We’ve all heard about swimmer’s ear, but what about swimmer’s hair? The more time you spend in your new backyard swimming pool, the greater the likelihood will be that you’ll start to see and feel some ill effects of regularly exposing your skin and hair to chlorinated water. But there’s no need to worry: you can take steps to lessen those effects while treating any existing damage to your hair.
Pool Hair, Don’t Care
First, chlorinated water can affect the texture of a person’s hair. What happens when hair is immersed in chlorinated water is that each individual hair shaft absorbs chlorine which, in turn, strips the shaft of sebum. Since sebum is a naturally occurring lubricant, when it is stripped, the result is usually a combination of frizz, dullness, and overall weakness that can lead to more frequent breakage. In “layman’s terms,” swimmer’s hair feels like straw.
Chlorinated water can also affect the appearance of a person’s hair, especially if it’s light in color. Blond hair in particular may take on a greenish cast. This issue is actually due not to the chlorine itself but to a chemical reaction between the chlorine in the water with the copper used in the pipes. As the chlorine carries miniscule metal particles into the water, the chemical reaction causes a greenish tint to hair.
While not a direct result of chlorine, the hair of those who frequently spend time in the water often shows itself as dry, damaged hair, which can be due to more frequent blow drying. Artificially drying hair, as opposed to allowing it to air dry, can cause cracking of the protective cuticles surrounding each hair shaft. Results include frequent breakage and split ends.
Pool Hair, Tips for Care
If you don’t mind having dried out, green-tinted, straw-like hair, that’s okay; we won’t judge. But if you want to have great-looking, healthy-feeling hair without shunning your swimming pool (or trying to keep your head above water at all times — what fun would that be?!), we have some tips for you.
First, before you enter pool water, be sure to thoroughly wet your hair with fresh water. This important step will allow your hair shafts to soak in the clean water, making it unable to soak in water from the pool.
Another way you can keep hair shafts from soaking in chlorine is to protect them with a swim cap or a protective product such as conditioner or coconut oil. (However, those products will affect your water quality by adding a greasy layer to the top. We recommend you keep a tennis ball on the surface of the water to reduce oily buildup.) Swim caps also provide the secondary function of keeping long hair from getting in your way as you swim. If you’re in the market for a swim cap, we recommend one that’s made from silicone, not Lycra or neoprene.
Alternatively, you can at least somewhat reduce exposure of long hair to harsh chemicals by wearing your hair up.
Continue reading to learn about avoiding swimmer’s skin.
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