Most swimmers know that chlorine can do a number on the hair if you are in the pool for too long. You can expect a lot of damage if you swim in a pool with chlorine, especially if you have colored hair. The chlorine in the water can react to a number of chemicals in your hair, causing it to change color, or if you have natural, untreated hair, causing the hair strands to dry out.
What is Chlorine And How It Damages Hair
Chlorine is a yellow gas that takes on liquid form when bonded with other molecules such as sodium and calcium. It has long been used for its antiseptic properties and was first used as an anesthetic in the mid-1800s. As a gas, chlorine was first used as weapon in war in 1915 by the Germans. Today, chlorine is used for a variety of purposes. Chlorine is dissolved in pool water to destroy bacteria and germs, keeping the water safe for swimmers before it needs to be replaced.
Chlorine contains a number of properties that make it unsafe for hair. For one, it dries out the hair shaft, causing the hair strand to become coarse, brittle, and prone to breakage.
The hair is made up of several layers. The core of the hair strand, called the cortex, is protected by an outer layer called the cuticle. The cuticle is the shiny, smooth part of the hair, and it is kept smooth and moisturized by a layer of sebum or oil that is produced by the scalp. Chlorine in the pool strips the sebum from the hair, and this causes the hair strands to dry out and crack. This leads to a loss of shine, breakage, and split ends.
Hair Care Tips Before Swimming in a Chlorinated Pool
Chlorine is a very effective drying agent, which means that swimmers who want to protect their hair from the drying effects of this substance should take protective measures to avoid chlorine damage on their hair. Fortunately, there are a number of measures that swimmers can take to make sure that chlorine-treated water does not come in contact with the hair, or even when it does, will not cause any damage.
- Use olive oil or coconut oil.
Olive oil or coconut oil are effective at coating the hair so that chlorine does not come in contact with it. These oils reinforce the sebum that is naturally produced by the scalp, so even if the hair gets wet with chlorine-treated water, the hair strand is safely coated by layers of oil. Olive oil is very nourishing and because it is natural, it does not weigh the hair down. Coconut oil is also a great alternative since it is equally as nourishing but it less expensive than olive oil. Coconut oil is great for sealing in moisture and is known to help strengthen the hair shaft.
- Wet hair with non-chlorinated water.
This tip has a very sound scientific reason behind it. Wet hair tends to be less absorbent than dry hair, so wetting your hair before you step into the pool reduces the chances of your hair absorbing the water molecules from the pool. This is a good idea for the skin as well, and is the very reason why you should take a good shower to wet your hair and skin before your swim lessons.
- Use leave-in conditioner.
A leave-in conditioner works the same way as the olive or coconut oils. It provides a safe, external coating that protects the hair strand from the chlorine. It creates a protective, hydrophobic barrier that prevents the chlorine from getting into the hair. Leave-in conditioners also smell better and can be rinsed off right after your swim. You can use leave-in conditioners that are formulated specifically for swimming in chlorine-treated pools to increase the protection you are giving to your hair.
- Wear a swimming cap.
This is perhaps the best option if you are not too fond of putting different kinds of products on your hair or if you are not fond of getting your hair wet. A swimming cap is the best option since you won’t be exposing your hair to chlorine. Swim caps are also inexpensive and reusable.
Tips After Swimming in Chlorinated Pools
You can also do a number of preventive strategies to get chlorine out after your swim. These include washing your hair right after swimming and using products formulated to remove chlorine from the hair.
Wash the hair right away with tepid water before rinsing it with cold water to seal in the cuticle. You can use clarifying shampoos to remove all traces of chemicals from hair, but this type of shampoo should not be used on a daily basis since it can be drying as well. You can also treat the hair to a nourishing treatment each week to restore its pH balance and moisture.
Remove Chlorine with Swimspray
SwimSpray is a special product designed to get chlorine out of the hair and skin. It is safe for use with shampoo and conditioner since it is fragrance-free.
SwimSpray was invented by Dr. Andrew Chadeayne, an avid swimmer who was bothered by the amount of chlorine that remained on his body after a few laps in the pool. He used his knowledge in chemistry to create a product that would neutralize the chlorine bonds using Vitamin C, which effectively removed the chlorine from hair and the skin. Most, if not all users, are amazed at how effectively this spray removes chlorine from the skin and hair. It can remove up to 100% of the chlorine film and odor, and eliminates any itching which usually occurs as a reaction of the skin to the chlorine. Hair also feels softer and lighter, with none of that heavy, coated feeling that one often gets when chlorine is not rinsed out of the hair. The great thing about this product is that it is very affordable and leaves no odor. After you step out of the shower, you do not smell like chlorine, but you do not smell like any other fragrance, either. The ingredients are also natural which means that anyone can use this product, from small children to the oldest swimmers.