sessions.

How long does it take for hair to start lightening from surfing?

Most blonde or redheaded surfers notice lightening within weeks of consistent surfing. Brunettes may take months of heavy surfing to notice lightening from UV exposure.

Does the water temperature affect sun bleaching of hair?

Warmer waters potentially accelerate bleaching. Cooler water temps close the cuticle for some protection. But UV exposure has more impact than water temp alone.

Can I reverse hair lightening from the sun?

Depositing darker pigmented hair dyes or glosses can counteract lightening and restore your natural shade. Avoid further lightening with hats and shade.

Does surfing in tropical locations lighten hair faster?

Yes, the closer you get to the equator the stronger UV rays become which speeds up bleaching. Higher altitudes also expose you to more intense UV damage.

Do surf shampoos help prevent color fading?

Yes, some are formulated to better seal the cuticle and protect color. But minimizing UV exposure remains number one. Wet hair is always more vulnerable.

Can you still get sunburned hair if using sunscreen?

Yes, sunscreen on hair is notoriously tricky to apply adequately so hair remains prone to UV damage. Wearing a hat is much more effective.

Regular surfing accelerates natural lightening of hair over time. Be proactive about sun protection while still having fun catching those waves!

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