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The chlorine present in swimming pool water has harmful effects on the skin, the eyes, but also on the hair. To the question “Does chlorine damage hair?” the answer is without hesitation: yes!
But then what to do to protect your hair when swimming? Before giving you some advice on how to best protect your hair from the negative effects of chlorine, let’s first recall how our hair is made up…
The structure of the hair
The hair is made up of more than 80% keratin, and the hair fiber is made up of 3 different layers:
- The cuticle is the most superficial layer composed of cells in the form of aligned scales which are superimposed on each other. In order to protect the hair, the cuticle must be closed and waterproof.
- The cortex that comes next is made up of long keratin cells that give the hair its suppleness and elasticity.
- The marrow is the central layer of the hair fiber, made up of sebum, an oil naturally produced by the hair in order to protect it from attacks such as solution, heat, etc.
The hair on its length is biologically a dead matter however, at the level of the scalp the hair is alive. The 3 layers that compose it are similar to those of the skin: the epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis. It is therefore necessary to distinguish between the part of the hair that is visible, called dead, and that of the scalp, which is richly vascularized.
Does chlorine damage hair?
The action of chlorine on the hair
Taking a short swim from time to time to cool off or doing a few lengths will not have a major effect on the skin or hair. However, if swimming is part of your regular activities, then the chlorine will, in the long run, damage your hair.
Does chlorine damage hair? The primary effect of the chlorine present in swimming pool water is to eliminate the natural oils produced by the hair. These oils being protective for the hair follicles, the excess of chlorine then makes the hair porous, dry and brittle.
People in very regular contact with chlorinated water may also be more prone to hair loss, or even dandruff.
Chlorine can change hair color
Does chlorine damage hair? This phenomenon of hair color change most often occurs on blonde hair or colored hair.
For blonde hair, chlorine can make the hair greenish. This is due to chlorine but also to oxidized metals present in the water.
For colored hair, chlorine dulls the pigments in the dye, making the hair porous and brittle.
For brown hair, excess chlorine can distort the natural hair color. Dark hair then becomes lighter.
Tips to prevent chlorine from damaging hair
Rule #1 is to wear a swimming cap. Although it is often mandatory for hygiene measures, the swimming cap also protects your hair from the attacks of chlorine.
The swimming cap is not completely airtight, so before putting it on it is useful to apply coconut or castor oil to your hair. This will add an additional protective barrier.
After swimming, it is ideal to immediately rinse the hair with clear water, in the pool shower.
Once back at home, make a shampoo by massaging well from the roots of the hair to the tip, then also make a conditioner. Adapt the products you use to your hair type.
If you swim or bathe several times a week, consider adopting a regular hair routine. In addition to the gestures mentioned above, a weekly hair mask will do your hair a lot of good.
For blonde or bleached hair, use purple shampoo (sometimes also called blue shampoo or “de-yellowing” shampoo) once or twice a week. This will prevent your hair from turning green.
Finally, if you have the possibility of alternating your swimming sessions between the pool and another place such as a lake for example, do not hesitate. This will allow you first of all to change your environment, and the soft water will thus protect your hair from the harmful effects of chlorine on the hair and skin.
Léa is a prolific writer specialising in beauty, with a primary focus on hair transplant procedures and a wide range of other beauty-enhancing techniques. Her insightful articles are trusted by professionals and consumers alike, offering a blend of expertise and engaging style. Lea’s work has appeared in top publications, and she’s known for demystifying complex beauty topics, making them accessible to a broad audience. Her passion for the transformative power of beauty shines through her writing, making her a sought-after contributor for leading beauty brands.