Protecting your hair

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It hones a hot body, keeps your heart healthy and boosts your mind too. But swimming does have one drawback: it can wreak havoc on your hair. Chlorine in swimming pools is notoriously hard on your locks, stripping away natural oils and leading to dry, brittle hair that’s prone to split ends and breakage. If you’re fair-haired, you might even find your barnet turns a curious shade of green. So what’s a girl (or boy) to do?

Hair types prone to damage

There are some hair types more at risk than others. If you fall into one of these camps, it’s wise to arm yourself with a haul of shampoos and conditioners before any damage sets in. Split ends are impossible to reverse, after all – except with a pair of scissors.

Hair types prone to chlorine damage include:

  • Colour-treated hair – especially if you’ve had highlights or chemical lightening
  • Chemically treated hair to perm or straighten
  • Naturally thin or fine hair
  • Naturally dry hair
  • Damaged hair from heat styling

Beat the chlorine

There are a few things you can do before and after a swim session to prevent damage from chlorine.

Always shower before you swim. Rinsing your hair in the shower before you hit the pool will make your hair less likely to absorb as much of the chlorinated pool water.

Use a swim cap. “Sometimes people feel they look really silly in a cap, but it does protect your hair, plus hair in your face can be really disorientating when you’re trying to breathe,” says Speedo coach Karen Pickering, the mastermind behind our two Women’s Health challengers. Before putting on your cap, saturate your hair with clean water and use a light conditioner to give even more protection.

Rinse at the very least before you go home. Even if you’re in a rush, make sure you rinse your hair in the shower before you leave the pool. The longer the chlorine stays in your hair, the more prone it will be to damage.

Shampoo as soon as possible. You can buy specifically designed shampoos for swimmers, or you could use your regular shampoo and be sure to give your hair a thorough scrub – or even do a double shampoo to make sure the residue is removed. If you find your hair is losing its shine, a clarifying shampoo can help, which will help to break down chlorine build-up.

Condition like crazy. Conditioner will help to replace the moisture and protein that chlorine strips away. Ideally condition your hair straight after shampooing and leave it up for 2-3 minutes for an extra moisture boost. If you have colour-treated or thick, dry hair that can handle the weight of a conditioner, leave-in conditioners can help too. Whatever your hair type, a weekly conditioning treatment will help to keep your locks soft and beat the damage.

Invest in protein products. Hair care labels often boast about being packed with keratin, the major building block of hair. These protein-packed products will help if your locks are prone to split ends. The protein is said to penetrate into the hair shaft to repair the damaged cuticle layer, restoring the hair’s silky softness.

Remember your scalp. Just like your skin, chlorine can dry your scalp too. If dryness hits, weekly conditioner treatments can help, which you massage into the scalp and leave for up to 10 minutes. Work your regular everyday conditioner into your scalp too and not just the hair ends to beat dryness. You can also buy specially designed treatments for the scalp.

5 shampoos for swimmers

1. Philip Kingsley Swimcap

2. Paul Mitchell Shampoo Three


3. Redken Hair Cleansing Cream


4. Joico Clarifying Shampoo


5. L’Oreal Professionnel Solar After Sun Shampoo



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