How to Protect Your Hair from Pool Chlorine

Last Updated on January 1, 2023 by Gaga

The Effects of Chlorine on Your Hair

Chlorine is a chemical disinfectant used to prevent the growth of pathogenic microorganisms in swimming pools. While keeping swimming pools clean and safe is important, pool chlorine also has a harsh effect on hair. Major negative effects of exposure to chlorine in swimming pools include chemical reactions between chlorine and hair proteins, sebum, and the pigments responsible for hair color.

The chlorine present in pool water causes damage to the hair proteins which build the hair shaft. This weakens the structural integrity of the hair shaft, making hair more vulnerable and prone to breakage and split ends. Chlorine also lifts the hair cuticles, making them rough, porous, and difficult to untangle. Additionally, damage to hair done by chlorine is amplified in combination with exposure to sun rays.

pretty brunette woman by the swimming pool

Chlorine removes a protective layer of the natural oils that coat the hair shaft, leaving the hair more susceptible to damage. Swimming in chlorinated pools without proper protection can leave hair dry, brittle, and lifeless.

Chlorine acts as a bleaching agent that can remove melanin pigments and lighten your hair color. Chlorine raises the cuticle, allowing minerals to get into the hair and discolor it. People with gray hair may develop brassy tones after swimming in pools regularly. Blonde hair and blonde highlights may even turn greenish after exposure to chlorine.

Swimming in a pool regularly leaves a chemical smell that can linger on your skin and hair -even after taking a shower.

Color-treated, permed, or relaxed hair is particularly vulnerable and needs extra care to prevent and treat damage from pool chlorine.

Fortunately, there are some effective ways to protect hair before swimming and minimize the negative effect of chlorine after swimming sessions. With appropriate protective measures and care, you will not end up with excessively dry, orange, or green hair.

How to Prevent Chlorine Damage to Your Hair

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How to Protect Hair Before Entering the Pool

  1. Use a swimming cap
woman in swimming cap getting out of the swimming pool

Use a quality silicone swim cap that fits snugly around your head. A swimming cap will keep your hair dry and protect it from the damaging effects of chlorine.

2. Soak hair in fresh water

To prevent chlorine from reaching your hair, take a short shower before entering the pool. This way you will saturate your hair with fresh water and reduce its ability to absorb pool water.

3. Coat your hair with oil

Apply a generous amount of olive oil or coconut oil before you get in the pool. The oil will coat your strands and create a protective barrier that prevents chlorine damage. You can also soak your hair with an oil-based pre-shampoo treatment such as Huile de Leonor Greyl Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment. 

4. Apply pre-swim conditioner

Before stepping into the pool, saturate your hair with a pre-swim conditioner. This conditioner will coat hair strands and repel chlorine from entering the cuticle.

A special pre-swim conditioner such as AquaGuard Pre-Swim Hair Defense should be applied to damp hair before swimming to protect color-treated hair and keep it safe from the damaging effects of pool chlorine.

pretty  woman with long dark hair sitting by the swimming pool

How to Treat Your Hair After Swimming in the Pool

  1. Washing: Wash your hair immediately after a swim. Apply a generous amount of shampoo, massage, and rinse thoroughly. Choose a shampoo specifically designed to remove chlorine and mineral deposits from your hair. Apply conditioner.
  2. Drying: Do not vigorously rub your hair with a towel, because wet hair tends to be very fragile, especially after exposure to chlorine. Instead, gently blot and squeeze your hair, or just wrap it in a soft towel. Let your hair air-dry, if possible, or use a blow dryer at a lower setting.
  3. Conditioning: Apply Ion Swimmer’s Leave-in Conditioner to replace lost moisture and make combing easier. Use a wide-toothed comb instead of a brush to avoid stretching wet hair.
  4. Shampooing: Avoid shampoos that contain sulfates since sulfate-based products can be harsh on your hair. A gentle shampoo formula with moisturizing and nourishing ingredients will keep your hair in good condition.

There are shampoos and conditioners designed for swimmers, which should help reduce the damage done by chlorine and other pool chemicals. These products claim to be effective in preventing chemical buildup, retaining the color, and protecting hair from drying out.

Benefits of using chlorine shampoos:

  • Chlorine-removing shampoos help get rid of the chemicals that accumulate in the hair after swimming in pool water. Using chlorine shampoo twice a week should be enough to minimize the harmful effects of pool chlorine.
  • Chlorine shampoos prevent silver and blond hair from turning yellow and keep the green tint at bay.
  • Swimmers’ shampoos also help eliminate the chemical smell of chlorine-exposed hair. 
  • Chlorine shampoos keep hair from drying out by sealing in moisture and leaving your tresses smooth and shiny. After eliminating chemical buildup, your hair is less tangled and easier to comb.
pretty woman with dark hair sitting by the pool

Chlorine Removal Shampoos

1. Zealios Sulfate-Free Swim & Sport Shampooir?t=softerhair 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B01DQ8GQR8

This swimmer’s shampoo is formulated to gently cleanse your hair while protecting it from damage caused by chlorine, sun, wind, and salt. Natural ingredients including aloe, panthenol, and sunflower oil help to moisturize, detangle, and revive the luster of your locks.

2. Malibu C Swimmer’s Wellness Shampoo

This sulfate-free, chlorine removal shampoo is designed to gently cleanse swimmers’ hair and prevent chlorine build-up. It is formulated with antioxidants, vitamins, and botanicals to replenish moisture and boost shine. It helps preserve hair color, eliminates brassy tones, and keeps your hair from turning green.

Malibu C Swimmers Wellness Hair Remedy

This post-swim hair remedy is specifically formulated for hair exposed to pool and ocean water. It eliminates mineral build-up and prevents the appearance of swimmers’ green hair. This hair remedy also helps to restore softness, manageability, and color vibrancy.

The product is 100% vegan and free from gluten, parabens, and sulfates. It is safe for color-treated hair.

Use at least once a week or as often as desired. Apply after you’ve rinsed out the shampoo. Mix the powder with a little water until it forms a rich gel. You can also mix it by rubbing it between your hands. Apply and distribute evenly throughout the hair, and leave it on for up to 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and follow with a conditioner.

pretty woman with long brown hair sitting by the pool

About the author

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Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.