What Does Chlorine Do To Your Hair & How To Prevent Damage

A deeper look into the effects of this pool disinfectant on your lovely locks.

Reviewed by Tere Pruett, CT, PBT Tere Pruett Tere PruettCT, PBT facebook_icon
Written by , BTech Anjali Sayee BTech Experience: 7 years
Edited by , BA, MSc Eshna Das BA, MSc Experience: 3 years
Fact-checked by , MBA, Certified Skin Care Coach Krati Darak MBA, Certified Skin Care Coach Experience: 3 years
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Most of us are aware that pool water contains chlorine (a common disinfectant). It keeps you safe from many infections. But what does chlorine do to your hair? Apart from killing bacteria in the water, does it also damage your hair? This article explores how chlorine affects your hair, how you can protect your hair from chlorine damage, and how to remove it from your hair. Keep reading.

What Does Chlorine Do To Your Hair?

Woman holding her dry and damaged hair
Image: Shutterstock

Chlorine sucks all the natural oils from your hair. It leaves your hair feeling dry, rough, and damaged. We are aware that our hair needs natural oils to remain healthy and shiny. But chlorine may make the hair brittle and dry as it strips your hair of these natural oils. It also may lead to split ends(1).

Chlorine may also lead to a change in hair color (2). But does it turn your hair green?

Does Chlorine Turn Your Hair Green?

Woman with unusual green hair wondering about something
Image: Shutterstock

Swimmers usually observe their hair turning green after swimming. However, chlorine is not directly responsible for this effect. This change in hair color is caused by copper that has been oxidized by chlorine. Chlorine contains oxidized copper that is absorbed by your hair while you swim, eventually turning your hair green (1).

protip_icon Quick Tip

If you have colored or chemical-treated, dry, or damaged hair, then it is at higher risk for damage due to chlorinated water.

But you sure can protect your hair while swimming from the ill effects of chlorine. We have highlighted a few techniques in the following section.

How To Protect Your Hair From Chlorine Damage?

1. Wet Your Hair First

Wetting your hair before going into the pool can keep it from absorbing the water containing chlorine or other damaging salts. A cold water hair rinse before swimming can form a protective barrier against chlorine. A pre-rinse saturates the hair and makes it less likely to absorb chlorine.

2. Wear A Swim Cap

Woman with swim cap in the pool
Image: Shutterstock

Keeping your hair from getting wet altogether can help. Wear a swim cap to ensure your hair does not come in contact with the chlorinated water.

3. Use A Leave-In Conditioner

A leave-in conditioner in your hair can prevent the absorption of chlorine in the water. It can help you prevent hair dryness and brittleness effectively. Apply a leave-in conditioner to your hair before going for a swim. You can also put on a cap after applying the leave-in conditioner. This will keep your hair from chlorine damage, and will also moisturize your hair (3).

4. Apply Oil

Woman applying oil to her hair
Image: Shutterstock

Oil is hydrophobic and repels water. Applying oil (like coconut oil) to your hair can help repel the chlorinated water and potentially prevent hair damage.

Anna, a YouTuber, shares her favorite tips for maintaining and caring for hair while swimming at the pool or beach. She emphasizes the importance of pre-swim care, including wearing a protective style like braids or buns with a bit of oil for added nourishment. She says, “I always like to put in a little bit of oil… any oil I have lying around. I always like to put just a few drops in my ends. This just helps to seal my cuticles and keep my hair nice and nourished and protected from the saltwater or from the chlorine, and it also just helps to keep my hair nice and soft afterwards (i).”

protip_icon Quick Tip

Use a gentle sulfate-free shampoo for hair washing after swimming, opt for outdoor pools, and follow a post-swim hair care routine to protect your hair from chlorine damage.

It is important to understand that these are not fool-proof methods. Your hair may still get in contact with chlorinated water despite your best efforts. Well, what should you do then?

How Do You Get Chlorine Out Of Your Hair?

1. Wash Your Hair Immediately

Washing your hair immediately after swimming reduces any possible damage due to chlorine. You may wash your hair with specific shampoos meant for removing chlorine from hair.

2. Comb Your Hair

Woman combing hair with wide-toothed comb
Image: Shutterstock

Brush/comb your hair with a wide-toothed comb after washing your hair. However, ensure you do not comb through wet hair (as it can cause breakage). A wide-toothed comb can gently help untangle your hair.

3. Clarify Your Hair

Hair clarifying products help remove the harsh chemicals from your hair. You may use a clarifying shampoo to wash your hair right after you are out of the pool. You may also use an apple cider vinegar rinse. Make sure to follow up with a good conditioner to replace moisture in the hair.

4. Baking Soda For Hair

Anecdotal evidence suggests that baking soda can possibly help remove chlorine from hair. Create a paste with baking soda and water, apply it to your damp hair, and gently massage. Leave it on for a few minutes and rinse thoroughly. Follow up with your regular shampoo and conditioner. This may restore your hair’s natural balance.

5. Vitamin C For Hair

Some research supports the efficacy of vitamin C in neutralizing the chlorine in water (4). Some believe the nutrient may also potentially help eliminate chlorine from hair through the same mechanism. However, research is limited in this regard. You may still try using it on your hair after consulting with your doctor.

Crush vitamin C tablets into a fine powder, mix with water to form a paste, and apply it to your wet hair. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and rinse thoroughly. Follow up with shampoo and conditioner for optimal results.

Infographic: How To Clarify Your Hair Using A Sea Salt Scrub

Swimming is a fantastic way to tone your body and keep your mind relaxed. However, there’s one thing it’s not great for—your hair, thanks to all the chlorine in swimming pools. But that’s no reason to ditch your swim sessions. You can always clarify your hair afterward.

Check out this infographic for steps to clarify your hair using a simple salt scrub.

how to clarify your hair using a sea salt scrub (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Chlorine is a disinfectant used in swimming pools to keep people safe from infections. However, it also strips your hair of its natural oils, leaving your hair brittle, lifeless, dry, and with split ends. While many swimmers claim chlorine turns their hair green, it is oxidized copper that results in changed hair color. You must wear a swimming cap and use a leave-in conditioner to protect your hair from chlorine. Additionally, wash your hair immediately after contact with chlorine or leaving the pool to keep your hair healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does chlorine make your hair gray?

Chlorinated water causes hair discoloration (1). Therefore, it may turn dark hair gray.

Does chlorine turn brown hair blonde?

Hair discoloration can be caused by chlorinated water (1). Hence, chlorine may bleach your brown hair and make it blonde.

Can I color my hair if I swim regularly in chlorinated water?

It is not a good idea to color your hair when swimming in chlorinated water regularly as the chlorine can make your dye wear off quickly and even lead to brittle, dry, and greenish-gray hair.

Can I use a swimmer’s shampoo to prevent chlorine damage?

Yes, as a swimmer’s shampoos help deeply cleanse and remove buildup.

Key Takeaways

  • The chlorinated water in the pool may make your hair brittle and dry, stripping your hair of natural oils.
  • While swimming, oxidized copper in chlorine is absorbed by your hair, turning it green.
  • Swimmers can protect their hair from chlorine and enjoy their experience more if they take the proper precautions.

Discover different tips and tricks to protect your skin and hair from pool chlorine! Watch the video below to learn how to keep your skin and hair healthy while swimming.

Personal Experience: Source

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Hair color damages caused by exposure to chlorinated water in the presence of ultraviolet radiation
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236109930_Hair_color_damages_caused_by_exposure_to_chlorinated_water_in_the_presence_of_ultraviolet_radiation
  2. CLEAR WATERS AND A GREEN GAS: A HISTORY OF CHLORINE AS A SWIMMING POOL SANITIZER IN THE UNITED STATES
    http://acshist.scs.illinois.edu/bulletin_open_access/v32-2/v32-2%20p129-140.pdf
  3. Hair cosmetics: An overview
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/
  4. Using Vitamin C To Neutralize Chlorine in Water Systems
    https://www.fs.usda.gov/t-d/pubs/pdf/hi_res/05231301hi.pdf
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Tere Pruett

Tere PruettCT, PBT

Tere Pruett is a certified trichologist from the United States Trichology Institute, with 9 years of experience. She also has a graduate education in phlebotomy. She is a master educator for the United States Trichology Institute and began traveling all over the United States teaching and facilitating trichology and hands-on clinical classes. Tere understands the science of hair loss and...read full bio

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