How to Protect Your Hair While Swimming

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It’s hot outside and you are ready to hit the pool.  How do you protect your hair from the harsh chemicals in the pool or the salt from the sea?  There are actually some simple steps that you can do that will help protect your hair before you hit the water and that do not require a swim cap.


Wet your hair. I remember when I was a kid, I used to hate when they would make us “rinse” off before getting in the pool.  Maybe it was because the shower water was always so cold, I don’t know, but I hated it.  Turns out that not only was it good for the pool to get rid of extra sweat, dirt and grime, but it was also good for my hair.  Hair is like a sponge.  Once it has reached it’s maximum level of absorption, it cannot absorb anymore.  If you thoroughly soak your hair prior to getting into the pool, you can limit the amount of chlorinated water that is absorbed into your hair.

Apply a conditioner to your wet hair. By applying conditioner to your wet hair, you help stave off some of the dryness that is usually felt after a swim session.  It will help to condition while the chlorine or salt water is trying to strip your hair.  I recommend using a “cheapie” conditioner like VO5 or Suave to save a little money.  They are both in the $0.99 range and if you plan on swimming a lot, they will minimize the impact on your wallet.  You just need to apply enough to coat the strands.  There is no need for the drippy jheri curl effect.

“Style” your hair if you have the length to do so. If your hair is long enough, braid or pull it into a ponytail or loose bun.  By doing one of these styles, you lessen the amount of hair that the water is able to easily penetrate through.


Rinse the chlorine from your hair immediately. Rinse your hair with water for about 3-5 minutes to help remove some of the chlorine.  You do not have to immediately cleanse your hair, but if you have time, move to that step after rinsing with water.

Cleanse your hair. It is important to use a cleansing method that will not dry out your hair.  This will depend on your hair.  For some people, using a chelating shampoo or shampoo specific for swimmer’s is a great option.  It will thoroughly remove any chlorine that is left in the hair.  For some, this can be very drying.  A few people have said that the effect is like using a clarifying shampoo and not conditioning afterwards.  Another option is to co-wash (washing hair with conditioner).  The gentle detergent in conditioner is sufficient to remove any leftover chlorine residue and not strip the hair.  I recommend that if you swim often and a chelating shampoo proves to be drying after multiple uses, to co-wash instead.  If you are worried about build up, co-wash a couple days and then shampoo one day.  Alternating co-washing and shampoo may help to alleviate dryness and thoroughly cleanse and remove build-up.  I know for me personally, co-washing is not something I can do regularly.  I need to shampoo.  I use a sulfate free natural shampoo so that my hair does not dry out and become brittle.

Follow up with a conditioner and your normal styling routine. If you co-washed, you can skip the conditioning part.  Be careful not to over manipulate your hair if you are planning to swim regularly.  Remember less is more.

*If you decide to wear a swim cap, make sure to wear a satin cap or scarf on your head first to protect your hairline and hair from breakage that can be cause by the tightness and material of the swim cap.

Freelance Graphic Designer, Lifestyle Blogger, Natural Hair Enthusiast and Fitness Convert...yeah, I wear a lot of hats. :)