Summer brings the best of the best, weekend BBQs, picnics in the park, and endless pool days with friends. There's nothing quite like the feeling of diving into a refreshing swimming pool on a hot summer day. The sun is shining, the water is cool, and the atmosphere is filled with laughter and joy. However, amidst all the fun, there's a hidden culprit lurking beneath the surface: chlorine. Pools = chlorine, and because of that, we never give it a second thought to what it's doing to our hair. While this chemical plays a crucial role in keeping pools clean and safe from harmful bacteria, it will also wreak havoc on your hair.
Chlorine: A Necessary Evil in Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs
If you were blessed with only experiencing fresh water to swim in, chlorine is a chemical element that is commonly used as a disinfectant in swimming pools, hot tubs, and other water sources. It is highly effective at killing bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that can cause illness and infection. However, this powerful chemical can also have some unwanted side effects on your hair.
When hair is already brittle, exposure to chlorine can exacerbate the damage, making it even more prone to breakage and split ends. Chlorine strips away the natural oils (sebum) that protect your hair, leaving it dry, rough, and damaged.
The Science Behind Chlorine Damage to Hair
Chlorine damage manifests in various ways, impacting hair health significantly. When hair is exposed to chlorinated water, the chlorine dissolves the hair-protecting lipids and oils that moisturize and keep strands healthy and manageable.
When your hair comes into contact with chlorinated water, the chlorine molecules bond with the proteins in your hair, causing physical and chemical changes. This bonding process can weaken the hair shaft, leading to various types of damage such as:
- Dryness: Chlorine strips the natural oils from your hair, and breakdown the amino acids which then depletes your hair’s strength leaving it dry and more prone to breakage.
- Brittleness: The chemical if not washed from hair thoroughly will slowly eat at the protective cuticles of your hair, weakening the hair shaft that makes hair more susceptible to breakage and snapping.
- Discoloration: Chlorine can cause hair, particularly blonde or light-coloured hair, to take on a very unattractive greenish tint.
- Split Ends: The lack of moisture and weakened hair shaft can lead to an increased number of split and frayed ends.
- Matting and Knots: The rough texture of your hair after the chlorine strips your natural oils causes friction, creating unruly tangles that can pull from the root, tearing out more than the typical 150 daily strands.
- Scalp health: Chlorine can also have adverse effects on your scalp, causing itchiness, and irritation, and can lead to dandruff or mild cases of eczema if not treated. Taking care of your hair after exposure to chlorine can help maintain a healthy scalp and prevent discomfort.
Preventing and Minimizing Chlorine Damage to Hair
To help protect and minimize the damaging effects of chlorine on your hair and scalp, and to ensure your hair remains manageable, retains its natural colour, and maintains a healthy appearance. consider the following tips:
- Wear a swim cap: We know, it's not an accessory you envisioned while planning your summer vacation, but a tight-fitting swim cap can help to keep your hair dry and minimize contact with chlorinated water. This is especially beneficial to fragile hair.
- Rinse before and after swimming: Wetting your hair with fresh water before swimming can help to reduce the amount of chlorine absorbed by your hair. Rinsing your hair with fresh water after swimming can help to remove any lingering chlorine until you are able to properly wash your hair, which we recommend doing as soon as you can.
- Apply protective products: Using a leave-in conditioner, oils, such as coconut oil, or hair masks can help to create a barrier between your hair and the chlorinated water before diving in.
Caring for Chlorine-Damaged Hair
Healthy hair symbolizes good health. Any damage to your hair impacts the way you look and feel. Preventing chlorine damage to your hair is essential, especially for those who swim frequently. Protective hair products can help create a barrier between your hair and chlorine, while also adding moisture to your strands.
If your hair has already been damaged by chlorine, consider the following steps to help restore moisture and repair damage:
- Use a clarifying shampoo: A clarifying shampoo can help to remove chlorine buildup from your hair. Be sure to use this type of shampoo sparingly, as overuse can lead to further dryness. No more than once a week, unless your stylist says otherwise.
- Condition, condition, condition: Use a deep conditioner or hair mask regularly to help restore moisture and repair damage. Alternating between a deep moisturizing mask, and a damage repair will allow your hair to gain the benefits of both.
- Try a chlorine-removal treatment: In-salon specialized treatment designed to remove chlorine, and other environmental sediments from your hair and restore its natural health and shine.
- Trim regularly: Regular trims can help to remove split ends and prevent frayed ends from splitting even more while promoting healthier hair growth.
- Brushing correctly: It’s crucial to your hair health to never rake your brush through wet to remove knots. Hair when wet can stretch to double its length, and when hair is compromised from the chlorine it can snap at the weaker spots. Always use a detangling spray and a soft bristle brush to prevent hair from getting snagged.
- In-salon treatments: The primary reason for blonde hair turning green after swimming in a chlorinated pool is the presence of copper in the water. When copper oxidizes, it binds to the proteins in hair strands, forming a greenish film on the hair. So for those who have the misfortune of chlorine turning their freshly sparkling highlights turn green, can book a treatment that removes buildup, environmental sediments to return your hair back to its beautiful colour.
Products To Protect Your Hair