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10 best products for sun-damaged hair that heal and strengthen

Beachy, sun-kissed waves may look great on holiday, but back home, dry, frizzy hair needs special treatment to bring it back to its former glory

From hair masks to silk turbans, we've tried every product that promises luscious locks ( iStock/The Independent )

Bring all the things that are great about holiday hair – salt, waves, sun-bleached highlights – home, and they suddenly look far less appealing: dry, frazzled, sapped of moisture by beaming sun and plenty of chlorine.

While we’re good and getting better at protecting our skin from the sun, very few people give their hair much thought.

But your hair and scalp can burn just the same, and sun exposure can weaken the hair’s structure, strip it of moisture and leave it brittle and prone to breakage.

Bring life back to your hair with our favourite products for repair – and prevention.

We’ve tested deeply moisturising masks to restore suppleness and shine, oils and lotions to nourish flyaways, split-ends and minimise breakage, and UV filters to protect your locks next time you venture out, plus we’ve gone a bit mad for hair turbans too. 

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Philip Kingsley elasticizer: £29.70, Feel Unique 

Elasticizer is a holy grail product for us; we restock our bathrooms without fail the moment it runs out. Simply wet your hair, squeeze out any excess water (so it’s still wet but not dripping everywhere), apply Elasticizer through from the roots to the ends, paying particular attention to the drier parts, then wrap up in a towel and leave for at least 20 minutes (much longer, if possible). Rinse well in the shower and follow up with your usual shampoo etc. The result is lustrous, soft, smooth hair that feels healthy and strong. 

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Living Proof restore perfecting spray: £27, John Lewis & Partners

If your hair is dry and brittle, getting a brush through it – wet or dry – can be a nightmare and lead to further breakage. Living Proof’s lightweight, leave-in conditioning spray had our brush sliding easily through hair and left no noticeable residue behind, just softer, smoother hair. We also like to spritz it through ends throughout the day to reduce frizz. 

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Silke London the eva silk hair wrap: £50, Silke London

OK, so it’s possible we’ve gone a bit hair turban mad, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results of this silk wrap. It’s designed to be worn at night to protect your hair from the rigours of your pillow – not something we’d ever considered a problem before, but it turns out it makes a difference. Simply slip it over dry hair, channel your best 1920s movie star, and hit the hay. We found hair felt smoother, less frizzy and better nourished in the morning – all good things when you’re fighting sun damage – and that we could leave longer between washes, too.

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Coco & Eve like a virgin super nourishing coconut and fig hair mask: £34.90, Cult Beauty

Founded in Bali, Coco & Eve is a brand that does summer really well: so far its range covers just self-tan and this deeply moisturising mask. It’s got a beachy coconut scent (we were worried it would be cloying at first but it faded nicely through the day) and is quite loose textured – more like a thick conditioner than a sturdy balm – so it covers hair quickly and easily. Our favourite part is the included detangling brush, which you use in-shower to work the product through your hair and remove any knots. The result is super shiny, luscious locks that we couldn’t stop touching.

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Davines SU hair milk: £18.60, Treat Your Skin

At risk of sounding like your mother, prevention is better than cure, so next time you’re heading out in the sun, spritz on Davines’ hair milk on to wet or dry hair for protection from UV-A and UV-B rays (which can cause structural damage); think of it like sun cream for your hair. The finish is shiny and soft, with no added weight. 

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Aesop rose hair and scalp moisturising masque: £25, Aesop

For itchy, flaking scalps and sunburned partings, it doesn’t get much better than Aesop’s moisturising mask, which, massaged into your scalp and run through your hair, is gentle and calming on the former, and gives both a nourishing dose of moisture. It has a lovely rose scent, too, which is subtle enough to be sweet rather than overwhelmingly granny-ish. Shampoo your hair, towel dry, then work in about a tablespoon of product and leave it for at least 20 minutes before rinsing out.

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Bumble and Bumble save the day daytime protective repair fluid: £35, Bumble and Bumble

Save the day covers all bases for hair in the sun: camellia oil softens and helps repair damage already done, while UV filters protect it for future exposure. Apply to damp hair, then blow dry or air dry as you prefer. Hair doesn’t feel like it has product in it at all, just softer and less frazzled.

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Iles Formula signature hair turban towel: £25, Net-a-Porter

We’ve been using towelling turbans for years after we got fed up with wrapped hair towels coming undone and falling down mid-drying; instead, this is cleverly secured with a loop and button at the back of your head. We particularly recommend them for damaged hair as they’re perfect for popping on and getting on with your day while a hair mask does it’s work, and they also reduce the breakage caused by classic rough drying with a towel. Iles Formula’s is available in white and grey, but we’d opt for the less high-maintenance grey.

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Kevin.Murphy young again: £33, Cult Beauty

If your hair is fried – from sun exposure, bleaching or heat styling – Kevin.Murphy’s leave-in oil spray delivers much-needed moisture and strength, plus hair that is touchably smoother and shiny. Apply it to the part of the hair that needs it (so if you have parched ends and greasy roots, you don’t have to add more oil to your scalp) when hair is freshly washed and still damp, before drying. You can also add a few spritzes on dry hair to tame flyaways.

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Sachajuan hair after the sun: £20, Cult Beauty

This, from the Swedish haircare brand, does what it says on the tin. Like after sun for your hair, this super conditioning cream (with algae and proteins) restores moisture and shine to salty, dry, tangled hair. It can be used as a styling product, applied to wet hair, or applied more liberally and rinsed out, if you prefer (we like to leave it in). For best results, pair it with Sachajuan’s hair in the sun, a UV filter to prevent damage in the first place.

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The verdict: Products for sun-damaged hair

Once you start using Philip Kingsley’s elasticizer, you won’t be able to stop – holiday hair or no. Pair it with Davines’ SU hair milk to better protect your locks next time you head for the sun.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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