The 13 Best Scalp Sunscreens, Because Yes, You Should Be Using One
All it takes is one beach day sans your sun hat or baseball cap, and suddenly you’re dealing with a bright red scalp. Fast forward a few days and you’re left with flakes in your hair as the sunburn peels. Not. Cute. Been there? Us too. But then we discovered that scalp sunscreen was a thing.
If you’re not already using a scalp sunscreen, you should definitely start, says Dr. Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale University. “I always tell my patients, ‘protect your part before you depart.’ It’s corny, but it gets the point across that scalp protection is key,” she adds.
Why should you use scalp sunscreen?
Because just one severe sunburn on the area can increase your risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. And often, skin cancer on the scalp goes undetected, says Dr. Gohara.
Additionally, too much sun exposure on your hair and scalp can result in dry, straw-like hair and discoloration, among other things we don't want for our locks. (If you're a blonde or have lighter coloring, you are more susceptible to hair damage as well as scalp damage.)
How to use scalp sunscreen
Knowing when to use: Pick your scalp SPF based on where you are going and how long you're going to be exposed to the harmful rays. For example, lying on the beach for several hours calls for a higher SPF that is easy to reapply, while sitting by a window in your office wouldn't require such a strong formula.
Finding the right product: Most scalp sunscreens come in spray, powder, serum or cream format, and which one you go with boils down to preference and logic. The American Cancer Society recommends a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30—the number you choose beyond that is up to how much protection you want. If you're prone to an oily scalp, find one with your preferred SPF and dust it on your part. If you have dry hair or dandruff, think about a hydrating spray or serum.
The application and reapplication process: Whether you're blending powder in your part or misting in a spray, pay attention to the longevity of the product by checking the length of use on the packaging (most are 40 to 80 minutes) so you know when to reapply. Pro tip: keep a makeup brush handy to easily blend in the sunscreen without leaving a residue.
Just spritz or dust some on whenever you’re applying SPF to the rest of your body. Here, the 13 best scalp sunscreens to choose from.
1. Colorescience Sunfrogettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50
Best For Reapplication
Tap some of this mineral SPF powder onto your scalp for 80 minutes of protection. It's sweat proof and offered in multiple shades to match your tone so you aren't left with any white residue. The high SPF and translucent powder makes it the best option if you often find yourself needing to reapply throughout the day.
2. Supergoop! Play Antioxidant Body Mist SPF 30 With Vitamin C
Best Versatile Scalp Sunscreen
Apply this mist in your part (and your whole body) and experience protection that isn't greasy or visible. Reapply after time in the water to ensure you are staying fully guarded from the rays. The airless spray is super light and won't turn your hair oily, plus your scalp gets to benefit from the added Vitamin C.
3. Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral Broad Spectrum SPF 45
Best Travel Scalp Sunscreen
Dust this nourishing powder on your head to deter the itchy scalp sunburn. Use on your face or in your part to blur any sweaty or oily areas without getting a powdery residue. The pocket-sized packaging is super sleek and small so you can easily pop it in your purse while you're on the go.
4. ILIA Radiant Translucent Powder SPF 20
Best Light SPF Scalp Sunscreen
Use your favorite brush to tap this product into the visible parts of your hairline. This one has a lower SPF if you aren't going to be in the sun as long or don't need as much coverage—the perfect choice for long car rides on sunny days.
5. Coola Classic Body Organic Sunscreen Spray SPF 50
Best Hydrating Scalp Sunscreen
If you prefer a spray over powder, this 80-minute protectant will nourish and hydrate your skin. It contains organic ingredients and is waterproof.
6. Cremo Clear Sunscreen SPF 30
Best Serum Scalp Sunscreen
This gel can be used on your scalp, hairline and face—talk about versatile. It won't matte down your hair or leave a sticky film behind. It has 40 minutes of protection and can be easily reapplied if you need longer shielding.
7. Supergoop! Poof Part Powder SPF 45
Best Overall Scalp Sunscreen
This 100 percent mineral sunscreen comes out as a cloud of powder, hence the “poof” name. This formula also contains silica to absorb excess oils, making it a dry shampoo of sorts. One thing to note: It can appear white when you first spray it on, so be sure to blend it in with your fingertips or a brush. And some reviewers note that it leaves a grayish cast in darker hair, making it best for blondes.
8. Sun Bum Sunscreen Scalp Spray SPF 30
Best Spray Scalp Sunscreen
Looking for a scalp sunscreen that requires a little less effort? Sun Bum’s Sunscreen Scalp Spray should do the trick. Simply spritz this quick-drying SPF onto your scalp and rub it in with your fingers. Don’t worry about getting some in your hair—this mist is super lightweight so it won’t leave your strands feeling sticky or greasy. According to one reviewer, it’s great for your easy-to-burn hairline too.
9. Banana Boat Hair & Scalp Defense SPF 30
Best Drugstore Scalp Sunscreen
We’ve been using Banana Boat sunscreen for years, so we totally trust this scalp iteration. It’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes and is reef friendly since it doesn’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, which makes it a total winner in our book.
10. Coola Scalp & Hair Mist Organic Sunscreen SPF 30
Best For Scalp and Hair
This scalp sunscreen actually nourishes your hair as it protects your delicate skin. Coola’s Scalp & Hair Mist contains monoi oil and panthenol, a moisturizing agent from vitamin B5, to lock in hair color, moisturize, increase shine and prevent breakage. So go ahead, spritz it over your entire scalp and locks if you want.
11. Brush On Block Mineral Sunscreen Powder SPF 30
Best Brush-On Scalp Sunscreen
Brush On Block’s translucent Mineral Sunscreen Powder dispenses easily through the brush for light coverage that’s almost undetectable. And the portable design makes it ideal for throwing in your pool bag.
12. Soleil Toujours Organic Extrème Face + Scalp Sunscreen Mist SPF 50 Sport
Best Scalp Sunscreen for Exercise
As the sport label suggests, this face and scalp sunscreen is made to stay put whether you’re going for a run or swimming laps. It’s water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, so you’ll remain protected throughout your workout. Plus, we love that it can be used on both the face and scalp so we don’t have to add an extra step to our workout prep.
13. Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
Best Scalp Sunscreen for Skincare Minimalists
Prefer to keep your skincare routine as bare bones as possible? We hear you. This Shiseido formula is so lightweight and residue-free, it can be used on the face, body and scalp without issue. In other words, you can forgo three different types of SPF for this one convenient bottle.