There’s nothing like a rejuvenating swim after a long day at work or school—it has the potential to clear your head, relax your mind and give you a great workout all at the same time. But after an hour in the pool, soaking in chlorine can leave your hair dry and straw-like, your scalp itchy and sensitive, and your nails and skin dry and prune-y. Plus, if you’ve got coloured hair, the chlorine can strip the dye right off, leaving you with streaks and damage. And if you’re swimming outdoors, the UV rays of the sun can add to the havoc on coloured hair by breaking down hair colour molecules. The worst, especially if you have a lighter colour, is the greenish tinge that settles on strands due to the heavy metal build-up. So, to help you protect your tresses as much as possible while you enjoy your swim, we got celebrity hairstylists Daniel Bauer and Florian Hurel to share tips on how to give your hair some much-needed TLC before (and after) you take the plunge.
While you can use clarifying shampoos and treatments to deep cleanse hair post-swim, preventing damage in the first place will be far more efficient. “As the saying goes, mum knows the best. We were all forced to wear swimming caps as kids by the pool, but as we get older, our fashion sensibility changes. However, I think that, swimming caps, without question, offer the best protection for hair. And contrary to some thinking, they do not cause hair damage,” says Hurel. He suggests that you tie your hair into a loose braid or a high top knot before you enter the pool. This will keep your hair out of the water as much as possible. Be careful not to make your hairdo too tight, as that might pull your strands more once they get wet and heavier.
“Your hair is like a sponge and craves moisture, so if you plunge headfirst into a chlorine pool, your hair will soak all that harmful chemical in the water, potentially causing hair damage and even hair loss,” warns Bauer. The solution is simple. Wash your hair first with cold water and a conditioner before you go for a swim. This has two benefits; first, the conditioner coats the hair, creating a protective barrier between your hair and the chlorine. Secondly, washing your hair in cold water will help close the hair cuticles. This way your mane will absorb lesser chlorine or salt water. Once done with your swim, lightly rinse your hair under the shower. “Chlorine is a bleaching agent, so with too much exposure, it has the effect of lightening your hair, but in a damaging manner. Apply argan or coconut oil and leave it in. This way, the oil will coat all the hair and condition and protect it,” says Hurel.
While just water and a simple conditioner should do the trick, if you’re a regular swimmer, you can amp it up with products specifically made for chlorine and UV damage. Plus, if you have lowlights, balayage or blonde hair, the sun can dehydrate pigments, which can sap hair of shine and vibrancy. The IGK Blocked Water Resistant Hair Shield has waxes that create an occlusive shield to protect hair from chlorine, sweat and UV rays. Apply it to the hair before swimming, and wash it off after. If you want a more portable, easy-to-use hair oil, spritz on Clarins’ Sunscreen Care Oil Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 30 on the hair and body to create a protective veil. If your scalp is prone to a sunburn, the Banana Boat Sport Quik Dri Scalp Spray Sunscreen will do the job—just make sure to wash it out thoroughly after.
If you swim everyday (and wash your hair everyday), you’ll want a light cleanser that will get rid of build-up without over-stripping the hair. Try Hair Story’s New Wash or Redken’s Clean Maniac Micellar Clean-Touch Shampoo. Use a clarifying shampoo once a week like Paul Mitchell’s Shampoo Three to thoroughly cleanse and purge the hair of any product and heavy metal build-up. To reverse dry and brittle hair, a conditioning mask like The Body Shop Banana Truly Nourishing Hair Mask should do the trick.