Swimming and Natural Hair: 8 Tips to Protecting Your Curly Hair From Chlorine

If you decide to make swimming a part of your daily or weekly workout regimen, you need to take certain precautions to protect your natural hair. In order to prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, algae and larvae (for outside pools), chemical disinfectants like chlorine, bromine, mineral sanitizers and other filters are used. These chemicals, chlorine, in particular, dehydrate the hair and are particularly harmful to natural hair as it is already pre-disposed to dryness.

Chlorine sucks away sebum, the natural oil our scalp produces to keep the hair healthy, and this causes the cuticle to dry out and crack. The end result is dry, brittle hair. Swimming is a fantastic way to get or stay in shape. Plus it’s a great way to build endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular strength. Furthermore, it is a lot easier on the joints than running or weight training and can be an excellent form of meditation and/or stress release.

Here are a few tips to protect your hair as you swim:

1. Rinse Thoroughly

Before you jump in the pool, rinse your hair thoroughly with warm water. Why? Think about a sponge. If you place a dry sponge in a puddle of water, it will absorb the water until it is saturated. If you place a wet sponge in a pool of water, it will only absorb a small quantity of water. The sponge is already filled with water so there is no need to absorb the puddle water. We want the hair shaft to be swollen and full of water before we hop in the pool. This way the hair does not absorb the chlorinated water. So, hop in the shower or rinse your hair over the sink so ensure it is saturated with regular tap water before hopping in the pool.

2. Apply a natural oil or serum to the hair.

Oils protects and seals the hair cuticles. It also helps your hair retain moisture by sealing moisture into the hair shaft.

3. Apply a leave-inconditioner

After you applied your oil, apply a leave-in conditioner.  Use conditioners that are for dry, curly, damaged, or chemically treated hair. Apply an adequate  amount of the conditioner to hair, making sure to focus on the length, roots, and scalp. The conditioner will not only moisturize the hair, it will also help protect the hair from the harsh pool water. Do not rinse out the conditioner. We want the conditioner to protect your delicate hair strands!

4. Go for a Swim

Don’t leave the hair out! Put the hair into one big braid or bun. For shorter hair wearing your hair in several twists or braids. This helps prevent the hair from becoming tangled and matted.  Now enjoy the water!

To fully protect the hair wrap the hair with saran wrap and cover with a swim cap. Even if a bit water gets into the swim cap, the hair is well-protected.

5. Cleanse The Hair

After swimming, rinse out the conditioner and pool water for at least 3-5 minutes and use a cleansing conditioner such as Ko-Wash Cleansing Conditioner for those who choose to swim daily. Shampooing curly or kinky hair daily can be detrimental to the hair causing excessive dryness. Using a cleansing conditioner will cleanse the hair without stripping it you are ready to shampoo.  It is recommended to use a chelating shampoo to fully remove chlorine and salt from the hair. The chemicals in the shampoo “chelate” with the chlorine and rinse it out of the hair.

Popular Chelating Shampoos:

L’anza Swim & Sun Daily Shampoo, Joico K-Pak Chelating, Joico Resolve Chelating Shampoo, Nexxus Aloe Rid (with chelating gel), Nexxus Phyto Organics Kelate Purifying Shampoo. Ouidad Water Works, Artec Textureline Daily Clarifying Shampoo, Kenra Clarifying Chelating Shampoo, Paul Mitchell Shampoo Three, Aveda Detox.

6. Apply a Deep Conditioner

Apply a super moisturizing deep conditioner to the hair in sections, cover with a plastic cap and let penetrate for 20-30 minutes.

7. Seal and protect the hair cuticles

Sealing and protecting the hair cuticles helps the hair retain moisture.  Use oils and butter such as coconut, olive oil, and shea butter.

8. Use a Low/No Heat Method of Styling

To combat dryness, try air drying the hair in braids, twists or a bun or try setting your hair on roller, rods or curlers and allow the hair to dry overnight or air dry during the day. Try, if possible, to avoid using both a blow dryer and flat iron or curling iron as the direct heat is especially drying to those who swim regularly.

🙂 That’s it for now enjoy your time at the beach/pool.

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  • ilovetychy says:

    I used to be very pleased to search out this web-site.I wanted to thanks on your time for this wonderful learn!! I definitely having fun with every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to take a look at new stuff you blog post.

  • Luce Trump says:

    I am providing baby swimming lessons to my children, does it effects their health at early age?

    • Ellisha says:

      Swimming is great for small children especially at a young age. But if you are swimming often protecting the hair can prevent it from breaking or becoming damaged. Pool water can cause the cuticles of the hair to become slightly raised. It is important to make sure that conditioners and/ or oils are are applied to the hair before entering the pool. This will help keep those cuticle layers shut.

  • Gerald Baum says:

    Will definitely be using these tips for my daughters curly hair over the summer. Thanks a bunch!!

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  • yilliangpeng says:

    Thanks for the advice on how to protect your hair from the swimming pool! Summer is coming up and my daughter has the most beautiful curly hair that we would hate to see get damaged. We have a swimming pool in our back yard and so you better believe she will be in it all day every day. I never knew that you just slowly blow dry the hair after it is wet, you can manage how dry it is. Thanks for the help!

  • Rene says:

    I have to color my hairs to cover gray hue, but I was fed up of my dull and dry hairs caused due to chemicals used in color. Thus, I have started feeling nice about the changed look of my hairs.

  • Dinzza says:

    Great post, Thanks for sharing..

  • Dymond Davis says:

    I swim in the mornings before school then I get ready in the swim locker room and go straight to school, with this limited amount of time I can't deep condition. What are your suggestions?

  • Frizzy Hair says:

    Will keep this in mind and apply once we go swimming. Helpful and informative post. Thank you! Have a great day!

  • Andrew says:

    Hair creams that contain natural ingredients are the best to use such as Butter Smooth Natural Hair & Scalp Cream.

  • Fitness Swimmer says:

    Hello all…as a Natural Nubian that swims daily..I do wet my hair prior to entering the pool and use coconut oil hair mask. Prior to showering I use an Argan oil conditioner. I wash my hair daily, but am sure a good weekly conditioner would work great for those who washing daily is not practical!

  • Tiff says:

    Will definitely be using these tips for my daughters curly hair over the summer. Thanks a bunch!!

  • Ndee says:

    I have 2 daughters with natural hair (15 & 9) that swim competitive, so they swim 3 to 6 days a week. They wear a swim cap every time they get in the pool. The 15 year old wear her hair in a pony tail and the 9 year old wear her hair in the typical little girl styles (1 pony tail or a few pony tails). I’m going to try your suggestions once a week because it’s not realistic for me to wash their hair daily because of school and other activities. Do you have any suggestions for something I can do/use daily that will help until we get to the weekend?

  • Mary says:

    Will keep this in mind and apply once we go swimming. Helpful and informative post. Thank you! Have a great day!

  • Korina says:

    I swim daily – every morning – at a national level, and my hair is really getting gross. Unfortunately, almost all of these steps are completely impractical for me. Any other tips??

    • Naomi says:

      I came here for the same issue. I used to swim at a national level and then waited till I left the team to use chemicals in my hair. My favourite part returning natural was that I would be able to get back in the pool. There is no way you can go swimming and have creams and conditioner trail coming out of your hair while in the pool. I guess rinse everything out just before, and get a good routine for the hair after swimming. I plan to browse other sites now.

  • […] “My Swimming Routine” Newly Natural: “Protecting Hair From Swimming” Curly Chic: “8 Tips to Protecting Your Naturally Curly Hair While Swimming” Happy Girl Hair: “Good to Know Protect Hair From Chlorine” From an individual who is […]

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  • daisy says:

    Is it okay to go swimming with your hair in cornrows (including having synthetic extensions in the cornrows) and to go swimming? Or should I leave my natural hair in its natural state because I swim? Is it okay therefore to rinse my hair in cornrows with the extensions still in and do the shampoo, conditioner etc?

    • Ellisha says:

      Well, you can go swimming with cornrows. Just remember that chlorine and salt is extremely drying and damaging to hair. It is hard to thoroughly cleanse and condition cornrowed hair. I think that it is best to swim with your hair in its natural state. This way your hair is properly cleansed, condition, and sealed. Try sealing your hair with an oil based product before swimming this will lock in moisture and prevent drying effect of chlorine and salt. If your hair is long enough, place it in a ponytail then wrap it into a bun. If your hair is short, cover it with a swim cap.
      Butter Smooth Hair Butter is a great hair product to try because of its rich nourishing emollient ingredients.