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How Chlorine And Saltwater Really Affect Your Hair, According To An Expert

photo of woman at the pool with wet hair

It’s officially summer, and when the temperature starts to rise, there’s nothing more relaxing than going for a quick swim in the pool and getting some sun in your cutest swimsuit. If you’re like me, then you probably have some of the cutest pool floats around and are eager to take some pictures for the gram. Unfortunately, after spending all day in the saltwater or chlorine, your post-swim hair likely doesn’t look picture perfect. If spending too much time in the sand and sun is beginning to take a toll on your strands, you’re not the only one. Lucky for you, there are a few simple tweaks you can make to your hair care routine to protect your strands from summer woes better.

Wondering how exactly saltwater and chlorine affect your mane? We tapped Mattison Perron, Kérastase brand ambassador and artist, to get the scoop on how chlorine and saltwater cause damage, how to protect your strands, and the products you need to keep your mane breakage-free all summer long.

How bad is chlorine for 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. A chlorinated pool 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.”

Is saltwater good for your hair?

If you spend so much time at the beach that you’re basically half mermaid, we’ve got some news for you: Saltwater can have some adverse effects on your strands, too.

“Saltwater 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 saltwater can make your hair color and toner fade much faster, strip your hair’s natural oils, and even make your hair appear dull. After a long day at the beach, you should use a clarifying shampoo to reset your mane. We recommend using Redken’s Clean Maniac Hair Cleansing Cream And Clarifying Shampoo to effectively remove any pollution, daily grit, and excess sebum that may have accumulated during your time at the shore. If you’re looking to add more life to your hair, we suggest using Shu Uemura’s Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Hair Oil to help prevent dryness, frizz, and UV damage.

What does sea salt spray do to your hair?

Sea salt spray can be used to create effortless beach waves, but overusing them can actually do more harm than good. A few too many spritzes of sea salt spray can cause hair to become dry and brittle—and nobody wants to deal with that. While it’s perfectly fine to use these products in moderation, you might want to consider adding a deep conditioner to your hair care routine to keep your mane hydrated between uses. We recommend using Redken’s All Soft Mega Mega Deep Conditioning Treatment Mask to treat and care for extremely dry hair. After shampooing, all you need to do is apply it to towel-dried hair and leave it on for 3-5 minutes before rinsing it out.

How do I protect my hair while swimming every day?

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

“After a freshwater 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’s 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.

Not only can chlorine and saltwater wreak havoc your hair, but sun exposure can also cause dry strands and breakage. To protect your hair from sun damage, you add products to your routine that are formulated with UV protection, like those from Kerastase’s Soleil line. The range was created to provide sublime SPF protection for your hair while preventing dryness and taming frizz. We recommend using Kerastase’s Creme UV Sublime Hair Cream prior to sun exposure to protect and nourish your hair. To restore smoothness to your hair after a day in the sun, we suggest using Kerastase’s Bain Apres Soleil Shampoo. This product works to remove chlorine, salt, and sand residue and add shine.

How do you remove chlorine from hair?

When it comes to chlorine or saltwater, aftercare is just as important as prepping your strands. Perron says the best thing you can do is rinse the pool or salt water 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. From the L'Oréal portfolio of products, we suggest trying Kérastase Nutritive Bain Satin 2 to add lasting nutrition to dry, sensitized hair and Kérastase Nutritive Lait Vital to nourish normal to slightly dry hair. After you 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.

Now that you know how to care for your strands after a day by the pool, go ahead and enjoy some summer fun!

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

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