Chlorine, commonly found in swimming pools and sometimes in tap water, can have damaging effects on hair. The damage is primarily attributed to the chemical properties of chlorine and its ability to strip away natural oils and proteins from the hair shaft. Here are some ways in which chlorine can damage hair:
- Dryness and Frizziness: Chlorine has a drying effect on the hair by removing the natural oils that act as a protective barrier. This can result in dry, frizzy hair that is more prone to breakage
- Color Fading: Chlorine can strip away hair color, particularly in individuals with color-treated hair. Blondes may notice a greenish tint, while other hair colors may experience fading or discoloration
- Weakened Structure: The proteins in the hair shaft can be affected by chlorine exposure. This weakening of the protein structure can lead to hair becoming more porous and susceptible to damage
- Brittleness and Breakage: With the loss of natural oils and proteins, hair may become more brittle and prone to breakage. This is especially true for individuals with already damaged or over-processed hair
- Irritation of the Scalp: Chlorine can also irritate the scalp, leading to dryness, itchiness, and dandruff. This can further contribute to a less healthy environment for hair growth
To minimize the damage caused by chlorine, consider the following tips:
- Pre-rinse Hair: Wetting your hair with clean water before entering a pool can help reduce the absorption of chlorine
- Use a Swim Cap: Wearing a swim cap provides a physical barrier, protecting your hair from direct contact with chlorinated water
- Apply a Leave-In Conditioner: Prior to swimming, apply a leave-in conditioner to create a protective layer on your hair
- Rinse After Swimming: After swimming, promptly rinse your hair with clean water to remove chlorine residues
- Deep Condition Regularly: Use deep conditioning treatments to restore moisture and strengthen the hair
- Consider Protective Styles: If you swim frequently, consider wearing protective styles like braids or buns to minimize exposure of your hair to chlorine
Chlorine can cause hair damage in several ways:
Dryness and Frizziness: Chlorine strips the natural oils from the hair and scalp, leading to dryness and frizz. This can make hair feel coarse and rough.
Discoloration: Chlorine can cause hair to become discolored, especially if the hair is light-colored or blonde. It can cause hair to take on a greenish tint due to the interaction between chlorine and copper compounds in the water.
Weakened Hair: Chlorine can weaken the protein structure of hair strands, making them more prone to breakage and split ends.
Brittleness: The drying effect of chlorine can make hair more brittle and susceptible to damage when brushed or styled.
Loss of Shine: Chlorine exposure can dull the natural shine of hair, making it appear lackluster and less vibrant.
What is chlorine?
Chlorine is simply a chemical element. Among many other uses, chlorine is an excellent disinfectant – six times more effective than iodine, which is used to sterilize certain skin surfaces before a patient undergoes surgery (just for you to get an idea).
As one of the chemical elements with the highest electronegativity, chlorine is a strong oxidizing agent and therefore highly irritating. However, if used in very small quantities, it is pretty harmless and even safe to drink (you will often notice tap water has been disinfected with chlorine, which shouldn’t be a reason to worry).
Swimming and hair damage
Swimming pools are a welcoming environment for all sorts of germs and bacteria (such as E. coli), so water is often treated with chlorine for hygiene purposes and to keep everyone safe. However, this may damage your hair even from your first swim, as a higher quantity of chlorine is needed to disinfect an entire pool. Even if E. coli infections are far worse than dry hair, we can still work our way around the latter.
How does chlorine affect your hair and skin?
Your hair may become dry and brittle, as chlorine sucks the sebum (a greasy, oily substance) out of the hair shaft. Sebum is a type of natural oil that protects your hair from damage and harsh weather conditions, as well as keeping it lubricated. You may also experience skin rashes and itches, but this depends on how sensitive your hair, scalp and skin are, and also on the amount of chlorine disinfectant being used.
Chlorine and hair health
Chlorine is bad for your hair. Fortunately, there are plenty of safety precautions you can take before you head for the swimming pool:
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Use a latex or silicone swim cap
This will prevent your hair from getting in contact with pool water, so you won’t have to worry about your hair getting dry and brittle. Apply conditioner on your hair before putting your cap on.
Douse your hair in the shower before and after swimming
Your hair and skin are like a sponge: they are less likely to absorb more water from the pool if they’re already soaked. Don’t skip this step – it makes a difference!
Avoid any further damage
Refrain from dying your hair, using blow dryers, hot combs or curlers. Try using one of these damage protection products to help protect the hair shafts from being damaged by the chlorine.
Always wash your hair after going to the pool
You may prefer to use an organic shampoo to gently was your hair. Chlorine bonds to hair and skin very easily due to its chemical structure, which can get uncomfortable if you go swimming more than once or twice a week.
Follow up with an organic conditioner
To help gently protect your hair with natural organic ingredients try one of these organic conditioners.