What could be better for you than logging lengths in the pool, splashing around on holiday, or a spot of wild swimming? Beneficial for the mind and body it may be, but it’s a different story for your hair.
Sea salt and pool water make your hair dry and brittle. The salt in seawater acts osmotically, drawing water out of the hair. After a sea swim, you need a shampoo with an active ingredient that removes salt and mineral build-up. In pools, the chlorine, bromine and other water-purifying chemicals can roughen the hair by lifting the scales of the cuticle, or outer layer.
Your shampoo should contain a chelating element to bind these chemicals. As well as special shampoos, here are a couple of self-help strategies.
You might assume that swimming hats – hi-tech silicone or retro rubbery flowers – are the obvious choice to prevent damage, but their job is not actually to keep hair dry, but to streamline your movement through the water.
Whether you sport a hat or not, the simplest way to protect hair is by soaking it with fresh water 15 minutes before taking the plunge. That way, the hair is saturated with plain water and won’t absorb chlorinated or salty water.
Once wetted, comb through conditioner – your usual is fine – or argan, Moroccan or coconut oil to waterproof and condition the hair.
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Developed for the US Olympic synchronised swimming team, Philip Kingsley Swimcap conditions your hair as you wear it (£17, 75ml). Applied to wet hair, it protects against swimming’s drying and damaging effects, and smells divinely summery.
If your coloured hair develops a greenish tinge after pool-swimming, neutralise it with the Tommy K treatment – not a celebrity hairdresser’s range but tomato ketchup. And it’s not the chlorine, but the copper sulphate added to pool water to control algae that causes the unwanted hue. Massage in a couple of generous dollops of ketchup, leave for five minutes and shampoo.
Home hair colouring
Despite sounding more like salad than shampoo, Green People’s Quinoa & Artichoke shampoo and conditioner (100ml, £9.95 each), are golden-hued and lemongrass-scented. Its quinoa protein boosts shine, and an extract from artichoke leaves repairs damage caused by chlorinated water, and reduces porosity.
Rich and replenishing, Aveda Sun Care Hair and Body Cleanser (250ml, £19.50) has a chelating ingredient derived from corn to remove mineral build-up, and contains a cleansing agent derived from babassu oil, plus tamanu and coconut oils to restore moisture. And with a tropical fragrance thanks to ylang ylang, neroli and cistus, there’s no trace of that bleachy whiff.
Enriched with moisture-restoring aloe vera, vitamin A and pro-vitamin B5, Triswim Shampoo (266ml, £10) removes chlorine, bromine, salt and chemical odour with its gentle, lemon-scented formulation.
For a no-frills, budget-conscious approach, how about Boots Sun, Swim & Gym Shampoo for Dry/Damaged Hair (£3.29, 250ml) which cleanses, moisturises and removes chlorine and salt. There’s a matching conditioner, too.
If you’re in a hurry, you can minimise time in the shower with one product to cleanse from head to toe. Made for little ones but loved by adults, Vosene Kids After Swim Hair & Body Wash (£2, 200ml) is gentle on skin and scalp, has a melon fragrance, and removes salt and chlorine.
Sun protection for hair
Add in the aftercare
Rinse immediately after your swim, in the pool shower, or with a bottle of water on the beach, and shampoo as soon as possible, and repeat the rinsing.
After your holiday, or more frequently if you’re a pool regular, use a conditioning treatment.
Heal dry, damaged hair and smooth roughened cuticles with an application of Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Reconstructor Conditioner (250ml, £4.99), with Australian balm mint. Leave for – you guessed it – three minutes, then rinse.
With a woody, floral fragrance, Neal’s Yard Remedies Rosemary & Cedarwood Hair Treatment (£6.50, 50g) is a pre-wash treatment for hair damaged by dyeing, chlorine or harsh weather. Rich in coconut and essential oils, melt it between palms for easier application, then leave on for between 30 minutes and overnight. Or apply before your swim for two-in-one benefits!
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