A bad case of sunburn is damaging to the body on many levels. It harms the skin, causing premature aging, and increases skin cancer risk. Men with thinning hair are more vulnerable to the sun’s UV rays and frequently sport beet red sunburns on their balding pates and crowns.
However sunburn is also bad for men with perfectly normal hair and scalp tissue. That’s because UV light traumatizes the follicles and inhibits normal functioning of the hair growth cycle. The result is gradual hair loss. The loss is even greater over time with repeated sunburns.
The follicles in the scalp are delicate biological instruments and not meant to endure direct temperatures much higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. When the follicles are healthy they produce normal, beautiful strands of hair. Damaged, they may simply shut down operations. Or they will produce thinner hair shafts in diminishing numbers.
The long-term result is baldness.
Your typical garden variety sunburn produces a nasty first-degree burn whose symptoms include a painful, throbbing inflammation of the outer skin layer. The worst sunburns will appear dark red or purple and may take days to heal, followed by a lizard-like peeling or flaking off of the damaged skin.
A bad case of sunburn is worse for already thinning hair and can even speed up hair loss. This is because the damage to the scalp and follicles is cumulative and progressive, meaning the harmful effects pile up over time due to continued oxidative tissue damage.
UV light injures normal skin cell structure and depletes the natural oils in the scalp, making hair appear frizzy as a bad perm. The best way to avoid the hair-harmful effects of prolonged, unprotected sun exposure is to wear a brimmed hat or cap. A good quality sun block lotion with a high SPF rating also provides a degree of protection.
If you’re concerned about hair loss, talk to your qualified hair restoration surgeon to learn more about hair replacement options or how to protect against further hair loss.
Dr. Kyle S. Choe is a board certified facial plastic surgeon located in Virginia Beach. He can be reached at The Choe Center for Facial Plastic Surgery at (757) 389-5850 for a personal consultation.