Summer Hair Guide for Grownups

We won’t revisit how to French-braid and apply sun-in (so ’80s). What we will deal with: all the hair annoyances that plague you come Memorial day. New frizz fighters? Check. Protection for an increasingly exposed scalp? Oh yeah. Plus help for sun-yellowed grays. We also weigh in on an age-old argument: to go summer short or not? So pour yourself a ’tini and get ready for a great-hair summer

by Christine Fellingham
geof kern hair image
Photograph: Geof Kern

Paint your part
“If your part is wide enough that you’re able to see scalp, you need to protect that skin every day in the summer, not just when you’re at the beach or pool,” says Downie. Her strategy: Dip a cotton swab into the sunscreen you use for your face, then apply directly to the part. Another idea: “I tell women all the time, Move your part around,” says Cunnane Phillips. “Switch it so the same patch of scalp isn’t always uncovered. Pull it all back, then move your part an inch to the right or left or switch sides altogether,” she says.

Get slick
The wet look that was all over spring runways (Chanel, YSL) has a real-life application: “Wetness creates a physical barrier between your hair and the sun,” says Cunnane Phillips. “For added protection, mix some sunscreen into your favorite gel and comb it through.” Then pull your wet hair into a knot, braid or ponytail—or just leave it combed back and tucked behind your ears for a look that’s sophisticated and sun smart. Just be sure to secure your hair with a holder that’s metal free to minimize the potential for tearing. We like: Goody Ouchless Elastics ($3/pack; drugstores). Some sunscreens that won’t leave your strands gooey: Philosophy Here Comes the Sun Age-Defense Water-Resistant Sunscreen SPF 40 for Face, below ($30;; Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Sunblock SPF 70 ($12; drugstores); L’Oréal Sublime Sun Hydra Lotion Spray SPF 30+ ($10; drugstores).

Um, wear a hat
“Wearing something on your head is the best protection, period,” says Downie. “You can opt for a full-on UV-blocking fabric or just find one that’s tightly woven. That’s what you need to block the sun.” Her pick: a wide-brimmed style from Coolibar ($29 and up; If it’s really hot out, however, you may not want to go with a very tightly woven fabric (or a hat with a tight fit). Both can heat up your scalp and irritate it, says Flynn-Hui. A cowboy hat may be a good compromise. Or, if that’s not your thing, a Jackie O–inspired colorful scarf works well, too.

We know you want to look pulled together—and a blow-dryer is often the means to that end. But air-drying (a cooler option) works just as well if done properly.

Create glam waves
Channel Veronica Lake with this strategy from Flynn-Hui: Wash, condition and scrunch in a styler (gel, mousse, salt/beach spray). Then, while the hair is damp, take three ringlets and wrap them around your finger to create a larger curl. The result: a wider wave pattern. Repeat around your whole head.

Go beachy
This technique works to de-frizz natural curls or to add waves to straight hair. “Comb in your preferred styling product,” says Lee. “Then divide your hair into one-inch sections and twist each. Loosely loop up the twist and use a pin to secure. Do this all over for soft waves—or in random, slightly larger sections for a more beachy look. When your hair is dry, finger-tousle rather than brush so you don’t flatten the waves.” Tip: For a curlier look, coil the twisted sections around and around until you reach the scalp. Pin into doughnuts, air-dry and shake out.


Tame things on top
Create a sculpted look with just a hairpin. “Part your hair to one side, slick it down with gel and keep it in place by sliding in a flat bobby pin,” says Flynn-Hui. (Ideally, use one with no ridges, which can leave dents in your hair.) Once everything is dry, take out the pin; your hair will lie flat and smooth across the top of your head.

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