How to Protect Natural Hair If You Are a Routine Swimmer

If swimming is part of your workout regimen, exposure to sun, heat, or chlorine can damage your natural hair. This type of hair is predisposed to dryness, so when your routine involves taking a swim daily, the strands will suffer.

Saltwater leaves the hair frizzy, parched, or dry because it draws water out from the strands. The loss of moisture leaves the hair dull, dehydrated and prone to breakage.

Chlorinated water of swimming pools sucks away the natural oil or sebum, causing the cuticles to crack and dry out. Chlorine kills microbes and bacteria in swimming pools. However, it binds with the hair protein and alters the hair structure. It causes the cuticle layers to open up, increasing tangles and stripping sebum.


Before swimming:

Wet your hair

Rinsing your hair before taking a dip is important because the tap water serves as a barrier against the chlorine or salt water. A saturated hair cannot absorb additional water because the shafts are already swollen and filled with water.

Use a leave-in conditioner

After rinsing, apply a generous amount of conditioner to seal the hair cuticles. Use a conditioner that has silicones which act as protective films. Make sure to coat the roots, length, and scalp. Aside from moisturizing the hair, conditioner creates a barrier that prevents the chlorinated or salt water from penetrating the strands.


Coat your hair with oil

Oiling your precious locks before jumping into the pool makes the hair waterproof and protected. Oil creates a strong protective layer over the scalp, preventing the chlorine to penetrate the hair cuticles and ruining its natural color and shine.

Apply coconut oil, Argan oil, Moroccan oil, olive oil, or almond oil before getting in the pool. You can also do this before sleeping, so when you wake up, your hair is thoroughly coated with oil.

Make sure to cover your hair after oil application to protect it from heat exposure. The heat of the sun will make your hair dryer, so wear a swim cap as protection.

Spritz hair spray

Protective hairspray comes handy when you are doing routine swimming. Select a sun protection spray that maintains the hydration level of your hair and prevents damage from the heat of the sun.

Wear your hair up

Keep your hair tightly packed to prevent salt water and chlorine from penetrating the strands. Put in a bun, twist it up, or braid it to prevent the hair from getting matted and tangled while swimming. You can also use a saran wrap for full protection.

Use a swim cap

A swim cap is not just a mere accessory, but a must-have when doing a swimming routine. It protects your hair from chlorinated water, avoiding the severe effects of the chemical.

Choose a swim cap with edges that are not too tight. Before putting it on, apply cream or a small amount of essential oil on the edges.

Rinse every time you get out of the water

If there is a nearby shower, always rinse your hair when you stop swimming. Do this each time you exit the water.

After swimming:

The steps you make after a swim is as important as what you do before dipping.

Rinse your hair with cool water

Right after you are done swimming, rinse your hair for at least 3-5 minutes. Even if you wear a swim cap or wrap, it is possible that some amount of the chemical may have gotten on the hair. Make sure that your scalp and locks are completely rinsed. If possible, use lukewarm water to seal the cuticle layer of the hair. Regular tap water is also good.

Washing your hair right after swimming helps you get rid of chlorine. Immediate rinsing is necessary because chlorine and other mineral deposit like copper sticks to the hair and becomes tough to wash if you leave them too long.

Apply a chlorine-fighting or clarifying shampoo

Shampooing natural hair requires special shampoo to eliminate the hassle of excessive dryness or frizz. Choose a shampoo with Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), phytic acid, or sulfates. EDTA acts as a chelating agent, pulling off harsh chemicals, oil, and dirt away from the hair.

You can also look for clarifying shampoos that are specially-formulated for swimmers. Specialized cleansers remove product buildup and chemicals.

Use regular conditioner

If your natural hair seems to become drier when using shampoo, apply a hair conditioner after shampooing. Focus on the ends and leave it for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with cold water to seal the cuticle. Your hair will be shiny and soft.


Apply moisturizing/leave-in cream

After washing and deeply conditioning your tresses, put enough amount of moisturizing cream. It provides natural moisture and vitamins.

Seal the hair cuticles

Lock in moisture by applying oils of olive or coconut. You can also use Shea butter.

Dry your hair with a soft cloth

Avoid rubbing the hair with a beach towel because the rough material may cause breakage and damage. Opt for a microfiber cloth or a soft T-shirt to dry the hair after every routine swim.

Air-dry the hair before styling

Air-drying prevents dryness. When styling, set the hair on curlers, rollers, or rods as much as possible, avoid using a curling iron, flat iron, or blow dryer when styling natural hair. The direct heat from these tools can make the hair of routine swimmers drier.

Avoid brushing the hair after drying

Do not immediately brush the hair when it is not totally dry. Wet hair is susceptible to breakage and brushing it will put tension on the strands. Use a wide tooth comb before brushing your hair.

Hair-Care Treatments

Nourish your hair with a deep conditioner

To restore the moisture and replenish the strands, treat your hair with a deep conditioner. Deep conditioners contain hydrolyzed proteins, vitamins, and emollients that bring back the moisture balance. Apply a generous amount to your hair, cover it with a shower cap, and leave it for 20-30 minutes.

Depending on your routine, deep conditioning should be done once or twice a week. Look for a deep conditioner that suits your natural hair.


Use protein treatment

A protein treatment is a must if you are a routine swimmer. Treat your hair at least twice a month to make them strong and healthy.

Rejuvenates hair with hot oil or hair mask treatment

Another way to replenish the moisture and sebum of your hair after routine swimming is to take a bi-weekly or weekly hot oil treatment. It nourishes the scalp and strands that are affected by chlorine, heat, or salt water. Apply coconut oil, jojoba oil, and olive oil all over the hair, comb it through, and tie your hair in a top knot. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes or overnight. Wash your hair normally the following morning or after the recommended time.

Hair masks are also great moisturizers to soothe the scalp and re-hydrate the locks.

Home Remedies That Removes Chlorine from Hair

Coconut Oil Mask

  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Microwave bowl (small)
  • Plastic squeeze bottle
  • Plastic cap

Combine coconut oil and honey in a bowl. Mix the ingredients together before warming the mixture in a microwave for 30-45 seconds. Let it cool.

Apply the mask at the hair tips, working up towards the scalp. Once completely coated, cover your hair with plastic cap for 10-15 minutes. Rinse your hair well afterward.

Apple Cider Vinegar Wash

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Squeeze bottle
  • 4 cups water

Mix water and apple cider vinegar thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the squeeze bottle. Apply it from hair tips to the roots. Soak your hair for two minutes. Then rinse the hair well and air dry.

Note: Use this wash once every week to eliminate mineral residue and chlorine build-up on the hair’s outer layer. Apple cider vinegar wash tightens the cuticles, helping the hair to retain moisture better. It makes the hair healthy, shiny, and extra-soft.

Baking Soda Treatment

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • A small cup of water

Put the baking soda in a bowl. Pour the water and mix until it forms a paste. Apply it to your scalp and hair. Leave for 20-30 seconds. Wash your hair with water thoroughly to remove the mask, use your regular shampoo and conditioner.

Note: Apply baking soda treatment 2-3 times a week. Baking soda can effectively remove chemicals and chlorine buildup in the hair.

Vitamin C Rinse

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup soda
  • Spray bottle

Mix the orange juice, lemon juice, and soda, then pour the mixture into the spray bottle. Wash your hair, pat dry. Spray the Vitamin C Rinse along the length of the hair. Leave it for about two minutes. Rinse with cold water, using your favorite shampoo and conditioner.

Note: Apply it 2-3 times weekly. Vitamin C solution effectively removes chlorine from the hair, protecting it from premature graying and dandruff.

The Bottom Line

Swimming is a good routine workout, but always remember that your hair needs total protection against the harsh elements. Following these pre-swimming tips will ensure that your hair is well-protected. And after swimming, rejuvenate your crowning glory with post-swimming hair care solutions.

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