How to Keep Chlorine From Wrecking Your Hair, Skin and Swimsuit

PHOTO: Woman in swimming pool

As temperatures rise, I find myself longing for a cool dip in the pool. Swimming is by far my favorite summer activity. It's a total-body workout that's easy on the joints, and makes me leaner, healthier, and more active.

There's one thing I don't love about swimming: Chlorine. If I'm not careful, it can turn my skin itchy and red, and my hair dry and brittle. Since I swim almost every day during the summer, chlorine also shreds and fades my swimsuits long before the season ends.

And on top of that, I'm currently worried about destroying my freshly colored hair. So I did some research and product-testing to find out what really works. This is what I've learned.

Slap On Some Hair Product

Chlorine is used as a disinfectant to kill harmful bacteria in the water. This keeps you from getting sick from E. coli and other nasty germs, but it also strips out the natural oils that protect your hair from damage and daily wear. Since I don't want my hair to turn into hay, I've learned to coat my strands with hair product before I jump into the pool.

Oil and silicone-based products are best. I've used silicone-based hair serum, the type meant to calm frizzies and protect hair from heat-styling. Another option is coconut oil, which also delivers shine and moisture to my parched locks. Other products on the market are designed particularly for this problem. I'm currently using Phyto Plage Protective Sun Veil $22). It contains castor oil, and protects hair from the damaging effects of sun, salt, and chlorine.

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Get Wet and Protect Your Head

Just before I jump into the swimming pool, I like to douse my hair in the shower. This helps slow down the absorption of chlorine because your hair is like a sponge, and will take on less water when it's wet. Then, I tuck my strands into a latex or silicone swim cap. I know that it won't block the water completely, but again, it slows down the process.

Stock Up on Specialty Hair Cleansers

Some swimmers reek of pool chemicals even after showering and moving on to other activities. This is because chlorine chemically bonds to hair and skin, so you may need more than plain soap and water to wash it out. You can buy a specialty shampoo designed to get rid of chlorine and mineral deposits like copper, which can turn your hair green.

I've used a product called Trimswim ($11), and it makes my hair feel soft while adding volume. It smells of citrus, which also helps remove the scent of chlorine. Malibu Swimmers Water Action Wellness Shampoo ($12) is another option. It doubles as a body wash and is gentle enough to use every day.

Opt for All-Natural Remedies

It's cost-effective to use apple cider vinegar, which acts as a natural clarifier. Just add one part vinegar to four parts water and pour it over freshly washed hair. Then, do a final rinse. You can also mix up a Citrus Lift for your parched locks. The carbonation in the club soda and the acid in the citrus juices work together to detox your hair and remove impurities like dirt, chlorine, and salt.

If this sounds like too much work and you're not the DIY type, you can get concentrated vitamin C in a bottle from SwimSpray. I've tried this product and while it hasn't been very good for my hair, I've found it to be a quick and easy way to zap the stink out of my swim gear.

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