Ah, summer: we’ve been anticipating it for months, imagining the warm sand of the beach, refreshing homemade sangria, and—oh, right—icky swimmers’ hair. Less gross than swimmers’ itch but harder to avoid than swimmers’ hair, it is a side effect of chlorinated pools and salty beach water that resists showers and can ruin your perfect summer night date hair. Luckily, whether you’re a beach bum or a pool rat, there are ways to prevent swimmers’ hair, which can make your hair dry, discolored, and damaged.
Before you get in the water
It sounds weird, but a great trick is to wet and condition your hair before getting in the water. The leftover moisture from a quick rinse-off will prevent your strands from drinking up all the salty or chlorinated water. And a little conditioner goes a long way in protecting your hair from breakage. If you don’t mind sacrificing a sexy look in the pool for a healthy one later, wear a swim cap before you jump in. Especially if you’re swimming for a workout—a swim cap will also stop your hair from slowing you down as you do those laps! And for a little added protection, massage a glob of conditioner through your hair before putting on the cap. The warmth of your body heat will activate the conditioner and give you not only protection from chlorine but a little extra softness and shine once you rinse post workout.
When it’s time to dry off
If you’re a blonde, you’re probably familiar with the greenish tint your hair can take on after you get out of the pool. After a swim, try a vinegar or lemon juice rinse to restore the lighter colors—just be wary of new highlights in your hair and how they interact with your current color. After you’re done with a swim, it can be tempting to lounge on the beach or poolside for a few more hours before rinsing off—don’t! Letting saltwater or pool water sit in your hair allows the chemicals to soak in and dry it out. Even if it’s just a quick rinse before heading back out to tan, do yourself a favor and hop under a shower (or even a bottle of water) for a minute.
Washing your hair
For every hair problem, there’s a “fix-it” product you can buy. Shampoos specially formulated to remove chlorine are available at most drugstores and online—check out the variety of brands and options to see what’s right for you. If you color your hair, look for ‘sulfate free’ brands or those formulated for colored hair. If you are a frequenter of the local (or backyard) pool, investing in a shampoo to rid your hair of chlorine is a must to keep your hair on the right track. Ask anyone who’s ever been part of a swim team—it should be a necessity if you plan on taking a dip more than occasionally.
Possibly the worst experience between swims is when you’re trying to brush or comb your hair and it feels like you’re trying to detangle a bundle of straw. Clarifying shampoos strip your hair of product build-up that your everyday shampoo can’t reach. If you use product in your hair, a clarifying shampoo used periodically (1-2 times monthly) will be your hairs best friend by removing those things that weigh your hair down, damage your natural texture, and make your hair duller. It might seem obvious, but it’s a key practice that’s often forgotten; with each wash, and certainly after going for a swim, don’t skip the conditioner. Condition your hair to strengthen it and help prevent breakage, whether that’s with a favorite leave-in conditioner, a hair mask, or an oil treatment.
The combination of sun, salt, and sweat can make for troublesome hair. Some of the symptoms of swimmers’ hair might not even be noticeable at first. However, it’s important to maintain healthy hair by taking care of your locks before, during, and after every dip—and that’s the secret to sexy, beach hair.