A Review of Sun In Lightener Spray: Does It Damage Hair?
Sun In is one of the most popular hair-lightening/highlighting products on the market. My mom used this product as a teenager, and now, decades later, I 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 to let its light bleach your hair naturally. Because it is designed for hair that is already blonde or light, it may or may not work for everyone, and in some cases, it can cause irreversible damage.
Before attempting to lighten your own hair with Sun In, it's important to identify your hair type, understand the risks, and know how to use the product. In this article, we'll discuss . . .
- the types of hair Sun In works well on,
- the risks associated with its use, and
- the proper way to use it.
What Hair Types Does Sun In Work Well On?
The label on the cheerful yellow bottle that Sun In comes in states that it 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 folks to stay away from this product.
My Friend's Hair Nightmare
My friend has thick, dark brown hair that's really a naturally gorgeous color. For some reason, she desperately wanted highlights and had resorted to dumping every harsh thing she could think of into 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 she spent hours in the sun, I got a panicked text that read something along the lines of "My hair is orange." It was true. Her dark hair had developed messy orange streaks that were permanent.
Long Story Short: Don't Use It on Dark Hair
Don't use Sun In if your hair is darker, as you'll be risking severe discoloration. It's also important not to use it if you've had a dye job or any highlighting done in the past six months. Basically, if you've undergone any sort of hair job involving chemicals, you should avoid Sun In.
My friend explained it to me like this: when you get something done to your hair at a salon, the chemicals that are used become a part of your hair shaft, and when they're mixed with other chemicals (like those in Sun In), harmful reactions can occur. In rare cases, these reactions can cause large chunks of your hair to simply break off (although the odds of this are fairly slim).
Additionally, my hairstylist told me that hair treated with chemical lightening products is difficult to dye properly, as the chemicals in the hair shaft can render the end result unpredictable. It makes it harder for your stylist to dye or highlight your hair because they don't know whether the colors will turn out like they are intended to.
Is Sun In Bad for Your Hair? Know the Risks
It's true, Sun In damages your hair—a lot. There are some really harsh chemicals in that cheerful little bottle, so be careful. It's important to keep in mind, however, that bleaching your hair at home or getting it done professionally will cause even more damage than at-home lightening sprays. If you do choose to use Sun In, get ready to deep-condition and seriously love your hair.
How to Care for Your Hair After Using Sun In
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.
I also recommend avoiding using your straightener for a while if possible. If you blow your hair dry, use a low heat setting and brush gently and slowly. Growing hair is a long, time-consuming business, and damaged hair doesn't repair itself.
How to Use Sun In Properly
Some people suggest following the bottle's instructions perfectly, and others suggest far more liberal methods. 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 hairdryer or sitting in the sun after applying can help the chemicals to lighten your hair.
When I first used Sun In, I had just gotten out of the shower. My hair was damp, and I sprayed it liberally throughout, combing it through to make sure I got every spot possible because 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 use the product for three to five days in a row, after which I begin to see definite results. I then discontinue use until darker roots have started growing.
Should You Use Sun In?
You have naturally light hair
You have naturally dark hair
You have not treated your hair chemically in the last six months
You have treated your hair chemically in the last six months
You do not plan to dye or treat your hair in the next few months
You plan to dye or treat your hair in the near future
Have you ever used Sun In?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Can my hair go back to being dark after using Sun-In?
The part of your hair that has been sprayed can and might darken to a brassy orange color (it did with mine recently), but will not go back to its original color. As your hair grows in, it will be its original color, which may result in a different colored stripe in your hair.Helpful 43
If my hair is damp, and I am planning on going to a water park, can I just leave my hair damp and let it dry with Sun-In naturally?
Yes, I believe so, but keep in mind that chlorine also acts as a bleaching/lightening agent and may have an additional or unexpected effect on the process. It shouldn’t cause any damage, but it might make the color come out lighter.Helpful 27
I have natural highlights, will Sun-In ruin these, or just enhance them? I was also thinking about putting sun in on while I'm at softball practice, will sweat result in any strange effects?
Natural highlights will be further enhanced by the Sun-In! If you want to keep the highlighted look, you can spray the Sun-In heavily on your fingers and run that through your hair gently from the scalp down instead of spraying it all over your wet hair.
Sweat will not result in any strange effects, as long as it is dry by the time you start sweating.Helpful 22
I have naturally curly hair. If I use Sun In, will it ruin my curl pattern?
Nope! It is safe for curls.Helpful 3
I recently used Sun-in about a week ago and have an appointment in two days to possibly bleach my hair if my stylist says it’s ok. My hair seems healthy so my question is if you think it will be safe for me to bleach it?
Inform your stylist and if she says it’s okay, it will likely be fine. My stylist said that as long as clients let her know about using it previously, she can take steps to mitigate damage, or mitigate the hair dye coming out a weird color.Helpful 2