The rising incidence of skin cancers attributable to excessive sun exposure has become a major health concern worldwide. While numerous studies have analyzed the sun protective effect of sunscreens, clothing and antioxidants, none to date have measured the photoprotective effect of hair, despite clinical evidence that individuals with balding or thinning hair are at greater risk of skin lesions that can progress to cancer, hence the recommendation to use hats or umbrellas. We analyzed the level of protection offered by hair according to hair density, thickness and color using the spectral transmittance and corrected for relative erythema effectiveness. Our results show that hair provides a barrier against both UVB and UVA radiation which is significantly increased with respect to the hair density, thickness and the presence of melanins. This is the first study to quantify sun protection factor offered by hair, namely hair ultraviolet protection factor (HUPF). We believe that hair should be recognized as an important natural sun barrier in the prevention of UV-induced skin cancers.
© 2015 The American Society of Photobiology.