The Right Brain responds:
Before we answer your question let’s talk about why chlorine is bad for your hair.
Chlorine is used to disinfect pool water because it’s a very reactive molecule and it combines with organic compounds. So when your little brother pees in the pool the chlorine helps break it down so bacteria can’t grow. Unfortunately this reactivity means it can also affect your hair. In fact there are two different ways that chlorine hurts hair.
1. Protein damage
Chlorine has been shown to interact with the thin membrane that covers the cuticles of your hair causing tiny bubbles to form. These bubbles are called “all worden sacs” for those science geeks reading this. Once this protective coating is damaged the natural glue that hold your cuticles in place is more quickly worn away and so they become loose and lift up. This is why soaking in the pool gives your hair that raspy dry feel.
2. Color complexation
Chlorine reacts with the pigments and dyes in your hair, both natural and synthetic. This reaction shifts the hue of the color which is why your hair picks up that nasty greenish tint.
How to protect hair from chlorine
Of course the best thing is to keep your hair away from the chlorine in the first place. So you could always wear a bathing cap like the Left Brain does. (which is a VERY sexy look, I must say.) But if that doesn’t fit your style, then we recommend conditioning your hair before swimming. A good conditioner with high levels of silicone can act like a shield to prevent the absorption of chlorine. Tresemme and Pantene are two good brands to use in this regard. If you want to feel like you’re doing even more to protect your hair, after your swim you can also use one of the swimmers shampoos, like Ultraswim, that supposedly reduce the chlorine with thiosulfite. Thiosulfite is supposed to prevent the chlorine from oxidizing your hair. (Theoretically this could be helpful but we’ve never seen any evidence that it really works.)
What do YOU do at the beach or pool to protect your hair? Leave a comment and share your brainy beach tips with the rest of the Beauty Brines, uh, I mean, Beauty Brains community.