Whether it’s a long, vigorous swim or a quick, casual dip, there’s no doubt that plunging into the pool is one of the best ways to feel rejuvenated. We love how the water works for us, from cooling us down to providing buoyancy for our workouts. What we don’t love, though, is the water’s drying and damaging effects on our beautiful locks.
Let’s talk chemistry
Ever wondered why you leave the pool with your hair feeling dry, rough, and susceptible to fall and loss? Every swimmer knows how savage chlorinated water can be for their hair.
While you like how chlorine kills contaminants to sanitize the environment you are swimming in, you don’t want your vibrant hair to be a collateral damage. Chlorine affects the hair by direct chemical reactions, abruptly changing the hair’s physical and chemical properties as well as the electrical charge of minerals bonded to the hair.
Direct chemical changes include reactions with the hair pigments, altering the hair’s natural color. Chemical reactions also strip off the hair’s natural oils that are meant to moisturize it, resulting in the loss of shine, flexibility, as well as making it prone to damage. Lastly, the minuscule chlorine crystals can get into fragile hair fibers, separating the fibers, weakening the hair and causing split ends.
Now, let’s cut to the chase: How are you going to protect your precious hair from damage without giving up your love for swimming? Here are three ways.
1. Never hit the pool with your hair dry
Wet your hair. Wet hair slows down the penetration of chlorine as opposed to dry hair which absorbs chlorine directly into the hair shaft. Next to wetting your hair, you may also add oil, like coconut oil, or moisturizing hair products like conditioner and serum. These hair products serve as a barrier to chlorine without leaving a residue in the pool.
2. Wear a swim cap
Travel back to 1950s with a fashionable swim cap. While no swim cap can promise to keep the water out 100%, wearing one is a lot better than wearing none. Swim caps are also used my competitive swimmer’s to reduce hair drag and swim faster and more swiftly. There are different kinds of swim caps you can check online such as silicone, latex, lycra, and neoprene caps.
Step 1: Tie your hair up on top of your head
Form a bun, as you would expect it to be positioned in the cap. You have long hair, tie in a ponytail first then wrap around to create a bun. Be sure that your hair is tied firmly to keep it in place. For medium to long hair, wearing a silicone swim cap is the best bet.
Step 2: Wet your hair
It makes it easier for the swim cap to slide over your hair and helps prevent the caps from sticking and pulling dry hair strands. You may also smooth a dab of gel over any loose hair.
Step 3: Open the swim cap with your hands
Stretch it open as wide as possible to avoid snagging your hair. Lower it onto your head and let the front part of the cap catch on your forehead, in between your hairline and eyebrows. Pull the cap down and back to cover the rest of your head.
Step 4: Make necessary adjustments
Once the cap is in your head, tuck stray hairs into the cap and reposition the front of the cap. Position the cap close to your ears and pull the back to make it as secure as possible. Then, put your goggles.
Should you cover your ears with the swim cap? It’s a matter of personal preference. Some people, especially the racers, prefer covering their ears completely. Others like to cover half while some don’t like covering their ears at all.
3. Treat your hair ASAP
Right after drenching your tresses in chlorinated water, make sure to head to the shower.
You may do your usual hair care routine by using your regular shampoo and conditioner, but experts suggest using a clarifying product that contains essential oils and botanical extracts. If you have the budget, you can rinse using a club soda (carbonated water) instead of tap water to effectively remove chlorine residues from your hair.
Some swimmers who are regularly exposed to chlorinated water use a swimmers’ shampoo that is specifically designed to remove the oxidized metals (which attach to the proteins in the hair shaft and cause hair discoloration) from their hair. One alternative is to use apple cider vinegar (one part vinegar and 2 parts water) and pour it over freshly shampooed hair. Rinse thoroughly.