How Do Swimmers Keep Their Hair Healthy?
Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just enjoy a casual dip in the pool, swimming is great for the body and mind. Your hair? Not so much. While they’re crucial to killing bacteria, chlorine and other pool chemicals can strip hair of natural oils and moisture, leaving it dry, brittle, and damaged if you’re in the pool frequently. Thin, color-treated, or hair already suffering from chemical or heat damage can be particularly susceptible, and it’s important to identify your hair’s unique needs. That said, there are several rules of thumb to go by that are sure to protect any tresses. Below, we’ll explore different methods that swimmers use to maintain healthy hair.
Pre Swim Hair Care
It may sound redundant, but rinsing or soaking your hair before you dive in is an excellent protective measure. Saturating your strands with unchlorinated water before they’re exposed to the pool water keeps them from absorbing as much chlorine during your swim. Rinsing hair in clean tap water prior to entering the pool is the first and easiest step to building a protective hair care routine for swimmers.
Another great option if your hair is going to be exposed directly to chlorinated water is oiling. Massaging natural oils like coconut, jojoba, and castor oil into the hair and scalp helps form a protective shield that will keep chlorine from penetrating strands as deeply. Putting long hair in a braid or ponytail can also help prevent tangling. Your hair is most breakage-prone when it’s damp and unmoisturized, so preparing it to be neat and unknotted during your swim will allow you to minimize tugging and breakage post-swim.
The most obvious way to keep hair healthy in the pool is to cover it. As helpful as any other practice on this list can be, if you’re swimming daily, a swim cap is truly your best investment, keeping hair from coming into contact with the harsh chemicals in the first place and saving wash and styling time post-swim.
Not only will it protect your locks, but it will keep your vision clear underwater, and make you more aerodynamic, reducing drag to increase your speed. Silicone caps are popular for their elasticity and durability, but some swimmers find lycra more comfortable. They may not be the most glamorous choice, but finding the right fit and material for a swim cap you can wear consistently will certainly pay off in keeping your hair shiny and strong.
Post Swim Hair Care
It’s important to wash your hair as soon as possible upon exiting the pool. Gentle, sulfate-free shampoo, followed by a rich hydrating conditioner, can help cleanse the hair and replenish moisture. Incorporating the occasional clarifying shampoo (not too often, as these can also strip natural oils if overused) can also be helpful by removing build-up from frequent swims and helping your other haircare and scalp products absorb better. If your hair is naturally on the drier side, a leave-in conditioner can also be a game-changing addition. Treat hair carefully when detangling to minimize breakage. Opt for air drying over blowdrying, and avoid heat exposure as much as possible.
If you have blonde or light-colored hair and notice it experiencing the dreaded green tint, don’t panic. Specialized swimmers’ shampoos and pre-swim sprays are a great option, as well as a host of home remedies like baking soda and lemon juice. Every hair type is unique and will respond differently to various products, but as a rule of thumb, you’ll want to build a post-swim routine that gently cleans the hair and scalp and packs in the moisture that’s been lost in the pool. Finding the right protective products and establishing a haircare practice that doesn't further strip and dehydrate your strands can make all the difference in combating chlorine damage.
How often should swimmers wash their hair?
Swimmers should rinse their hair in clean unchlorinated water prior to entering the pool and do a proper wash with shampoo and conditioner as soon as possible after exiting. A gentle cleanser to remove chemical build-up paired with hydrating products to replenish hair’s moisture are essential to any good routine. That being said, it’s important not to overwash. This can also be harsh and drying. Shampoo once a day is plenty.
Does being a swimmer damage your hair?
Chlorinated water can be harsh and drying, leading to brittleness, breakage, and even color changes in your hair. The severity all depends on your hair type and frequency of exposure. Color-treated, heat-damaged, dry, and thin hair is more likely to show signs of wear and tear from the pool, but appropriate preparation and aftercare can make a huge difference. Swimming frequently, especially without a cap, can certainly cause damage, but finding ways to minimize hair’s contact with pool chemicals and showing your strands a little extra attention can keep it manageable.
How do swimmers take care of their hair?
There are many ways swimmers protect their hair from pool chemicals. Most professionals, who are in the pool every day, opt for swim caps, but there are other measures you can take as well. Washing hair as soon as possible after swimming to remove chemical build-up and using hydrating products that replenish moisture is crucial. Other methods like pre-rinsing hair, conditioners and masks, oiling, and swimmer-specialized shampoos all help swimmers maintain strong, healthy hair, the name of the game always being to minimize hair’s contact with the water and make it less susceptible to chemical absorption.