Sunday, 16 May 2010

Can Swimming Damage Your Hair?

How Chlorine and Salt Affect Your Hair and How to Protect It

Last summer we rented a charming beachside house in North Kent that, to my daughters' delight, also had a swimming pool. We did A LOT of swimming.

My oldest daughter, Anita, has very long hair and she makes the cross with her fingers at me whenever I try to approach with the hairdressing scissors. So you can imagine that if I can't trim her hair, she gets regular lectures from me about how to keep her long hair in good condition. She loves it, obviously, all this good advice I have to share with her! I can tell by the way she sighs.

So, what does swimming in the sea or pool do to your hair and what can you do to protect it?

Salt versus Chlorine

The most damaging element in sea water is salt. If you swim in the sea without a swimming cap, your hair will dry with a fine salt coating. Leaving salt on your hair will cause it to draw moisture out of the core and it will give the hair a sort of tacky surface that encourages your hair to tangle, which will damage the cuticle.

The nasty part of pool water is of course chlorine. If you leave chlorine to dry in your hair, it penetrates the cuticle and then can recrystalise inside the centre of your hair. These crystals are very sharp and snag at your hair when you later brush through it.

Protecting your Hair

The best way to protect your hair is to wear a swimming cap. However, sometimes this isn't reasonable and it very usually isn't fashionable either. If you don't want to wear a swimming cap, and you swim frequently, you should try to rinse your hair within 5-10 minutes of leaving the water. You absolutely must not brush your hair until you have thoroughly shampooed, conditioned and then dried your hair. This will ensure that you haven't left any sharp crystals of salt or chlorine clinging to your hair.

If washing your hair isn't possible, then thoroughly coating your hair with silicone serum each time before going into the water will do an excellent job of protecting your hair. The silicone clings and coats hair brilliantly and is water resistant. This is probably the only situation that I would recommend using a product containing silicone as it doesn't wash out completely with shampoo. However, for swimmers, silicone is very good at protecting your hair both from chlorine and from the copper that is responsible for colouring fair hair green.

If you have long hair, I recommend wearing it in a loose plait. This will help reduce tangling until you are ready to rinse your hair.

Frequent swimming without taking steps to protect your hair  can significantly dry and damage your hair. The best protection is to not put your head underwater, or to wear a swimming cap. Rinse your hair immediately after leaving the water, ideally shampooing and conditioning it at soon as possible.

Taking just a few simple steps can dramatically improve the health of your hair, making it much more manageable and easier to style on a day to day basis.

If you want to learn more really easy ways to keep your hair healthy by making small changes to your daily care routine, sign up for my Advice for Healthy Hair articles. They are completely free and you can unsubscribe any time, not a problem!

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