5 Ways to Protect Hair From Swimming Pool Chlorine

It’s that time of year when the weather’s right for outdoor swimming (at least in my neck of the woods). Maybe it’s always sunny where you are or maybe you or your daughter want to take swimming lessons. Whatever the case, you don’t have to avoid contact with swimming pools and you also don’t have to harm your hair when you swim. There are a few things you can do to lessen or prevent or decrease the harsh effect that chlorine can have on your hair.

how to protect natural hair from swimming pool water

#1 Way to Protect Natural Hair From Chlorine: The Pre-Soak

One of the best ways to keep chlorine from damaging your hair is to keep it from getting into your hair in the first place. Before you get in the pool, thoroughly soak your hair with clear water.

Since hair can only hold so much water at any given time, it won’t become saturated with chlorinated water. Your hair won’t somehow wring out the clear water and decide to soak up the pool water instead. The clear water won’t come out of your hair until you wring it out or until it air dries.

#2 Way to Protect Natural Hair From Chlorine: The Cap

Yes, that’s right…that oh-so-fun-to-flaunt swimming cap. (NOT). Okay, so I don’t personally have a problem wearing a swimming cap if it means keeping chlorine out of my hair. After all, it’s one of the best ways to protect your tresses in the pool. Still, it’s not quite as cute as going in and coming out with your hair glistening and hanging over your right eye (yep, that’s the line from Martin Lawrence’s stand-up, “You So Crazy! and don’t act like you don’t remember it!)

Swimming Caps & Box Braids/Micro Braids/Any Kind of Braids

I got a question on our Facebook page recently about wearing braids in the pool-like Solange Knowles/Janet Jackson (in Poetic Justice) kinda box braids. If you’re wearing a long or bulky protective style and want to do some swimming, you don’t necessarily have to forsake the swimming cap. Instead of trying to put ALL the hair underneath the cap just cover the length of the hair you grew after you soak it in clear water, of course (remember tip #1!).

#3 Way to Protect Natural Hair From Chlorine: The Coating

After you soak your hair with clear water (and before you put on your swimming cap), coat your hair with conditioner, a natural oil or a whipped butter. An emollient such as an occlusive butter will provide an extra layer of protection for natural hair against swimming pool water. Since oil and water don’t mix then it’s more difficult for the swimming pool water to soak into your hair. Think of it as a pre-poo treatment since you were planning on shampooing the pool water out, right? Speaking of shampoo…

#4 Way to Protect Natural Hair From Chlorine: The Cleaning

If you decide against a swimming pool cap then wash your hair immediately (or as soon as possible) after contact with chlorinated water. If your hair is frequently soaked with chlorine water then consider using an apple cider vinegar rinse– the negatively charged acidic vinegar will neutralize/remove the positively charged chlorine from your hair along with hard water metals such as calcium.

#5 Way to Protect Natural Hair From Chlorine: The “Do”

The more coily/curly your hair is, the more highly I recommend that you do NOT swim with “free” hair. In other words, don’t leave your hair untied or unbraided and otherwise loose and free. Your hair is going to feel hard, tangled and stripped which will make detangling more of a headache and could contribute to damage due to increased combing forces (those are higher when resistance from hair is higher but lower when hair can glide/slip).

The harder it is for your hair to glide through your fingers or past a comb or past itself, the more force/pulling/tugging it has to endure. For me, stiff braids work much better for preventing tangles in the pool than twists do. The less your hair moves around (against itself) in the water, the better.



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