Once you understand the chemistry behind swimmer’s hair, you may be thinking that you have a choice: enjoying healthy skin and hair or following your passion as a swimmer. Don’t worry, though: you really don’t have to choose. Unlike many dichotomies in life, this is one of those rare situations where you can have both! But be forewarned: The best of both worlds will only come with intentional treatment both before and after each exposure to chlorinated water.
We all know that old adage: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and it definitely rings true in the case of avoiding the unpleasant effects associated with swimmer’s hair and skin. Think of pre-treating your hair and skin as a way to counteract the removal of your body’s protective sebum that occurs with the extra exposure to water that you give your skin. For skin, simply apply an oil or lotion before getting into the pool. Many sunscreens, particularly waterproof ones, are especially formulated to protect your skin even in water.
In addition to protecting your skin, you can protect your hair by getting it wet with non-chlorinated water. Doing so will allow your hair shafts to absorb clean water instead of the chlorinated water from the pool. If you coat your hair and scalp with conditioner or some kind of oil, you will further prevent the negative effects of chlorine.
At the minimum, you need to rinse your skin and hair in clean water immediately after spending time in chlorinated water. Even better, shampoo your hair thoroughly and cleanse your skin gently. (Since the pool’s chlorine and water have already removed any dirt and sweat from your skin, you don’t have to work hard at scrubbing your skin.) Even with proper pre and post-pool routines, though, your skin and hair will need to be rehydrated. For skin, this means treatment with oil or lotion, and for hair, it means conditioner.
Pro-Active Prevention Tip
In addition to the results of water and chlorine on hair, another factor typically affects a swimmer’s hair. Swimmers often blowdry their hair more often, causing cracking of their hair’s protective cuticles. The result is frequent breakage and split ends for hair as well as a dry, itchy scalp. Air-drying hair can help decrease damage, as can using a swimming cap. A swimming cap also provides protection from water and chlorine damage as well as keeping longer hair out of your way and possibly increasing your swimming speed. Swim caps come in all kinds of trendy designs, and they might even make your competitors think you’re more advanced than you really are!
These tips are only part of the equation when it comes to protecting your body against the negative effects that come with your swimming passion. Read our next post to learn about more ways to prevent damage to your hair and skin.
Image credits: Top © Monkey Business/Fotolia; 2nd © Monkey Business/Fotolia; 3rd © pressmaster/Fotolia.
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