Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Multi-tasking Hat

I work outdoors, sometimes all day for a week at a time in spring, summer or autumn. So I know a thing or two about what makes an ideal hat. What does this have to do with hair, skin and the meaning of life? Bear with me, please.
1) A proper hat protects your eyes. Shading the eyes prevents migraines, cataracts and squinting which can cause headaches.©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
2) A good hat keeps the sun off your scalp and hair. Hair protects the scalp. Hats protect the hair and scalp. When hair is exposed to 200 hours of ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, the cuticle edges begin to fuse as the cuticle “shrinks.” As it shrinks, tiny openings are created and these are known as "porosities." After 400 hours, porosity continues to increase with further cuticle damage, and after 1200 hours, the cuticle becomes rigid, brittle, and may crack, leading to even further increases in porosity. If your hair grows the "average" of up to 6 inches per year (15 cm) and you get sunlight for even half an hour, for half of the days of the year, the ends of your hair have sun damage unless you wear it very short. So a good hat promotes healthy hair. An overheated scalp can become itchy, dry, flaky and sun-damaged. Sure, your hair can heat up under a hat, but not nearly as much as in the full, blazing sun.
3) Hats keep sun off your neck and face. Do you really want premature wrinkles, "age spots," dry, flaky skin, and a higher risk of skin cancer? No, you want a goofy-looking, wide-brimmed hat. Sun-damaged skin ends up being more sensitive, dry, and easy to irritate. Cataracts have to be lasered off or carved out, skin cancer is often, but not always curable, and sun-related age spots aren't as cute as freckles. Only one thing helps prevent all these - shade! ©Science-y Hair Blog 2013

What is wrong with every hat I've ever had?©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
- Fabric is too hot. "UPF" or sun-protective fabrics have a very tight weave to prevent sun intrusion. Air barely flows through such a fabric. This traps heat and moisture on your scalp and around the hat band. Heavy twills are just as unpleasant. If you have eczema or seborrheic dermatitis or sensitive skin, this irritates your skin and can cause a flare-up of skin disease, irritation, inflammation and itching.
- Band rubs the skin and hair or itches - hat bands can easily break hair and cause flare-ups of skin disease
- Not enough shade
- Too heavy
- Too floppy
- Goes airborne with wind gusts unless worn very tight
- Looks really goofy

So I made my own... (for my husband and me)

Okay, I didn't solve the "looks goofy" problem, but during a recent trip we got compliments from strangers and even an offer to buy one right on the spot.

This hat is made of cotton - a tight enough weave to block sun, but loose enough to allow a breeze in. It is lightweight and easy to pack. It has a wire in the front part of the brim which allows it to drop down below the band and shade your eyes, but not flop in the wind. The underside is dark to prevent reflecting light in your eyes. The top is light-colored to reflect light. The back has no wire and drapes over the neck (without sticking to it) to prevent neck-burn or liftoff in wind gusts. I washed all the fabrics with Rit brand "Sun Guard" which imparts an Ultraviolet Protection Factor ("UPF") of 30. And (one of my favorite parts) the hat band is lined with satin ribbon so it doesn't rub the skin or break the hair. The perfect hat (in my opinion) for healthy skin and hair. Nobody's head overheated while wearing this, so no outbreaks of eczema, itch, or the "hat-band tattoo". That sounds vaguely like a Sherlock Holmes mystery -- "The Case of the Hatband Tattoo." Perhaps more like Edgar Allen Poe...

I thought I'd use this to illustrate how heat, friction, and sunlight can be damaging to hair and skin (and eyes) and what to look for to manage these well. If you're going to put energy into having healthy hair and skin, don't blow it by frying them in the sun. You may feel goofy in a wide-brimmed hat, but you'll have lustrous hair and glowing skin at any age if you wear one in the sun.

This also illustrates how one person not inclined to sew unless absolutely necessary solved the annoying hat problem - without spending much money at all.  I love a happy ending.


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