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29 Jun 2017

Getting ready for summer swimming activities? A few tips will help protect your locks and curls

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June 29, 2017 Category: Beauty Posted by:

By Leah Fletcher

Summer is here, and as the heat intensifies it’s normal to look for ways to beat the heat. Swimming, while a traditional summer activity in the water, that many African- American women avoid simply because they fear getting their hair wet.

For Shannon Pete, who sports a natural hairstyle, this was a common dilemma. “Now that I don’t relax my hair, I’ve found that easing into the water is a lot less stressful,” the 24-year old graduate student said.

Pete recounts that her primary concern when wearing her hair relaxed was fear of her straight hair getting wet and “curling up”. “If I was due for a “touch up” soon, I didn’t mind getting my hair wet,” she said, but after a fresh relaxer she hesitated to get anything but her feet wet.

Hairstylist Wenona Rodgers applauds minority women who are abandoning what she considers “restrictive thinking” about the flexibility of their hair texture and its response to water. “There are so many things women can do to protect their hair when swimming without compromising hair texture or style,” said Rodgers.

However, Rodgers noted that swimming in any type of chlorinated water — be it a pool or a hot tub — exposes hair to dangerous chemicals that are added to the water to remove and kill bacteria. “These hazardous chemicals may change the hair’s molecular structure and in some cases,” she explained. “It’s also possible for light-colored hair to get a green tinge.” 

Rodgers, who operates Best Hair Image salon, believes there are precautions that will reduce the possibility of damage caused by exposure to chlorinated water, and at the same time, increase the recovery rate from any minor chlorine damage. Following are a few suggestions:


1.  Wear a swimming cap

One of the best ways to prevent chlorine damage to the hair is to use a swimming cap. It will significantly decrease the amount of chlorinated water absorbed by your hair, potentially causing damage. Remember, natural hair is at its most delicate state when it is wet.

2.   Wash your hair before a swim

Wash, co-wash (conditioner-only washing) or wet your hair wet shortly before swimming in any chlorinated body of water. “Moisturizing your hair with non-chlorinated water will decrease the vulnerability of your hair to chlorine absorption,” explained cosmetologist Tasha Jackson, who noted that this step will significantly reduce the amount of chlorine your hair will absorb.

3.  Remove chlorine naturally

After swimming in chlorinated water, Jackson recommended using baking soda in your hair to prevent it from being damages by chlorine exposure. “Simply, cover your entire head with a small amount of baking soda and then rinse it out with club soda or non-chlorinated water and then follow up by a moisturizing conditioner or deep conditioner.”

Some beauty professionals swear by baking soda, which they believe decreases the damage caused by chlorine by absorbing it from your tresses.  It also will aid in the recovery of slightly damaged hair, according to Jackson.

4.  Rinse hair after swimming

Immediately after swimming, Jackson advised cleansing and conditioning your hair to remove any chlorine absorbed by your hair while swimming. “Rinse with cool or tepid water to prevent your hair from becoming too dry,” she said. 

5.  Air drying vs. blow drying your hair

It is best to let your hair air dry in order to prevent or minimize damage. “While it might take a bit longer than blow-drying, it’s better for the health of your natural hair,” said Rodgers. If you decide to use a hair dryer, Rodgers advised placing it on the lowest possible setting and not using the nozzle close to your hair.

6. Use clarifying shampoo

Clarifying shampoos are preferred because they lift dirt, build-up and mineral deposits from hair that has been immersed in chlorinated water or hair washed regularly in hard water. “Many clarifying shampoos contain acetic acid, also found in vinegar, because of its scouring properties” said Jackson. She encouraged checking for moisturizing component because without it clarifying shampoos may be drying to the hair. 

7.  Wash with organic shampoos and conditioners

Organic shampoos and conditioners are preferable because they contain natural ingredients, according to Rodgers. There are several well-known brands noted for removing chlorine. These products, she said, include all-natural and botanical ingredients such as aloe vera as well as vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin K and vitamin A. They also contain sea salt, another natural ingredient that aids in the removal of unnecessary chlorine, while adding moisture to the hair.

“By following a few simple tips, there is no need to have your summer swimming activities interrupted by being overly concerned about the impact of water on your hair,” said Jackson.

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