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From Chlorine To Salt Water: How Swimming Really Affects Your Hair

photo of woman at the beach with wet hair

With summer just around the corner, it’s time to break out your swimsuits, pool floaties, and lounge chairs because you plan to hang out in the water all summer long. Unfortunately, your favorite summer activities aren’t as carefree as you think. While you’re having the time of your life splashing and lounging around the pool or at the beach, your hair is having a lot less fun.

We tapped Mattison Perron, Kérastase brand ambassador and artist, to get the scoop on how chlorine and salt water affects hair and when you find out—you might want to make a few tweaks to your summer plans.

How does chlorine affect hair?

If you’d love nothing more than to spend your entire summer doing lazy laps in the pool, we’ve got some bad news for you: All the rumors about chlorine being bad for your hair are true.

Chlorine is a chemical disinfectant used in pools to keep bacteria at bay. While you may not see the chlorine in the water, chances are good you’ve seen its effects on your hair, especially if you’re a blonde. The chemical is actually a yellow-greenish color in its natural state, which is why so many blondes end the summer with a green tint to their hair. Green hair isn’t the only thing you have to worry about after spending the day at the pool, however. Chlorine can also seriously damage your strands.

“Because chlorine is used as a cleaning agent, it can rapidly strip hair of moisture, often leaving hair feeling brittle and escalating split ends and breakage,” Perron explains. “It can also cause hair color to fade faster, strip toners, and weaken any keratin or smoothing systems used in the hair.”

How does salt water affect hair?

If you spend so much time at the beach that you’re basically half mermaid, we’ve got some news for you: Salt water affects your strands, too.

“Salt water can also be drying on the hair, long after leaving the beach. Salt and water create a saline solution that coats the hair and can leave [it] feeling rough even after shampooing,” the stylist explains.

Furthermore, continuous exposure to salt water can make your hair color and toner fade much faster and even make your hair appear dull.

How should you prepare your hair before heading to the beach or pool?

While chlorine and salt water have the potential to wreak havoc on your strands, not all hope is lost. If you properly prepare your hair before heading out, Peron says you can help reduce the chances of damaging your precious locks. The most important thing you can do for your hair before heading to the beach or pool is rinse your hair with fresh water. By rinsing your hair with fresh water before jumping in pool or salt water, your hair will absorb more of the fresh water.

“After a fresh water rinse, it’s best to put a leave-in conditioner in your hair for an extra layer of protection. My go-to leave-in is Kérastase Creme Magistral. If possible I always put my hair in a bun when I’m in the water to reduce the exposure to drying waters,” Perron says.

If you have an extra 10 minutes before trekking to the beach, a little extra TLC can go a long way. For those who would rather avoid wet hair, try wearing a swim cap.

What products should you use on your hair after the beach or pool?

When it comes to the ocean and pool water, aftercare is just as important as prepping your strands. Perron says the best thing you can do is rinse the pool or saltwater from your hair as soon as possible.

If you have time to do more than just rinse out your strands, the stylist recommends washing and conditioning your hair with a moisturizing system. We suggest trying Kérastase Nutritive Bain Satin 2 and Kérastase Nutritive Lait Vital. After you rinse or shampoo and condition your hair, Perron suggests applying Kérastase Elixir Ultime Oil to the mid-lengths and ends of your hair to make it look and feel nourished.

Interested in customized advice about protecting your hair from chlorine or salt water? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.

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