Dang chlorine-damaged hair!

Advice, suggestions, education welcome. I’m not very skilled at female hair care rituals, I typically just brush it and shampoo it with some generic 2-in-1.

Okay. So I happen to belong to a gym, which happens to have a pool, which means I can swim indoors pretty much any time from the crack of dawn 'til 10pm at night if I so choose. It’s been hot lately, so I’ve been hitting the pool after a run and things like that more often than usual.

The chlorine has FRIED my hip-length hair. This is thick hair, dark, naturally straight-ish and quite heavy. I never have split ends or dryness problems, and for its length it’s comparatively quite easy to brush. BUT NOW. Now it’s sort of lightweight compared to before, takes much longer to feel dirty/greasy than before and is way harder to get a brush through.

It does tend to get slightly better after the first time being shampooed, but subsequent shampooings don’t further repair it.

I would love to know how to set it back to being as manageable as it was. Also, despite not doing anything fancy with it, I’m kind of attached to it, so repairing what I suppose must be dryness would be nice too.

Moved MPSIMS to our advice-giving forum, IMHO.

I only swim once a week, but I’ve not had any problems with my hair. It’s super thick and curly, and I have bleached highlights. It is naturally dry but chlorine doesn’t dry it out further.

I read somewhere that if you wet your hair in the shower first it won’t soak up as much chlorinated water when you’re in the pool. I always pop in the shower and wet my hair thoroughly before I go in the pool (you should do this anyway to keep the pool clean of any product you may use).

I also rinse my hair and suit as soon as I get out of the pool. I shower when I get home. If you’re not showering at the gym, consider at least rinsing your hair.

Also consider a swim cap. You may think that it won’t fit but I have huge, huge amounts of hair and a humongous head and I’m able to fit it all in a $5 cap I bought from my rec center. I’ve started wearing one not to protect my hair, just to keep it out of my face.

As for product, can’t help you there. I don’t use anything special when I’m swimming, but I do use a leave-in-conditioner normally anyway.

I don’t know how far these tips will go towards restoring your hair from already acquired chlorine damage, but ten years of competitive swimming history says they will help protect your hair from further damage.

First - are you wearing a swim cap? If not, go out and purchase a swim cap - they come in silicone (which is thick), latex (less thick) and lycra (more for keeping hair off face than for keeping water out of hair). I suggest latex or silicone.

If you are already wearing a swim cap (or, now that you have “purchase swim cap” on your to-do list), before you go in the pool, get your hair wet in the shower and work in a very small dab of conditioner to protect your hair.

When you get out of the pool, make sure to at least rinse your hair right away (if you prefer to shower at home, rather than at the gym, I think that is OK as long as you rinse the conditioner and chlorine out right away, rather than letting it set).


As for repairing your hair, try calling salons near you to see if they offer a ‘cholesterol treatment’; it’s usually used for hair fried by repeated coloring.
Or you can get the jumbo bottle of Main and Tail Leave-In Conditioner at Sally Beauty Supply. Takes longer but less expensive on hair your length.

You definitely need a cap - everything yams!! said.

As far as repairing the damage - all you can do is mask the damage with good conditioning. Once it’s been made porous, it stays that way - hair is “dead” and cuticle damage can’t be reversed. Stop using the 2-in-1 stuff and get separate conditioner and shampoo. At least until it’s grown out enough for the damaged stuff to be cut off, you’ll need to do extra conditioning. Depending on how much at a time you’re willing to part with, this could take a couple years.

At least if you follow the swim cap with dab of conditioner recommendation, you should see healthy, undamaged growth soon enough.

You can’t actually fix hair that’s been damaged. Do the swim cap and conditioner thing to prevent more damage from occurring from the chlorine. Stop using 2-in-1, that stuff’s awful for long hair. You don’t need super-expensive salon shampoo, but jumping from the Suave/V05 price bracket ($1-3) into the Aussie/Garnier Fructisse ($4-6, when not on sale) one makes a shocking amount of difference. I discovered in college, no lie, that there is no practical difference between orange-scented V05 and orange-scented dish soap. It does indeed clean really well, but it does so by stripping everything that dirt could conceivably cling to off of the surface of your hair, including the natural oils that you really, really need right now. Even going with the store brand pretend-Dove or pretend-Herbal Essences will help a lot.

In order to make the damaged hair easier to work with, you might actually try washing it less often – if you shampoo daily now, try alternating days of shampoo and conditioner with days of just conditioner. I’d also suggest using an after-shower conditioner in addition to the in-shower kind. Garnier Fructisse has some that’s cheap, sold at Walgreens/CVS, and has avocado oil in it. They advertise all kinds of wacky things on the label, but the one thing they never bother to put on there is that after-shower leave-in conditioner functions as a dandy detangler, which is essential if your hair is in a state where hitting snags while brushing it out might break it off.

Try to never comb it out when wet, even if that’s what you did before. When your hair is healthy, it might well have enough resilience that combing it out went doesn’t hurt anything; now it’s damaged, and you don’t want to do anything that pulls the cuticle open if you can possibly help it. The surface of your hair is really lots of tiny keratin scales, that cling to each other a little like the fronds on a bird feather. Run your fingers down a feather from root to tip, and they stay mostly engaged; run your fingers from tip to root, and the feather turns into a wonky mess. When hair is sufficiently damaged, every direction is the wonky-mess direction.

If “not doing anything fancy” with it means that you pull it back a lot, I’d also invest in some high-quality hair elastics. Cheap elastics catch on hair and snap it off as you pull the ponytail or end of the braid through, and the problem gets worse as more hair breaks off and the ends poke out in odd places. Try some of the soft woven ones with a fabric-like finish for braid ends, and hooks or bungees (http://goo.gl/Qdvlf) for ponytails. A lot of bun clips, alligator clips, and snoods aren’t big enough for hip-length hair, but if you want a simple bun, I find the large Hairigami snap-bracelet things (http://goo.gl/dKeBH) work surprisingly well on mine.

Failing that, if you grow to loathe having to take care of damaged hair, post a picture of yourself here and ask for suggestions on short haircuts. I believe the last person who did so got a look-over and advice from Eve, who is the sine qua non of classy fashion advice around these parts. :smiley: Better assessments simply cannot be had.

Your hair is obviously naturally pretty good if you have grown it to hip-length only using 2-in-1 conditioner without the ends getting dry - I would never be able to manage that with mine. I swim around twice a week, but my hair is naturally pretty dry. I find putting intensive conditioner in (combing through well) and leaving it in overnight once every week or two helps mine a lot, so that may be worth a try.

there are clorine shampoos and conditioners, try those. they will help your hair feel less “cotton candy” like.

also the leave in conditioner under cap thing works really well.

if you are into long hot baths, add a bit of bath oil to the water and let your hair soak along with you. a very easy way to have a hot oil treatment for your hair. the oil will be at the ends of your hair and not at the scalp part.

As stated, caps are very stretchable and have plenty of room. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5bvFRvO7yo

Oh my. A lot of information here- I am now reminded why discussions of aesthetics make me feel so clueless. :smiley: Ladies of the Dope, you are uber knowledgeable.

I’ve taken to wearing a swimming cap, and am going to sit down and figure out hair products this evening to go shopping for 'em tomorrow.

I can’t seem to get the cap to fit without a tiny gap just below/behind each ear that lets in water. Am I doing something wrong or are my ears just deformed?

Hey, I managed to miss Girl Class every damn day until I was in my 20s. Now I style myself for photoshoots. You can pick it up if you really need it. :slight_smile: