Hair Care

By Patricia Wersinger

It’s summer and I love to swim. Every day. Perhaps that’s not the norm, but there are many city dwellers who can surely sympathize. There is nothing like it to get relief from the heat and humidity. I also can’t knock the body toning benefits and with the Olympics just in full swing, there’s even more motivation for me to jump in.

But to my dismay, my hair has not seen such benefits. It has become dehydrated, brittle and lusterless. What to do? Can’t give up swimming but the toning benefits seem almost negated, as my hair is not sexy.

The culprit in all this is chlorine. It’s very toxic for hair because it dries up the natural sebum that protects the cuticle and even causes it to crack. If you are a swimmer, whether seasonal or year-round, you need to take a few precautions.

According to Andre Walker, a stylist for Oprah Winfrey, “People often forget how fragile hair can be, especially when it’s exposed to chlorine.”

“Chlorine strips your hair of nutrients and in the worst case scenario can even turn it green,” he says. “Before you jump into the pool, make sure to rinse your hair in tap water. Doing so makes it more difficult for it to absorb chlorine.”

You should then do the same immediately afterwards, he advises. Another option is to apply tons of conditioner on your hair, keeping it tight under a cap before swimming. Over-conditioning it after shampooing or applying a masque can also help.

I have tried several shampoos; conditioners and hair treatments recommended for swimmer’s hair and have come up with a few that work best on my blonde, coarse, chlorine-parched hair.

Andre Walker’s Keratin Shampoo and Conditioner with whole leaf aloe vera works well at strengthening and hydrating my hair when I swim. Keratin is a rich protein; the key structural component of hair, and Aloe Vera is a miracle plant rich in biologically active substances, including nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Keep the conditioner in for three minutes to smoothe hair fully. Because my hair is coarse and super dry, I also apply the Andre Walker Total Keratin Obsession Deep Conditioner for 15 minutes when I feel my hair needs extra moisture. The Andre Walker Q-Oil, naturally rich in vitamin E, is also effective at nourishing and strengthening hair before styling. It helps control it in humidity, which exacerbates the problems of hair after the pool. Available at http://www.andrewalkerhair.com

To protect your hair before dipping into the pool, try The Swimcap by Philip Kingsley, a hair mask made of Castor seed oil, Olive and other nutrients that you want to stay on your hair while you swim. The product protects hair from the onslaught of chlorine by super conditioning it. You can simply remove it with shampoo after your swim. Launched at the request of the Olympic Synchronized Swimming team, it works by leaving a barrier around the hair. If the Olympians are game, you should be too. The Philip Kingsley Swimcap is available at http://www.philipkingsley.com.

The Swimmer’s Wellness Kit by Malibu was specifically conceived for swimmers to protect hair from exposure to chlorine. It naturally removes damaging mineral deposits and toxins left on hair from the pool. It also lifts out green discoloration by removing copper build-up and prevents hair from turning straw-like and lifeless. The formula includes Betaine; a vegan Coconut derived complex, Organic Aloe, Pro Vitamin B5 and Rice protein to strengthen. If you are a real swimmer and swim on a daily basis, this set is especially recommended for you. It is free of sulfates (including sodium thiosulfate) and paraben. Because after being in the pool, who needs more chemicals? Available at fine salons, beauty supply stores and http://www.malibuc.com

If you need extra smoothing before styling your hair, I recommend the Kesari Oil Hair Serum. This serum contains Sea Buckthorn Oil, which has the highest percentage of fatty acids among any plant oil. Fatty acid is absolutely essential to healthy strong, and lustrous hair. After shampooing and conditioning, I put the oil in my hair to add smoothness, elasticity and shine before blow drying and it works beautifully to restore youth and pliancy. Available at http://www.Kesaribeauty.com

If you have colored or chemically-treated hair, Eufora’s organic aloe leaf-based products are especially formulated for you. It is effective for all hair that is stressed or damaged from chlorine abuse and other toxins. The Shampoo is a non-drying clarifying formula that helps to remove mineral build up and prevent green hair. The Urgent Repair Replenishing Treatment is a protein rich treatment that nourishes hair and keeps it strong. I like to leave it in for up to 30 minutes for a deeper conditioning treatment because my hair is particularly brittle. My hair feels healthy, rejuvenated and pliant after use, without the feeling of added chemicals. All Eufora products are made from planet-friendly ingredients and utilize pure essential oils for fragrance. http://www.eufora.net

An easy option available at any local drugstore is the Awapuhi Ginger Shampoo and Conditioner duo by Organix. It mends and softens dry coarse hair from swimming and leaves it soft and bouncy. The secret is the Awapuhi ginger plant that penetrates the shaft of the hair with moisture. It repairs split ends and makes the hair elastic without over coating it. It rids my hair of its coarseness quite nicely. Sulfate free, it is available in major mass retailers including Walgreens, CVS pharmacy and Rite Aid.

If you are a blonde and have highlights like I do, and you want to prevent your hair from turning green, brassy or super fried in the pool, the Lee Stafford Bleach Blondes Shampoo and Conditioner works well at keeping your color and improving your hair’s texture. It penetrates the shaft of the hair to improve its pliancy and it thickens and gives bounce at the same time preventing your highlighted locks from turning to straw or frizz. It contains Moringa Seed Extract also known as Miracle Tree. I love the bounce and fullness it gives to my hair. Available at http://www.leestafford.com

Remember that over-conditioning your hair may leave a coating which can dull your hair. You must make sure there is enough acidity in the shampoo and conditioner you use to negate this. If your hair is particularly dry, use a protein rich shampoo only. All the options here are rich in protein and acidity. One of the worst and most noticeable effects of chlorine is dullness. If you feel that dullness persists, another simple at-home remedy is to rinse your hair following shampoo with white vinegar and water or lemon and water. This acid rinse is an inexpensive, effective way to help restore a natural shine. Experts also recommend using a wide-toothed comb, not a brush, to detangle wet hair and avoid further damage after chlorine exposure.

Swimming is a wonderful sport to tone your figure, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your hair. Taking the right precautions can help protect it from pooling hazards so you can have your cake and eat it too.

Originally published August 2012
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