How to Avoid Swimmer's Hair

Frizzy hair

With the approaching New Year, people are already starting to pen their resolutions, many of which revolve around weight loss. Since swimming is such an excellent form of exercise, many will be taking to the pool to slim down and shape up. With that said, there are a few complications that come with becoming an avid swimmer, one of which is dry, frizzy, and faded hair. But never fear! Here are a few tips on how to avoid swimmer’s hair so that you can have a great head of hair to match your new body.

Common Swimmer’s Hair Woes

There are essentially two major hair issues for swimmers with long locks: the green tint some get after prolonged pool exposure and the dry, straw-like quality that often accompanies it. The first is caused by oxidized metals in the water (like copper) that bind with the protein in the shaft of your hair to leave behind that yucky greenish color. Turns out, chlorine isn’t the main culprit for swimmers’ bad hair days. Bromine and other chemicals strip the hair of the natural oils that are made to keep hair hydrated and healthy. Once the oils are taken from the hair, the cuticle is exposed and easier to damage. If you’re swimming outside, the sun causes damage by breaking down the proteins in your hair which results in lightening or fading.

One of the biggest things you can do to keep from getting stressed out tresses is to maintain your cut and avoid coloring your hair. If your hair is pre-damaged or constantly processed, you’re going to have a tougher time keeping it from staying healthy if you’re constantly soaking in chemical-ridden water. Split ends make it easier for chemicals to get into the hair follicle and make it limp and lifeless so make sure you get the damaged sections of your hair cut off and avoid excessive heat styling if you can.


In the Pool

That said, there are a few pool-based tips that can help keep your hair from getting fried. First: you’ll want to wear a swim cap at all times. If you can keep your hair from soaking in pool water, it’ll have a better chance at surviving once you move from exercise to your daily activites.

Some avid swimmers will put a bit of coconut or olive oil in their hair under their cap so that it has a protective coating when it does get exposed to pool water. In this case, the water will strip the added oils instead of the essential stuff that’s protecting your hair.

Hit the Showers

Don’t let your hair stay exposed to the water longer than it needs to be. I know gym showers can be gross, but it really is important to get as much out of your hair as soon as you can.  Use a good shampoo to strip the hair of everything that’s clinging to your hair cuticle, preferably something without sulfates that won’t dry your hair out further. Bring your conditioner along too as it reseals your hair cuticle and replaces the moisture that you’ve been taking out of it all morning by swimming laps. If you don’t have time to shampoo and condition at the pool, at least rinse your hair with clean water.

Hair shampooing

Extra Steps

Talk to your stylist about what cut might work best for your hair. Keeping it shorter is common because it is easier to keep your hair healthy by ridding it of split ends every appointment. She may also recommend a special kind of clarifying shampoo that will effectively strip out the chlorine build up.

There are also special swimmer-specific shampoos out there that counteract the metals that cause that grinchy-green discoloration. They also create an almost waxy protective seal on your hair to keep it from getting frizzed out by the pool. The problem with these is they often leave a lot of buildup afterward when you’re trying to go back to your regular day-to-day hair life. If you’re looking to clarify your hair naturally, you can do a DIY rinse with apple cider vinegar. You mix about ¼ to ½ a cup of apple cider vinegar in 16 ounces of water (less if your hair is really dry, more if it’s oily). Apply from a squeeze bottle after shampooing your hair and let it sit, particularly in the ends of your hair. Either rinse completely or leave it in—surprisingly, the vinegar smell will disappear once it dries. Vinegar will also help if your scalp is dry but if that needs extra attention, try making a paste from baking soda and water and massaging that into your scalp and let it soak in for ten minutes. This will exfoliate the skin and help combat dryness.

You might also want to add a deep conditioning treatment to your regular hair care routine about once a week.

So there you have it--a few tips and tricks of the trade to help keep your hair looking lovely. Don't be afraid of the pool this New Year just because you're afraid of what it might do to your 'do. Jump right in and do a few laps for me!

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