There are three extremely obvious ways to protect your scalp from the sun: Hats, hair, and SPF. I’m not here to advise you on hats; I’ll leave that to our style crew. And if you’ve got a lot of hair, then you’re already covered, literally. If you’re totally bald, we’ve rounded up the best SPF products for bald men. However, if you’ve only got some hair—thinning or just buzzed short— that’s the trickiest situation. You are in dire need of a sun-blocking scalp solution, but one that won’t cake in your hair.
Let’s back up: It’s imperative to prevent your scalp from burning and peeling. For one, it’s a real headache having a fried scalp, not to mention the week’s aftermath of peeling cornflake-sized moltings from your head, oftentimes with the hairs still stuck inside them. Secondly, it significantly compromises the health of your hair, which is especially a drag if you’re already prone to thinning or hair loss. A fried follicle is a compromised follicle, and a sunburn might be the nail in the coffin for a number of your hairs that we’re already nearing demise. And lastly, nobody wants skin cancer.
Here are the best summer scalp products to add to your arsenal this summer—particularly if you have thinning or short hair. And remember the rules of SPF: Always use SPF 30 or higher. Reapply every two hours, as well as after swimming or sweating.
1. Sunscreen Powder
Powder sunscreens are grossly underused and under-appreciated. They are mineral-based (with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide), which is a big plus for anyone trying to avoid chemical sunscreens. They are terrific for sensitive skin, and they wear light on your scalp and face, so that you don’t sweat profusely (like you would with something occlusive and gloopy). As for the scalp, they’re a terrific option for people who have hair and need to get in between thinning strands or past centimeter-long hairs, to protect all of the sun-exposed skin.
To apply it properly, keep the cap on the product, turn it upside down, and tap down to release the powder into the brush. When you see that an ample amount has been dispensed, brush that amount into your scalp. Now, do it a second time—two passes over each spot. If you go for a dip or start sweating a lot, it will be hard to reapply the powder, of course. So you either need to let your hair and head dry entirely (under an umbrella or a hat), consider to the additional product options in this list, or just keep the hat on for the rest of the day.
The Best SPF Powder for Scalps
2. Sunscreen Mist
A scalp-targeting mist has a long snout extending from its bottle, that helps you get between your hairs and target the scalp itself with any SPF product. This is a simple solution for anyone who doesn’t want to apply a big sweeping coat of spray overtop the hair, but who needs scalp protection nevertheless. That makes mists ideal for longer, fine or thinning hair, or for spot-checks (like along the hair part).
The Best SPF Mist for Scalps
3. Sunscreen Spray
A face-friendly SPF spray is a perfectly fine option for the scalp, in particular for anyone with short buzz cuts. It will coat the hairs with a little bit of sunscreen, so you might get some extra shine up top, but your hairs might appreciate a little shielding from UV damage too (since UV rays can also compromise hair quality). The main note here is to make sure you aren’t using a spray that’s designated for the body. As long as it’s been formulated for the face, it probably lacks comedogenic (pore clogging) or fragrant ingredients that could irritate the delicate skin above your shoulders.
The Best SPF Spray for Scalps
4. After-Sun Recovery Mask
Even if you kept your scalp properly protected all day, it still takes a beating (between the UV exposure, sweat, and the sun’s heat). This is the prime time to introduce a scalp mask into your regimen—which you can administer once weekly moving forward (not because of this single day of sun exposure, but because you care about your hair and scalp health). A mask will tone and balance the scalp, neutralizing things like bad bacteria and fungus, while pumping a bunch of nutrients into the skin and follicles. It’s a must for guys with thinning hair, as well as anyone prone to dandruff, itching, irritation, and the like. If you think your scalp needs a day to recover before introducing any products to it, then save the mask for the day after your sun exposure. (It’s going to differ from one case to the next.) And if your scalp is straight-up burnt, then find some aloe and let it peel and heal before targeting it with a weekly mask.