I was recently invited to a pool party, but instead of looking forward to cooling off in this hot humid weather, I was more concerned about my staple feature, my curls, being in contact with chlorine. Between sun exposure and the chemical overload in the pool, all I really want to rock out is my latest bikini, without committing a fashion crime wearing a swim cap! I researched to see what others were doing to protect their natural curls from chlorine and to my dismay I came across a few shocking suggestions such as rinsing hair with club soda, dissolving aspirin pills in warm water and rinsing your hair with them and even baking soda rinses. Now, I could take a leap of faith with anything but my hair!
Since I refuse to risk its health on baking soda and drugs, I want to share a few simple and effective solutions to protect your curls from chlorine:
1. Rinse your hair thoroughly before you hop in the pool.
It is common for people to skip this minor but important detail. The truth is, if we rinse our hair and rinse it well, saturating our hair with water before entering the pool means the less chlorine our hair will absorb because it’s already full of water. Ever notice how once a sponge soaks up as much water as it can retain, the rest just runs over? Exact same concept applies to your hair, so a thorough pre-rinse will go a long way!
2. Rinse your hair thoroughly after you emerge from the pool.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your hair is “dirty” once out of the pool, it’s not. Chlorine is put in the pools to keep them clean to begin with so re-washing your hair may be unnecessary for some. A good, long, extensive rinse out in the shower as soon as you are out of the pool is the sort of “hairapy” your curls need. Drowning out the chlorine with non-chlorinated water dilutes and eventually removes what chlorine is left in the hair. So, if there was ever a time you wanted to ponder the meaning of life for 10 minutes but still be doing something productive, this would be the time!
3. If you must wash, use a gentle pH balanced shampoo after you get out.
Chlorine is a dreadful combo of copper, iron and manganese, which keeps the pool clean of slime and gunk. However, for those of us who have colour treated hair, chemically permed or relaxed hair are at a higher risk of getting damage to your hair because chemical treatments tend to leave the hair cuticle very dry. Dry, thin or fine hair is at risk as is extremely porous so it will absorb more of the chlorine. Therefore washing with a gentle pH balanced curly hair shampoo that doesn’t contain silicones or oil, is very important.
Some people tend to think that using a strong clarifying shampoo will rid their tresses of excess chlorine but consider this: if chlorine strips away all the moisture from your hair and scalp, would a clarifying shampoo not just strip your already dried out, frizzy mane more? I suggest washing your hair twice and let the shampoo sit for a few moments. The first wash cleanses your hair and scalp of the chlorine and the second wash enables the strengthening ingredients of the shampoo to be absorbed into the hair once it’s actually clean. Lastly and just as importantly, be sure to rinse your curls very well!
4. Replenish what has been stripped.
The only sort of stripping you should be doing this summer is stripping down to your fabulous bikini and being the envy of the party, not stripping proteins! Invest in a pH balanced leave in conditioner or deep moisturizing treatment. Once precious proteins are stripped from your curls, you have dry, frizzy curls and a matted mess that is in desperate need of moisture replenishment. A powerful conditioner packed with authentic, high grade quality silk proteins that have tiny molecules that will easily absorb right into the damaged hair cuticle. Apply it after your life pondering rinse session or “double shampoo” and leave in for the remainder of your shower and then thoroughly rinsed out at the end. Pay special attention to the ends of your hair which can be damaged easily and remember to not towel dry as that will just roughen up the cuticle even more.
The possibility of chlorine damaged hair should not deter you from enjoying a piece of heaven by the pool this summer. The harsh reality is that wearing a swim cap is often your safest route to almost 100% chlorine protection – if only they made them with rhinestones, right? We’d love for you to share your comments and feedback on all your experiences with chlorine and swimming with curls.