The Effects of Chlorine on Colored Hair

By Rosanne Knorr

Chlorine has a damaging effect on color-treated hair. As a bleaching agent, chlorine doesn't just change hair color, it can damage and dull the hair. However, knowing how chlorine can alter hair color and understanding the process by which it is absorbed into the hair, can help you take the proper steps to limit the possible ill effects and keep your hair healthy and beautiful.

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woman swimming in chlorine water


Mid adult woman in swimming pool
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woman with blonde hair in pool

As a bleach, chlorine strips color from your hair. Blond hair may acquire a greenish tinge. Darker shades of hair may become dull, dry out and lose the gleam and highlights that the color treatment added.

Home Shower Water

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shower handles

The majority of tap water is chlorinated in order to kill the bacteria that can cause illness, but the chlorine in tap water can have a negative effect on colored hair. In most cases, the chlorine in tap water is not sufficiently strong to have a major effect of hair but if the added chlorine causes a problem, a filter can remove chlorine in your home's shower water.

Swimming Pools

Peaceful swimming pool
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swimming pool

Swimming pool water that uses a chlorination system rather than a salt water system can ruin color-treated hair. This is not to say that someone should avoid the pleasures of a pool, but be aware of the potential risk and take reasonable steps to ensure that the pool water's chlorine does not cause major damage to your hair color.


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woman wearing shower cap

Most chlorine damage to hair color occurs from swimming pools rather than shower water. To protect your hair wear a swim cap when you go swimming in a pool. If that's not possible, wet your hair in the shower before entering the pool so your hair does not absorb as much of the highly chlorinated water. For even more protection, wet your hair, apply conditioner, and rub it throughout your hair. The conditioner will coat the hair to help resist the chlorinated water while you swim.

Chlorine Removal Shampoos

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woman shampooing

Some specialty shampoos on the market are designed to remove chlorine from color-treated hair to limit the damage. Using these shampoos is especially helpful after swimming in a chlorinated pool. Examples are UltraSwim and general clarifying shampoos, which also remove excess product (such as gels and mousse) build-up from your hair.

Special Conditioners

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woman holding conditioner set

Conditioners, such as UltraSwim and TriSwim are designed to counteract the drying effects from chlorine in your hair, such as brittle ends.


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woman blow drying her hair

Sun, wind and overdrying with blow dryers also can damage color-treated hair, resulting in brittle, flyaway, lifeless hair and split ends. If your hair has been colored, take special care to avoid, not just chlorine damage, but other damaging conditions and you will maintain your hair's vibrant color longer.