Sun-in Damages: Sun-in Review

Updated on July 9, 2017
Sun-in highlights on hair. Photo Source: Shanna11
Sun-in highlights on hair. Photo Source: Shanna11

One of the most popular hair lightening/highlighting products is Sun-In. My mom used this product as a teenager, and now it's my turn to use it to lighten my dark blonde locks.

Most people who use sun-in are looking for that sun-kissed, bright and somewhat beachy look, but the truth is, you get what you pay for!

Sun-In is a cheap alternative to professional highlights, and a quicker alternative to laying out in the sun for hours as the sun bleaches your hair. Originally designed for already blonde or light hair, Sun-In may or may not work for your hair type, and it may cause irreversible damage.

Be sure you know your type of hair well, understand the risks, and test the product before you attempt to lighten your own hair.

Types of Hair Sun-In Works On

The cheerful pink bottles that Sun-In comes in state that Sun-In works best on already fair hair, or at the very least, light brown hair. This is extremely important to note, and my friend's cautionary tale will hopefully convince you raven haired girls (or guys) to stay away.

My friend has dark, thick brown hair that's really a naturally gorgeous color. For some reason, she desperately wanted highlights and was resorting to every harsh thing she could think of to dump in her hair: lemon juice, peroxide... and finally, Sun-In.

She sprayed it on liberally and blew her hair dry. It looked vaguely lighter, slightly dryer and...well, normal. A few days later, after hours spent in the sun, I got a panicked text that was pretty close to "MY HAIR IS ORANGE." It was true. Her dark hair had developed messy orange streaks that were permanent.

Long story short: Don't use Sun-In if your hair is darker. You risk discoloration. Also, don't use Sun-In if you've had a dye job or highlighting job in the past six months. Basically, any hair job with chemicals in it means you should avoid Sun-In.

My friend explained it to me like this: When you get something done with your hair at a salon, those chemicals become a part of your hair shaft and when they're mixed with other chemicals (like those in Sun-In) extremely harmful chemical reactions can occur, which can literally just break your hair off in large chunks (although the odds of this are actually fairly slim).

Additionally, my hair stylist told me that Sun-In treated hair means that any further dye jobs could render the colors unpredictable. It's harder for your stylist to dye or highlight your hair because he or she won't necessarily know if the colors will turn out as they are designed to.

Summary: Sun-In works best on already light hair that is not chemically treated in any way (at least in the past six months).

How to Use Sun-In

Some people suggest following the bottles instructions perfectly, and others suggest far more liberal methods.

When I used Sun-In, I had just gotten out of the shower. My hair was damp and I sprayed it liberally all throughout with Sun-In, combing it through, making sure I got every spot possible. I wanted an overall lightening effect. I then blew my hair dry and looked for results, but there were none. Sun-In generally doesn't deliver results after the first or second treatments. When I want to lighten my hair now, I will use the product for 3-5 days in a row, at which point I will see definite results. I then discontinue use until darker roots have started growing.

If you continue using it liberally over the course of a few weeks, your hair will indeed lighten. You can streak it through your hair, or soak it each time, but always use it on a wet head. Using a hair dryer or sitting in the sun will allow the chemicals to work to lighten your hair.

Sun-In Damages

It's true-- Sun-In damages your hair. A lot. There are some really harsh chemicals in that cheerful little bottle, so be careful (Although bleaching your hair professionally or at home will cause more damage than Sun-In). Get ready to deep-condition and seriously love your hair. I recommend a deep hair mask of coconut oil for a few minutes. Heat it up until it's liquid, and then apply it liberally to your hair. Let it sit and soak up some steam in the shower, and then shampoo and condition as necessary. Lather up twice if needed to remove the oils. I usually apply a nice leave-in oil to my wet hair before I blow dry it, as well.

Lay off of using your straightener for a while, and if you blow your hair dry, keep it on a low setting and brush gently and slowly, because growing hair is a long, time-consuming business and damaged hair doesn't repair itself.

Have you ever used Sun-In?

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    • profile image

      Michael McGlothin 4 weeks ago

      I've used Sun In for several years and it hasn't really hurt my hair, but I don't always get enough sun exposure mostly early fall until mid spring so the blonding process takes a little longer. I even use it on my Duck Dynasty length beard but it's a little red until it goes totally blonde. Beards take longer than scalp hair but they will blonde out. Oh, I forgot to add I have med-dark brown hair naturally.

    • profile image

      Mandy 6 weeks ago

      I have dirty blonde so I used sun-in rarely like a few times over the summer, and when I saw my relatives at the end of summer they all realized a tremendous difference and also realized he almost orange tinge. It has now been several months and my roots have grown in and ITV does no look the best. I don’t think it worked that well for me but for my friend it did. Although she constantly puts its in her hair. I think I would recommend it to people who r willing to keep with up the commitment of putting it in. Also once u put it in once and see changes then wait til roots grow our and apply it just on the color change, so don’t relayer it on old already dyed strains. Then the orange look begins to occur.

    • profile image

      Madi 7 weeks ago

      I have dirty blonde hair and after using sun in 3 times my hair was orange... I DONT RECOMMEND

    • profile image

      Mallory 6 months ago

      I have dark blonde un dyed hair and used sun in over the summer. Naturally as my hair lightened, it had an orangey/bronze tint to it-which seems to be in all the horror stories about this product. The fix was simply using purple shampoo & conditioner (I use L'Oreal Ever Pure blonde shampoo). After maybe 3 uses, my hair was as blonde as originally intended!! just food for thought! And if you're worried about damage, use overnight hair masks after having used the sun in. I havent had a problem yet.

    • profile image

      Melanie 10 months ago

      How can I get it of my hair? My mom is soo mad because I look like a clown with this hair. PLEASE HELP

    • profile image

      Sophia 10 months ago

      I have natrually light(ish) brown hair.

      I went blonde for a while NOW I have a brown toner over my bleached blonde hair.

      I want to be blonde again by using Sun in.

      Will my toner cross a bad road with Sun In chemicals?


    • profile image

      Ruth S 11 months ago

      I have let my hair go grey and was wondering what sun in would do to it???

    • profile image

      Christine Karow 12 months ago

      Don't ever perm over this.

    • profile image

      Lauren 12 months ago

      I have regularly used Sun In since 2008. My hair got darker blonde as I reached the end of high school in 2007 and when I discovered Sun In in 2008 it was a dream come true! I would only use Sun In once or twice a year since 2008 until I moved from California to the UK in 2012 when my hair started to darken again. So now I use it a lot during winter and a bit before summer starts so my hair can look nice and bright blonde year round. I don't get any bad reactions. Not much notacibly split ends. No averse color changes.

    • profile image

      emmy 12 months ago

      I have medium blonde hair and I use about 2-3 pumps every few weeks after a shower while it's still wet. Without it, no one notices my hair. It's cold and uninspiring. Just a little sun-in gives me subtle highlights.

      If I spend hours per day out in direct sunlight, I get highlights naturally but I'd be working on getting skin cancer too.

      To be honest, I've never read the directions. I use it the same way my aunt who has the same natural colour as me taught me to use it. My mother has dark, dark brown hair and I was told it doesn't work on her hair. I thought the only people that use it have fair hair.

    • profile image

      Clare 13 months ago

      Sin in plus hair dyr plus straightners rotted my hair I had to shave it off to a crew cut and start again yuk my hairs fine now I still dye it but will never use sun in crap or straightners ever again

    • profile image

      Alejandra 24 months ago

      You do get a very bad chemical reaction if you plan to make a trip to the salon! Im a hair dresser and i just happen to do a set of hilites without imagining that my client had used sun-in , her hair felt off !!i had never seen anything like this before

    • profile image

      2 years ago

      I used Sun In for a few weeks in the summer and it looked beautiful with my black hair. All was well until a year later when I got my hair done at the salon. Believe this review and its warning about bad chemical reactions. My hair literally began to fall out. Luckily I have long hair so we were able to cut the damaged part off. Both my hair stylist and I were so confused why this was happening until I remembered that I had used Sun In over a year before only a had few of times. So just keep in mind that while it does work, don't use it if you ever plan to get your hair done in the future.

    • profile image

      Alissa 2 years ago

      I have used Sun-In before. For reference, I am Asian with JET BLACK hair. It worked just fine on me. I sprayed it liberally on my wet hair and combed it out for even distribution. I then waited outside in my backyard and allowed my hair to dry. I repeated this step every few days for 2 weeks. My hair turned into a beautiful auburn brown shade with blonde streaks all throughout my hair. I can personally vouch that this product worked on my pin straight Asian jet black hair. And with absolutely no damage either. My hair is as healthy as it comes. But to each their own, everyone has different experiences and what worked on me may have reverse effects on someone else.

    • profile image

      Mel 2 years ago

      I have used it since I was 16 on light brown hair to give me a golden blonde look. Still use it 20 years later and never needed hairdressers for lightening.

    • profile image

      bex 3 years ago

      I was born a blond but over time my hair started to darken. I began spraying sun in in my hair before marching band practices (9 hours in the sun) this was when the brown started to appear so I never had a full head of brown I basically lightened the growing in roots. For years I never noticed anything bad but eventually when my hair got a lot longer I started to notice some damage. But I also don't trim my hair so that was a part of the problem. Those don't mix well. I eventually decided to grow out my hair without the lightener because I was curious what my natural was. Once that started happening I noticed the new hair was thicker, healthier, and shinier. I currently look like I ombreyed my hair because of the growing out process. I at this point in my life have decided to go natural. Now healthier hair is more important than blond. But the damage isn't terrible if you want lighter hair and honestly I think it is the best method if you don't overdo it. But no matter what lightening your hair causes damage. The thing people don't realize and I made this mistake before is the lightening isn't instant. You may blow dry your hair and see now difference. It will be lighter by the next day to not add more instantly. It is a patient process to do it right. Do it over a period of at least a week.

    • profile image

      paula 4 years ago

      I've used Sun-in since I was 18 I'm now 36 and still use it I have light. blonde hair but as I have got older I need it more but I will have to try proper dyes in the next couple of years as it won't work with gray hair give it 8/10

    • profile image

      paxwill 4 years ago

      Sun-in works on natural red hair too if you're trying to get a more golden-orange color. Some friends of mine in high school did a science fair project comparing Sun-in to lemon juice, and the results were about the same if you use the proper technique (i.e., going out in the sun, rather than using heat from a blow dryer, since it's the UV rays that activate the lightening chemicals rather than heat.) Save your money and spray diluted lemon juice on your hair after you shower.

    • profile image

      Jessie 4 years ago

      Sun in is amazing. I wanted a lighter shade then I had. I have lightish brown hair. First of all I wanted to say something....'sun in has no damage to your hair! When I used sun in it was so simple, just spray and wait in the sun! It works wonderfully you won't regret!!

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 5 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      I cannot believe they still make Sun-In. At least they have changed the bottle in the last 25 years. I hope it smells better these days. This took me back...a long way back.

    • Cristale profile image

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      I have too much dark hair color on my long locks for it to work. It looks great in your hair!

    • emilybee profile image

      emilybee 5 years ago

      I've never tried sun-in. My hair naturally lightens up in the summertime and often I spritz a bit of lemon juice in before hanging outside. By end of summer my hair is usually much more blond. Thanks for the info on Sun-In for I previously did not know much about this product.


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