How to Protect Your Hair Color from Chlorine

How to Protect Your Hair Color from Chlorine

If you swim regularly, then you probably already know what chlorine can do to your precious locks if you are in the water for too long. Especially if you have colored hair, chlorine can cause an awful lot of damage, as it reacts with the chemicals in your hair responsible for its color, resulting in any number of effects, including alteration of the color, or drying out of your strands. Fortunately, all is not lost. In this post, we explore just how to protect your hair color from chlorine in the pool. Now you can have your color, and your daily swim too! Read on to find out more.

What is chlorine?

A yellow gas that takes on the form of a liquid when it reacts with certain elements like calcium and sodium, chlorine has long been known for its antiseptic qualities. In the mid 19th century it was first used as an anesthetic. Then, in the first world war, chlorine was utilized as one of the first forms of chemical warfare. Nowadays, chlorine is used for a number of purposes – including in the water of pools to kill harmful bacteria and keep it safe for the swimmers.

How does chlorine damage hair?

When it comes to hair and chlorine, the two do not mix! Chlorine has several properties which make it harmful for human hair. In the first instance, it tends to dry out the shaft of the hair, causing the strand to become coarse, and brittle and vulnerable to breaking. You see, your hair consists of a number of layers. The core of the strand, known as the cortex, is sheathed in a protective layer known as the cuticle. The hair cuticle is the smooth, shiny component of the hair; it’s kept smooth and well moisturized by the natural oil or sebum that is produced by your scalp. The problem with chlorine is that it strips this oil or sebum from the hair, which causes your hair strands to dry out and to crack. The result: dull, coarse hair that is prone to breakage and split ends.

All of these problems apply just as much to those of you swimmers who have colored hair as those without. The former, however, face an additional problem when exposing their treated hair to chlorine-laced swimming pools. The chemicals in the chlorine may not only strip your hair of its natural oils and moisture but also of its color! Chlorine is especially bad news for colored hair.

How to protect colored hair in chlorinated swimming pools

Chlorine is a very powerful chemical, particularly with regard to its drying properties – and in the case of those with treated hair, the ability to strip it of its color. Therefore, swimmers who want to protect their valuable strands from the harmful effects of this chemical must take measures to protect their hair from chlorine damage. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the chances that chlorine-laced water will come into contact with your tresses and cause damage.

  • Coconut oil or olive oil: both of these function to coat your hair with an extra layer of oil so that chlorine does not come into contact with your hair’s – natural – oils, and also the chemicals that give it its artificial color. Coconut or olive oil will reinforce the oil or sebum produced naturally by your scalp so that even if your hair gets wet, the strand is actually protected by the extra layers of oil. Olive oil and coconut oil are both very nourishing for your hair, and because they are natural, they won’t weigh down your hair. This is especially beneficial if you have already treated your hair to give it a different color
  • Wet your hair: by wetting your hair (with, of course, non-chlorinated water) reduces the absorptive properties of your hair. Therefore, if you wet your hair before stepping into the pool, it will be less likely to absorb chlorine from the water in there. This is an equally good idea for your skin. In fact, before stepping into the pool before your daily swim, you should first take a good, long shower in order to wet both your skin and hair
  • Use a leave-in conditioner: this works in the same manner as the coconut oil and olive oil. It forms a protective coating around your hair strand that prevents chlorine from coming into contact with your hair – treated or untreated, your hair will benefit. Leave-in conditioners smell nice, and can also be rinsed right out of your hair once you step out of the pool.
    Wear a swimming cap: if you don’t fancy the idea of putting even more product in your hair – particularly if you have already color-treated your locks – then a swimming cap might be the best option for you. It too works by forming a barrier between your hair and the chlorine in the pool. Swimming caps are cheap and can be re-used as well

What to do after swimming in a chlorinated pool

By washing your hair straight after you swim, and using products specifically designed to remove chlorine from hair – you can also take measures to prevent chlorine damage to your hair AFTER stepping from the pool. The most effective method is to wash out your hair straight away using tepid, luke-warm water before rinsing with colder water. Another option is to use clarifying shampoos that will remove all external chemicals from your hair—though try not to do so too often, as these type of shampoos have drying properties as well. They also don’t mix very well with colored hair, so avoid using them if you have treated your locks to give them a different tint.


Whether colored or not, chlorine is bad news for human hair. But that doesn’t mean you have to forsake your daily swim completely. Follow the advice presented in this post, and you will minimize the damage – and loss of color – to your valuable locks, whilst still getting in a few laps each and every day.

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