Question: Hi, I cut my hair short army style the other day for the first time as I’ve been losing hair steadily due to health issues. So i wanted to see how much i had lost by shaving it 2-3 mm short. After that i went to the beach for a couple of hours and i didn’t think to put cream on my head and got burned. Next day it was uncomfortable and I had blisters, so before bedtime i was advised to put coconut oil to moisten the scalp. Bad advice. I woke up with my head feeling on fire and itching like crazy. I scratched all night long and had to run my head under cold water. Now my head is flaky and i see lots of bald patches. I don’t know what kind of degree this burn would be but I’m afraid my hair is gone 😞 what do you reckon?
Answer: Hi, Don. Sunburn can be extremely painful, especially when it affects the scalp, even in mild instances. We can’t gauge the extent of your hair loss from what you say here so it would be best to have a consultation so that we can assess you properly. Or, if you are or become extremely concerned about the extent of the burns, you should visit your doctor.
For now, however, we can give you some general guidance and advice about sunburn and hair loss and about losing hair due to health problems.
Firstly, it is rare for a sunburnt scalp to cause hair loss. The thinner the hair or the balder a person is, the more important it is to use a full spectrum suncream – or sunblock – on your scalp. There are a number of spray-on formulations designed specifically for use on the scalp though any type that you can apply directly to the scalp is useful. It is also crucial to remember to allow half an hour for the suncream to be absorbed before going out into the sun, and to reapply the suncream as necessary. This is generally required every two hours, plus after swimming, but check the usage directions on the product you choose and follow those.
If your scalp does become sunburnt then the skin in the affected areas will undoubtedly become sore, itchy and have that symptomatic ‘burning’ sensation. Treat it as you would do with sunburn anywhere else on the body – keep it cool, use After Sun lotion or a similar soothing solution that can be applied easily, such as aloe vera gel, if you wish and keep your head out of the sun until it is healed. Stay hydrated and, if it helps, rinsing your head with cool water is fine.
You mention that you were already experiencing hair loss due to illness prior to the sunburn so, assuming your scalp is red or darker in colour and inflamed, it may be that thinning hair is less visible in this state. The ‘bald patches’ you mention may not actually be as bad as they first seemed once your scalp is less aggravated.
Health issues, illness or medication side effects can all cause temporary hairloss from a condition known as Telogen Effluvium. Whilst this should last no longer than six months, it can trigger the permanent hair loss condition Male Pattern Baldness in men with an underlying genetic predisposition. Whilst telogen effluvium causes hair thinning from all over the scalp, shedding from male pattern hair loss is restricted to the top of the scalp and the hairline. It is possible to have both conditions simultaneously which can result in rapidly thinning hair all over the scalp but which is most noticeable on top and may also cause a receding hairline.
There are effective hair loss treatment options available for each condition on its own, and both can also be treated concurrently, to stabilise shedding, promote hair growth and prevent baldness. The first step, however, is to have a specialist assess you in order to diagnose the precise cause or causes of your shedding so that they can then tailor a bespoke course to your precise needs, should the diagnosis require treatment.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.