Donna Kim-Brand

Everyone into the pool – Avoiding Pool Water Hair Disasters

We know we should be careful to protect our hair, scalp and skin from sun damage in the height of summer. So we use hats, sunscreen and moisturizers. That’s all good.

But we can undermine all this effort if we fail to take sufficient care of our hair and scalp while enjoying ourselves in the swimming pool.

We know we need a certain amount of chemicals, especially chlorine, to kill bacteria and protect against other nasty creepy crawlies, especially in self-contained communal pools. Salt water chlorination is gaining popularity in private pools, as they disinfect more mildly without the extreme leeching caused by chlorine. In either case, precaution is the better part of valor, but there are also other consequences to this exposure to pool chemicals. So here are a few actions you can take to protect your hair and scalp from pool chemical abuse.

Before Swimming-

1) Many pools have a sign between the locker room and the pool requesting swimmers to shower before entering the water. The main reason for this is to rinse off sweat, dirt and sunscreen before entering the pool, which keeps the water fresher longer. But if you plan to get your hair wet anyway, one advantage to you for wetting your hair while taking this initial shower is that hair already saturated by water has less capacity to absorb chlorine or other pool chemicals. You can then choose whether to leave your now wet hair down or secure it.

2) In a similar vein, you could apply a light conditioning agent with SPF to your hair before swimming, which protects your hair from sun and from excess chlorine absorbtion. And, of course, this pampering is good for your hair anyway. Obviously, this could leave an oily film in the pool, so choose a brand designed for this purpose, possibly a conditioner you would leave in rather than rinsing out after application. The NUTRIfuse W and NUTRIfuse M by PRO|GEN leave-in conditioner works wonders here.

During Swimming-

3) Wear your hair up in a ponytail, braid, bun or tied up with a scarf. This way, your hair will only get wet if you actually dunk your head under water. An additional advantage is fewer snarls, allowing more ease and less damage from breakage when brushing out later.

4) Wear a swimming cap. I don’t know about you, but I still remember as a kid having my hair pulled by those tight rubber swim caps. Ouch! On top of that, I think of synchronized swimmers as wearing caps. Hardly my idea of a fashion statement! But the truth is, wearing a swim cap has a few benefits. You keep your hair protected from chemical damage and dry whether you dunk under water or not, so you have more freedom in the water. (And you don’t get water in your ears, although you can hardly hear anyone speaking either, for better or worse…) Current fashions include less torturous fabrics as well as a range of colors and textures of the rubberized varieties to choose from.

After Swimming-

5) When you’re out of the water for sunbathing or before heading home, rinse your hair thoroughly with fresh water in the shower before the chemicals have a chance to dry. Better yet, shampoo and condition. You’ll save from bleaching of your natural color or discoloration of your dyed hair. And you’ll prevent chemical drying of your hair and scalp, which can have disastrous effects on hair texture and scalp flakiness. You’ve spotted the neon green and brittle straw-like strands of avid summer swimmers, right? ‘Nuff said.

6) Clarify and deep condition regularly, at least once a week or after swimming in a chemical pool and even at the ocean. This will first pull out any chemicals or salts still lurking in your lovely locks, and then moisturize and condition your tresses to restore bounce and shine.

7) When the winds of autumn sweep in and you spend less time poolside, you might consider lopping off any split ends or trying out a new cut or style that masks any summer sun or pool water damage.

Disaster might be too strong a word here, but you can surely mitigate against damage and humiliation because of your ‘pool hair’. These steps are simple preventative actions you can take which will allow you to fully enjoy summer swimming, yet not let your hair suffer too severe a toll from harsh pool chemicals in direct summer sun. Everyone into the pool!

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