For years, you’ve been asking your friends, family members and significant others to “get your back” when applying sunscreen, but you might still be missing a crucial area: your hair.

While protecting your skin from sun damage is common knowledge, your hair also suffers from UVA and UVB damage. At a time when more than two million Americans discover they have skin cancer each year, it’s more important than ever to shield yourself.

How Your Hair Gets Burned
Prolonged exposure to the sun can damage the outside cover of your hair strand, called the cuticle. The side effects, while different from a sunburn, are just as unpleasant. Research shows that excessive sun exposure degrades protein and pigment in the hair shaft, and other symptoms of sun damaged hair include discoloration, dry and brittle strands, broken or split ends, and frizziness. Damaged hair not only looks and feels dry, but is also unmanageable and won’t curl or style easily.

If that’s not enough to have you reaching for protection, know this: shielding your hair is the first step to saving your scalp from a bad burn and preventing the chances of developing skin cancer.

How To Create A Shield
While the easiest way to protect your hair from the beaming sun is to wear a wide brimmed hat, or to completely avoid going outside in the first place, we know that isn’t always easy or possible. When you have to expose your locks to the heat of the sun, apply products with UV protection made of vitamin E and sunflower oil, such as Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil, to keep your hair from becoming brittle and dry, all while adding extra shine and moisture.

Try a UV-based hairspray, like Matrix Biolage Color Care Shine Shake Spray, or a leave-in conditioner such as Biosilk Color Therapy Lock & Leave-In Treatment before stepping outside, and be sure to apply them to damp or wet hair. Applying the same products to dry hair will keep substances on the surface, preventing them from sinking into your hair cuticles and actually doing their job.

Are They Safe?
If you’re concerned about safety (because after all, these products are being applied to your head) know there are Environmental Working Group-approved hair protectant serums and sprays on the market.

To avoid the majority of the 10,500 unique chemical ingredients EWG has found are used in the manufacture of personal care products, try Neutral Skin and Hair Mineral Sunscreen with SPF 33 — an EWG-approved, zinc oxide-based sunscreen for your hair…and get ready to bask (safely) in the sun!