Chlorine and Other Chemicals: Handling Hair Care After the Pool

Summertime is full of fun activities, like hiking, gardening and lounging at the beach, but one of the most popular things to do when the weather is warm is to swim. It can be great to take a dive in the pool in your backyard or at the neighborhood swimming hole to cool off. Unfortunately, unless you’re swimming in a natural body of water, you’ll be coming face-to-face with numerous chemicals that can wreak havoc on your hair.

Chlorine is one of the most prevalent chemicals found in pools. Although it is diluted and used to keep the water free of bacteria, chlorine can still be considered a dangerous substance, especially to your luscious locks. If you only swim every once in a while, you probably won’t notice major damage. However, active swimmers often realize the immense need for proper hair care after just a few consecutive days of pool activity.

The damaging effects of chlorine on hair

Chlorine can do a few different things to your hair, and none of them are good. First, the chemical can cause your hair to become severely dry. This is because the hair shaft absorbs chlorine when it gets wet, stripping it of the natural oils like sebum that your hair uses to keep it healthy and hydrated.

At a minimum, stripping your hair of sebum will make it look dull, removing that healthy shine so many of us long for. If your hair remains dry for too long, it can become brittle and break, causing uneven strands around your head, frizziness, split ends and even hair loss in places.

Chlorine can also create another unfortunate hair situation: it can literally turn your hair a different color! People with blonde and light-colored hair might find that their hair turns slightly green after swimming. This is caused by chlorine’s interaction with metals like copper in your pool’s pipes.

If you’ve recently gotten a dye job, you’ll also want to avoid the pool. Chlorine can really do a number on freshly-colored locks, either stripping the hair of dye or interacting with the chemicals and causing an entirely new—and unwanted—color.

How to prevent and treat hair damage after swimming

Fortunately for you swim lovers, chemical damage from pools can be prevented. If your hair is already damaged, you can take some steps to prevent further damage and work to minimize the effects while your hair grows out healthy again.

  • Wear a swim cap: Swim caps definitely aren’t the most fashionable things in the world, but if you tend to swim regularly, they can help minimize the effects that pool chemicals have on your hair by reducing the contact between them. Look for a silicone one that fits snugly without pulling on your hair.
  • Wet your hair before and after swimming: If you choose to let your hair flow freely in the water, you can help prevent chlorine absorption by getting your hair wet in the shower before entering the pool. When your hair is fully saturated with water, it won’t absorb as much pool water—and therefore, won’t absorb as many drying chemicals. When you get out of the pool, give your hair a quick rinse and lather up with shampoo to remove any lingering chlorine.
  • Use protective hair treatments before swimming: Apply moisturizing hair treatments before you swim to help coat your strands and lock in moisture. Oil- and silicone-based products usually work best since they won’t dissolve in the water.
  • Hydrate your hair regularly: It’s a good idea to apply hydrating products like hair oils and deep conditioners at least once a week, even if you don’t swim that often. These products help lock moisture in long-term and keep your hair from breaking or looking dull.
  • Get a specialized shampoo: If you have light-colored hair that has unfortunately been tinted green thanks to the pool, there are specialized shampoos designed for swimmers to help solve your hair color disasters. These shampoos are also usually packed with moisturizing ingredients, making them a swimmer’s best friend. If you’d like to go a more DIY-route, you can also try removing green tints using a rinse made with one-part apple cider vinegar and two parts water.
  • Trim your hair regularly: Part of long-term healthy hair care is getting regular haircuts to lop off broken or split ends. If you are suffering from intense hair damage due to pool chemicals, it’s a good idea to schedule more regular trims to help hide the frizz and uneven look dry and damaged hair can cause.

Luckily for you, chlorine is not well-known to make your hair fall out, and hair grows back over time, so you don’t need to avoid the pool entirely to keep your locks looking and feeling healthy. Rinse, wash and treat your locks with moisturizing products to enjoy beautiful hair all summer long.

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