It’s officially summer, and when the temperatures rise, there’s nothing more relaxing than going for a quick swim in the pool and getting some sun in your cutest swimsuit. Unfortunately, after frolicking in the salt water or chlorine all day, your post-swim hair likely doesn’t look picture-perfect. If too much time in the sand and sun is taking a toll on your strands, we’re here to help. A few simple tweaks to your hair care routine can protect your hair from summer woes.
We tapped Mattison Perron, Kérastase brand ambassador and artist, to get the scoop. Here’s how chlorine and salt water cause damage, how to protect your strands, and the products you need to keep your locks breakage-free this summer and beyond.
Is chlorine bad for your hair?
If you love to spend your long summer days doing lazy laps in the pool, we’ve got some bad news: 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 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 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.”
Visit your stylist for a color correction or a nourishing gloss service to get chlorine-worn color back on track. Salons also have access to professional-level deep conditioning masks and protein treatments to help repair damage from your swim sessions.
Looking for ways to refresh color at home? You can help tone brassiness, boost vibrancy, or add a glossy sheen with one of Pureology’s Top Coat + Tone Hair Glossing Treatments. Available in five shades and clear, these glosses revive your hair for that just-left-the-salon look and feel. Chlorine who?
How do you remove chlorine from hair?
When it comes to chlorine or saltwater exposure, aftercare is as essential. Perron says the best thing to do is rinse the pool or salt water from your hair immediately.
If you have time to do more than just rinse your strands, use a clarifying shampoo to reset your mane. We love Redken’s Hair Cleansing Cream Clarifying Shampoo to effectively remove any impurities, pollution, daily grit, and excess sebum that may have accumulated during your pool day. Follow it up with any conditioner of your choice.
Post-washing, Perron suggests completing your routine by running a few drops of Kérastase’s Elixir Ultime Oil through the mid-lengths to the ends of the hair. The best-selling oil contains a blend of argan, camellia, and marula hair oil to make tresses look and feel shiny, healthy, and nourished.
Is salt water good for your hair?
Now for the million-dollar question every mermaid has asked herself at one time or another: “Can salt water damage hair?”
If you’ve ever gone on vacation and swam in the ocean for a week straight, you may have noticed how soft and silky your skin felt in the days afterward. That’s because salt water is a natural exfoliant, sloughing away dead cells on the skin’s surface so it’s smooth as can be. Sadly, salt water is not as kind to our manes as it is to our skin, presenting adverse effects such as brittle, straw-like hair.
“Salt water can also be drying on the hair long after leaving the beach,” Perron explains. “Salt and water create a saline solution that coats the hair and can leave [it] feeling rough even after shampooing.”
After a long day at the beach, you wash and condition your hair with a moisturizing system. From the L'Oréal portfolio of products, we suggest trying Kérastase Nutritive Bain Satin Shampoo to add lasting nutrition to dry, sensitized hair and Kérastase Nutritive Lait Vital to hydrate and nourish using ingredients like plant-based proteins and niacinamide.
To replenish what mother nature took away, an oil like Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Hair Oil rapidly absorbs deep into the hair fiber and re-balances the hair's moisture levels for soft, healthy hair.
What does sea salt spray do to your hair?
Sea salt sprays can create effortless beach waves, but overusing them can 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. In light of sea salt woes, some brands, such as Redken, have reformulated their texturizing sprays to be salt-free. Their Beach Spray (formerly known as Fashion Waves 07) now features copolymers to help hair achieve that enviable beach-kissed texture sans the dryness. Sounds too good to be true? Read more about it in our Beach Spray review.
While using actual sea salt products in moderation is fine, consider adding a deep conditioner to your hair care routine to keep your mane hydrated between uses. We recommend using Redken’s argan oil-infused All Soft Heavy Cream Hair 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 three to five minutes before rinsing.
Another option is swapping your sea salt spray for a sugar spray instead. Sugar is an ingredient that can help keep your strands moisturized and is often celebrated in skincare for its water-retaining abilities. One like Pureology’s Style + Protect Beach Waves Sugar Spray is formulated with two kinds of sugar: cane and xylose. Cane sugar behaves like sea salt to help create a beachy, gritty texture without any of the actual drying properties of salt. Xylose sugar creates a crystalline barrier around strands to shield against up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit of heat. Who knew sugar was so versatile?
How do I protect my hair while swimming every day?
While chlorine and salt water have the potential to impact your strands negatively, 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. Whether the sea or the pool calls your name, here are a few of the best ways to summer-proof your hair.
Try the freshwater hack.
The most important thing you can do to protect your hair from chlorine or salt water 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 pure H2O and less salt or chlorine.
Layer on leave-ins.
A little extra TLC can go a long way if you have an extra ten minutes before trekking to the beach.
“After a freshwater rinse, it’s best to put a leave-in conditioner in your hair for an added layer of protection,” Perron says.
One with aloe, like Biolage Professional Hydra Source Daily Leave-In Conditioner, helps optimize moisture balance within the hair, renews shine, and helps protect hair from environmental aggressors. For something more heavy-duty, try Kerastase’s Masque Après Soleil Hair Mask, which can either be used during or after sun exposure to help minimize the harsh effect of UV rays on strands (hint: we’ll be digging deeper into the Soleil line below!).
Updos are your friend.
“If possible, I always put my hair in a bun when I’m in the water to reduce the exposure to drying waters,” adds the stylist. Not to mention, this can keep the length of your hair tucked away from the sun’s rays.
Try UV-protecting hair products.
Not only can chlorine and salt water wreak havoc on your hair, but sun exposure can also cause dryness and breakage. Protect your hair from sun damage by reaching for UV protection products like those from Kerastase’s Soleil line.
The Soleil range provides sublime SPF protection for your hair while preventing dryness and taming frizz. We recommend using Kerastase’s Creme UV Sublime Hair Cream before 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.
In addition, almost all of Pureology’s products contain the brand’s patented AntiFade Complex. Ingredients like sunflower seed, vitamin E fight, and a UV filter ward off color-depleting environmental effects that can strip color, vibrancy, and shine. If you’re unsure where to start, we love the Color Fanatic Multi-Tasking Leave-In Spray to help care for virtually every hair need.
Rethink your sun hat.
Straw hats may be considered the quintessential summer hat, but while their tiny weaved holes are great at circulating air to keep us cool, they don’t do much to block UV rays from reaching our hair. A lightweight hat with tight stitching is an easy switch. You can also search for UPF50+ hat (the number recommended by medical experts), which is basically like a fabric version of sunscreen.
If you don’t have a hat handy, apply SPF to your part! Like our ears, lips, and even our hands, our scalp is often a blindspot overlooked during sunscreening—especially our vulnerable, exposed part line.
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 salt water? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you, and head to Hair.com for more expert advice.