Here’s How To Care For Your Hair After A Day Of Swimming

Protect your locks from harsh sun, salt, and chlorine damage.

by Bustle UK
Originally Published: 
Do you have to wash your hair after swimming?

Summer holidays mean sunbathing, drinking cocktails in the middle of the day, and without a doubt, a whole load of swimming. Whether you prefer taking a dip in the sea or are more of a pool-side dweller, it's crucial to consider the health of your hair. From harsh saltwater to strong chlorine and other chemicals, going swimming can alter the feel and appearance of your hair. So how is it best to protect your hair? Should you invest in special sprays and creams? And should you wash your hair after swimming every time, or is it best to leave it alone?

Washing Hair After Swimming

In terms of washing hair, it is a good idea to wash your hair after every day of swimming — or at least to give it a good rinse. “After swimming, I would recommend rinsing your hair with fresh water as soon as possible to eliminate any excess chemicals that cling on to the bonds and leave it feeling dry,” says Nicole Petty, hair care expert at Milk + Blush. Even if you are unable to wash your hair using a full shampoo and conditioner routine, try to at least rinse with fresh water, so that chlorine or saltwater doesn't sit and dry your hair out for longer than necessary.

Petty explains that fresh water may actually be better for your hair than shampoo if you are swimming for several days in a row. “Avoid washing it every day with regular shampoo and conditioner, as this could strip the hair of its essential oils and actually result in your hair being in a worse condition,” she says.

If you’re really planning ahead, you can bring a special targeting shampoo to protect hair and cleanse away any damaging chemicals that may try to linger. “It’s worth investing in shampoos and conditioners made specially to combat chlorine or sea salt, as these are normally packed full with moisture and gently remove chemicals from the hair and cleanse the scalp,” Petty suggests. “Also, look to add a cleansing shampoo to your hair care routine once a week to remove any build-up and leave your hair feeling strong and healthy."

Opt for a clarifying shampoo, which effectively cleanses the hair and scalp and aids in chlorine removal. Moroccanoil does a great one that still keeps hair feeling hydrated and soft. Alternatively, the Kérastase Apres Soleil Shampoo is specifically designed to remove build-up of sea salt and chlorine, and it contains nourishing coconut water to inject some shine back into your locks.

Other Post-Swim Hair Care Tips

So, we've established that you should wash your hair after swimming in the ocean or the pool. This is especially true if you use color in your hair. "If you're someone that regularly dyes or applies hair treatments to your hair, then swimming can cause it to become more dry, porous, and brittle,” Petty says. “Porous hair is much more likely to absorb oxidised metals in the water, such as copper, which leads to discolouration.”

Still, it’s not worth avoiding the water during your holiday. So what can you do to keep your hair happy and healthy in a situation like this?

It's important to boost your hair's moisture levels after it has been out in the sun and submerged in the water for hours on end. “Following a day of swimming, always ensure you rinse your hair thoroughly with fresh water straight away to get rid of any chemicals or salt that will have fixed on to your hair,” Petty advises. “Apply a heavy conditioner or oil, such as coconut oil, all over to replenish any lost moisture.” Try switching out your regular conditioner for a rich mask, and use it as you would your normal conditioner — apply, then leave on for up to a couple of minutes before washing out.

Brilliant hair care brand Davines now sells a selection of amazing hair masks in sachet form, making them perfect for travel. One popular pick would be the Renaissance Circle Mask, which is described as being perfect for "hopeless hair" that needs "extreme repair."

After washing and applying conditioner, it's best to let your hair dry naturally so as not to bombard it with more heat. Apply a frizz-targeting leave-in conditioning spray, like this one by Briogeo, and sit back and relax.

The next day of your holiday, prior to more swimming or relaxing in the sun, it's worth using a protective, nourishing spray or cream in your hair before hitting the beach (even if it’s just a DIY spray made of fresh water). "Before going swimming, make sure you saturate your hair with plenty of fresh water,” Petty says. “Like a sponge, your hair can only soak up so much water, so this will reduce the amount of chlorine or saltwater clinging to your hair cuticles. Next, consider applying a leave-in conditioner or conditioning spray to create a shield around the freshwater already in your hair.”

The Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil cream contains a long-lasting UV filter, made from wintergreen and cinnamon bark oils, to keep your hair sun-safe. Philip Kingsley also does a great option named Swimcap, which protects against sun, sea, chlorine, and was originally formulated for the US Olympic synchronized swim team. Fancy.

Finally, consider investing in a sun hat before your next vacation. “A hat will protect your hair from UV rays, which break chemical bonds and weaken the keratin in the hair, leaving it feeling dull and lifeless,” Petty says. The more you plan ahead, the more you’ll be able to relax when you get to the beach or pool.


Nicole Petty, hair care expert at Milk + Blush

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