When temperatures soar few things sound as good as a dip in the pool. Whether indoors or outdoors, swimming is a great, full body workout that helps you keep cool and stay fit simultaneously. But when you spend all summer working hard to keep your hair healthy and hydrated, repeated exposure to chlorine can negate all that hard work. Short, occasional exposure to chlorine won’t ruin your hair, though it may feel dry for a few days after you swim. However, if you spend more time in the water than out of it, consider these tips to protect and treat those precious locks.
What Is Chlorine?
Chlorine is a chemical disinfectant used to sanitize water. It kills bacteria, algae, and other microorganisms, making your pool safe for swimming. However, as a disinfectant it breaks down and removes dirt and oil in addition to bacteria. Hair that has been color treated or lightened tends to be more porous, so it’s more likely to absorb chlorinated water and strip your hair of essential oils and nutrients that protect it from daily wear. It’s important to remember that hair that is thin, fine, dry, or previously damaged has a higher risk of damage, so take precautions before diving in. Your hair will thank you!
How Does It Affect My Hair?
Chlorine has two main affects on hair:
- It dehydrates hair. Summer days are made for being outdoors but overexposure to humidity, sunshine, scalp burn, and sweat can be detrimental to your hair. Again, chlorinated water strips hair of natural oils. As a result you can be left with dry, brittle strands that look and feel like straw. Dry hair can also appear dull or frizzy, and may split or break at the ends. Wispy strands, dandruff, and itchy scalp are additional signs you may have dry, dehydrated hair.
- It turns hair green. (Kind of.) Men and women with blonde or light colored hair may notice a greenish tint after being exposed to chlorinated water. This undesirable hue is the result of chlorine’s interaction with hard metals in pool water, such as copper. It’s actually oxidized copper that turns your hair green!
How Can I Protect My Hair From Chlorine?
Wear a swim cap or pull it up.
Think of your hair as a fashion accessory. Depending on your mood you can wear it up or down, straight or curly, decorated with headbands and ribbons or left to hang in long, loose waves. Flaunting your style never hurts (and if you’re in need of a little #hairspiration, here are some ideas) but when it comes time to dive-in, consider tucking your hair into a swimmer’s cap. Sure, no one will see that brand new ombre but at the same time, you’re limiting your exposure to chlorine and ultimately protecting your dye job from fading prematurely.
If you must show off your hair or for those who prefer not to dunk their head underwater, pull your hair back and up to keep it from coming in contact with chlorinated water. The “bun” is a popular hair trend that continues to evolve with the times, leading to cute styles like space buns and top knots.
Apply olive oil, coconut oil, or leave-in conditioner.
You put sunscreen on your skin to protect it from sun damage. Coat your hair from roots to ends with oil or leave-in conditioners to protect it from chlorine damage. These products create a barrier between your hair and the water, acting as a natural repellent.
Pre-wet your hair.
Porous hair absorbs chlorinated water like crazy. Pre-wet your hair with clean water from a rinse-off station and reduce the amount of water it absorbs while swimming. Using bottled water will also work!
Rinse and shampoo afterwards.
No matter what precautions you take, always rinse your hair and skin off after a swim. Shampoo hair thoroughly to wash out excess chlorinated water and condition hair to replenish lost moisture due to sun and wind exposure.