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Curly Nikki

Swimming, Chlorine, and Your Natural Hair

By January 27th, 202121 Comments

Swimming, Chlorine, and Your Natural Hair

Dana asks:

What is the best routine for curlies that are regular swimmers? I find that the swimming caps mush the curls and still don’t offer full protection from the chlorine and/or saltwater. Any suggestions on how to fit in regular swimming without always resorting to the wash-n-go?

Do you swim? If so, what’s your routine?


  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, my name is Shelby and I'm 16 years old. I swim every day of the year, I aid for a lifeguard class and I am the "drowning victim" on weekdays during school and I lifeguard and swim laps on the weekends and over the summer. Literally, there was probably only a few days that I DIDN'T swim in 2010. I've been very surprised at how well my hair has handled this harsh treatment. I've always had straight hair ever since I was little, but I've recently found out that if I let my hair air-dry then it drys wavyish- curlyish. I don't even need to use a mousse or gel anymore. I don't know if the chlorine did that or my hair just decided to change, but my ex-best friend had a similar story. She is a swimmer and when I first met her, her hair was most definitely not as curly as it is now. And all the other aids
    that I spend a class period with everyday have wavy hair as well. Perhaps it's just our school's pool? Anyway… The best way that I have found to keep your hair [fairly] nice while swimming is to wet it completely in the showers beforehand and wash it with a detoxifier shampoo afterwards. I recommend Aveda. And then use a regular shampoo and conditioner after that like Pantene, Herbal Essences, or Garnier Frucits. Also, a friend of mine (who is also an aid) told me that her hairdresser said that after you swim for a long period of time (like I'm talkin months) that if you soak your hair in ketchup and put like a hair net on for an hour that it will help revitalize your dead hair. I haven't tried this firsthand by I'd like to. I'm sorry to say that there is no ideal way to keep your curls perfect after swimming especially with a swim cap. I've tried. And I know it's hard to find time to wash your hair every single time you get out of the water, but it's the beat way to keep your hair as healthy as possible. I mean, don't overwash your hair, but when I look at my hair and other girls, mine is soo much better. And also, depending on whether you have coarse or fine hair, putting conditioner on first does indeed act like a shield, but when your hair is coarse, it breaks the ends more than without it because the hard protectant on the outside takes on the effects of an oven. With the hot pooldeck, that heat cooks your hair. That's why when swimmers straighten their hair with flat irons, the last five inches are fried. I hope this helps!

  • Anonymous says:

    Ps. And the mix made my hair smell so good. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm not a swimmer, and do not swim very, very often.
    But for a lil time ago, i was on a wonderfull holidy, where i often swimmed in swimming pool and in the sea.
    But still.. My hair was actually softer than ever before, and it got a lot growth.
    The first day there i sectioned my hair and finger detangled, then i wased my hair and then i used conditioner.
    Then i combed the ends off my hair with a comb, and put my hair mix in(kinky-curly conditioner, sheabutter and cocosoil), and styled in a afropuff.
    And everyday i rinsed my hair with water, and sometimes i shampooed with a mild shampoo(kinky-curly shampoo), and used my hair mix, and styled my hair in a afro puff.
    It worked amazing for me. 🙂

  • LO. says:

    soaking my box braids with regular water first then sealing my hair with extra virgin coconut oil has worked for me….

  • mysskay says:

    You can also see what JC has to say over at

    Simply use the search option and type in swimming.

    Per her advice I added a generous amount of coconut oil the night before and a few hours before I went swimming. I kept my hair in six large twist like I normally do when I wash my hair and just pinned them down and wore a large headband because I didn't want to wear a cap. Right before getting into the pool I ran my hair under water in the locker room for maximum saturation (I think it takes somewhere between 5-15mins for hair to absorb all the liquid it can). I brought my diluted castile soap (for washing out the chlorine, I use this in place of standard shampoo) and my deep conditioner mix (Nature's Gate Hemp Conditioner, honey and coconut oil) to the pool; along with a plastic cap and a head wrap so I could run errands. I washed and added my deep conditioner right there in the locker room! I just proceeded as I normally do after a few hours of deep conditioning. My hair was fine. (added note, I deep condition weekly)

    I was actually overdo for a protein treatment so I made sure to do that the night before. I just use mayo, an egg and coconut oil. Sit with it for an hour with a plastic cap and a scarf to help trap the heat.

  • Denise Taylor says:

    Ion makes great shampoos and conditioners to protect your hair from chlorine. You can get them from Sallys. I co-wash with their conditioner after I swim. Smells great and keeps my hair looking great.

  • b. says:

    Another blogger, Newly Natural, covers this extensively b/c she swims often. Check her out.

    I love what Anon 8:14pm said.

  • Shawntal "Curlie Girlie" Smith says:

    ACV is an apple cider vinegar rinse. Google that or youtube it for examples. W&G is wash n go, a styling technique. Different people do it different ways, so I'd do some research on that too. HTH (hope that helps)! 🙂

    Thanks, ladies, for the tips on swimming. I plan to start swimming 2x a week for the rest of the summer, so this is just the help I needed! 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I hit the pool twice a week for a workout and to lounge by the pool. To protect my hair from the chlorine and the harsh heat from the sun I place my hair in two french braids. My hair is easier to manage when its dry. I then run my hair under the bath tub faucet and saturate my hair with Suave conditioner. I pin up the braids in the back with hair pins. The wet hair and conditioner prevents my hair from absorbing much of the chlorine. Once I hit the pool I use a swim cap, but I remove it to lounge by the pool. I wash my hair as soon as I get home. It's like giving my hair a pre-poo twice a week.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am new to natural hair… would someone please explain the following abbreviations in apaine's post above: "acv" (to normalize the ph and clarify any chlorine out of your hair) and "w&g"? Thanks!

  • Cynthia says:

    I typically swim 2-3 times a week…I dampen my hair, take a grape-sized amount of shea butter and apply it down the length of my twists, put them in a frenchbraid and tuck it under a cap. after i get out of the pool, i rinse my hair and treat my hair as normal.

  • Dana says:

    Thanks, curlies! I'm looking forward to my new swimming routine…wish me luck!

  • Anonymous says:

    I've swam competitively my whole life (since age 6), and now that I'm an adult swim competitvely with a master's team. I'm in the water more days than not and sometimes twice a day. I have found that wetting my hair first works and since I'm at the pool to workout (and not there for a beauty pageant), I always wear a swim cap. Hair is a nuisance and extra weight in competitive swimming.

    I love swimming. It's a stress reliever and I feel strong after a good workout. My hair could never provide that. Therefore, I choose swimming over my hair. Sure my curls get smooshed by the swim cap, but I have to wash the chlorine out anyway, so I'm not trying to keep a style. I have to say that I just recently big chopped (April) and I swam before that with a relaxer. Never had issues with swimming and a relaxer either (my hair grew just the same, MBL).

    In anyways health/fitness before hair (at least that's what I'm living by).

  • Tiffany says:

    Sounds like it is unanimous.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate

  • Anonymous says:

    I spray my hair with condish and water and then put hair in single twists. I wear two swim caps over twist. After swimming I immediately rinse hair out and do my normal routine. Works like a charm.

  • moi says:

    i recently took swimming lessons and what i would do was wet my hair and apply conditioner before going into the pool. i would not rinse out the conditioner. and of course, after leaving the pool, i would wash and condition, and leave-in conditioner.

    when in doubt, condition!

  • Anonymous says:

    I currently swim 3-4 times a week as part of my workout/training schedule, and I've found that I've had to alter my routine for managing my protein/moisture balance.

    For moisture, I've found that wearing a swim cap and sealing my hair with a thick emollient like shea butter or avocado/sweet almond oil before getting in the pool are more effective for me than pre-soaking with water/conditioner (although I do first moisturize with a thick conditioner before applying the shea butter)…

    On the protein side, I do protein treatments more often for strength (like 2x a month) and sometimes use a spray leave-in like aphogee green tea or chi keratin mist.

    So far, I haven't suffered any major breakage and have been at this swim schedule for about 3 months now, but it's definitely challenging to find something that works…

  • Beverly says:

    I just started swimming lessons and it was suggested I wet my hair and add conditioner then put on the swim cap. Sure my curls are smooshed but I'd be washing it out right after anyways so its no big deal

  • apaine says:

    also, you have to deep condition more often when you swim. maybe spraying your hair with an oil as a barrier before you swim would help too.

  • Matice says:

    I've heard that wetting the hair before getting into the pool works because wet hair absorbs less. Also, wetting it and putting conditioner on it works even better. The conditioner acts as a barrier. Putting the cap over all of that is best even though it may "mush" the curls. I'd rather have healthy hair that needs plumping than damaged hair.

  • apaine says:

    the best you can do is saturate your hair with regular water before you swim. i used to add conditioner to my hair too until i read that it can make the strands swell too much and cause splits. so just water and after you're done rinse with acv to normalize the ph and clarify any chlorine out of your hair. i prefer the w&g when i swim but you could always bun it, or two french braids (that's my go to, love it!) with headbands or whatever.

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