How to Fix Chlorine Damaged Hair

This Summer, if you’re planning on going to the pool, here’s everything you need to know about chlorine-cured water, what it can do to your hair, how you can prevent it, and how to fix it.

Swimming pools require regular disinfection to maintain a bacterial-free environment. The water can’t simply be drained and replaced every day! Thanks to science, it is possible to clean water using chlorine and other chemicals. The corrosive components responsible for cleaning are also the culprits when it comes to causing dry skin and damaging eyes, and even your hair follicles.

How Can Chlorine Damage My Hair?

Pools and other similar large water-containing areas are cleaned with chlorine, which is an all-purpose chemical. Upon use, it will immediately break down into different particles, causing a powerful chemical reaction. As a result, these by-products attack and destroy the cellular structures of bacteria and microorganisms. As a result, they become neutral and harmless.

Consider: if it can kill the live cells of bacteria, it can surely harm human cells as well. Chlorine weakens your hair shaft by slowly removing the protective layers, which makes them vulnerable and brittle. Furthermore, it dissolves the hair lipids, which are essential to maintain moisture, shine, and strength. Your healthy hair may become dry, dull, and brittle from frequent visits to the pool.

Can Chlorine Turn My Hair Green?

This famous myth is both true and false. True because there are times, depending on different circumstances, some may experience discoloration. It is also false because it is not Chlorine that is responsible for this but Copper a hard metal that is found in pool water. Algaecides, which contain a lot of Copper, is commonly used in most commercial and personal swimming pools to control algae build up. With this, it can easily bind with the amino acids present in the hair follicles and eventually give off a greenish tint that naturally appears like green hair.

Who Is at Risk for Chlorine Damage?

Naturally, everyone who has exposure to the harsh chemicals in chlorine-cured water is at risk, but the extent of the damage may still vary on other factors such your hair type and its current condition. If you think your hair belongs to one of these categories, it is imperative to take extra care to prevent and treat hair damage:

  • Color-treated hair (especially for those with light hair dye and highlights)
  • Chemically treated or bleached hair (permed, re-bonded or relaxed)
  • Dry hair or brittle hair
  • Thin or fine hair
  • Previously damaged hair
  • Porous hair

How to Prevent Chlorine-Damaged Hair

Here are some ways to help prevent the terrible aftershock effects of Chlorine to your hair:

WATER – Yes! You read it right. It can be as simple as washing your hair before swimming. Like a sponge, let your hair absorb the fresh and clean water. Wet hair has no more room for other harsh chemically induced liquids such as pool water. Likewise, your should also wash your hair after swimming.

HAIR CONDITIONER – This step can be done before and after hopping into a public swimming pool. The former is to add an extra layer of moisture to the hair strands. While the latter is to help replace the lost protein and moisture from exposure to chlorinated water. Simply apply a generous amount of a good quality conditioner, preferably with silicone (ingredients that end with -ione like dimethicone) and other essential oils. Any daily conditioner will do if you find a swimming-specific conditioner to pricey.

SWIM CAP – This is probably the best way to prevent any contact of chlorine to your hair. Just make sure that you pre-rinsed your hair and applied conditioner before wearing a swimmer’s cap. A silicone cap is known for being lightweight and durable.

RINSE – Nothing beats a good old rinsing your hair with fresh water after a dip in the pool. This will initiate the elimination of Chlorine that is stuck on the strands of the hair. Make sure to run your hair under cold water as it will close the cuticle and further protect the inner layer of your hair. Fun fact, you can rinse as often as you want in between your times in the swimming pool. This will continuously flush out chlorine and other toxic chemicals. Put simply if you have dry hair, don’t jump into chlorinated pools.

SHAMPOO – After a thorough rinse with water, it is also a great idea to further remove Chlorine’s traces by using your favorite mild shampoo. You can also opt for specialized shampoos that contain anti-bacterial ingredients that can quickly get rid of fragments of metals and chlorine. There are many great swimming-specific shampoo products (aka swimmer shampoo) but in a pinch any hydrating shampoo will do.

How to Fix Chlorine-Damaged Hair

If you feel that you already have chlorine-damaged hair, do not fret! There is still hope in restoring your precious locks into its former glory.

TALK TO AN EXPERT – There is no doubt that your hairstylist will know what to do. After assessing the damage, make sure to have a talk and understand your options. You can have Keratin treatment, Hot Oil, or Detox treatment—all of which can help restore moisture and strength to your hair. If all else fails, it is best to cut the ends off (this is the most damaged part) and wait for healthier hair to grow.

CLARIFY YOUR HAIR – Using a clarifying shampoo will remove any chemical buildup. Make sure to check for sulfates when choosing the right shampoo. Some may say that this can cause more drying, but this is exactly what is needed to strip out all harmful residues. However, if you opt to use a milder one, look for alternative ingredients such as apple cider vinegar and activated charcoal on the label. You can also make a DIY clarifier by merely diluting a spoonful of baking soda with warm water. Another home remedy is to combine two parts apple cider vinegar and one-part warm water. Remember to use a reliable hair conditioner afterward.

SCALP HEALTH – Always remember that both your hair and scalp need attention when dealing with Chlorine induced damages. Nioxin products are highly recommended by experts to help repair any scalp damages and restore its natural moisture.  What you’ll want to do is conduct a regular scalp check looking for the early signs of dry scalp or dandruff.

DEEP CONDITIONER – While applying hair conditioner regularly is beneficial, those who have damaged hair might need more than that. Deep conditioning is a continuous conditioning treatment using oil-based products containing moisturizing ingredients such as Coconut, Jojoba, or Argan oil. This will not only restore lost moisture but also boost the hair strands with essential vitamins.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does salt water damage hair?
Saltwater damages your hair by stripping away all its moisture, making it rough and dehydrated, which causes split ends and dandruff. You can keep your hair healthy by washing it with fresh water and using a leave-in conditioner.
What are some natural products that give some protection from chlorine exposure?
Some swimmers swear by an apple cider vinegar rinse when they only have occasional exposure, others use shea butter and olive oil. However, the last two mostly only grant protection against salt water.
How does chlorine in swimming pools affect my skin?
Frequent exposure to pool disinfectants will strip the moisture from your skin. For those with sensitive skin it's not uncommon to experience rashes and without an effective skin care regime over the years your skin may prematurely age. Your skin tone is irrelevant to the effects of chlorine.
Should I use a hair mask product?
Many of these products claim to give you some extra protection against chlorine damage. You could make a case for these products for a day at the beach due to their extra sun protection. But they don't provide additional protection when wearing a swim cap.
Should I only swim in an untreated pool?
Absolutely not! If you can even find one, it wouldn't be safe to swim in. There is a reason why fountains and small water features always have signs warning you not to swim in them. It's not safe.