Combining chlorine and hair color can be a catastrophe. Chlorine is a bleaching agent, meaning it can actually change hair color (think: blonde turned green), creating a damaging, dulling effect as color is stripped away from the hair shaft. It can also remove moisture, wreaking hair havoc such as dryness and breaking down hair-color molecules. This may mean losing that salon-fresh hair color more quickly, leading to another pricey salon visit.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat chlorine and its harsh effects on hair color. Check out these expert tips on proper care for color-treated tresses before, during, and after hitting a chlorinated pool. This way, you won’t have to skip out on any swim sessions to save your strands!

Prep by oiling up

Before hitting the pool, slick your hair with an oil-based product to create a barrier between your precious strands and the harmful chlorine. According to Christyn Nawrot, PHYTO national educator, those swimming in a chlorinated pool should prepare their hair before getting into the water.

She recommends applying an oil-based product including castor oil and calendula extract to protect the hair from chlorine, bromine, salt from sea water, and UV rays. You can also try a coconut or olive oil. Use the oil to thoroughly coat hair from the hairline throughout the hair shaft and down to the ends. This acts as a barrier to shield hair from chemicals such as chlorine.

Celebrity hairstylist Birgitte Philippides-Delaney for Sally Harlor seconds the idea of using chlorine-specific products to preserve hair color. “One of the best and easiest ways to prevent color-treated hair from getting damaged by chlorine from a pool is using protective products both before and after pool time,” she says.

She also recommends applying a protective product such as an oil and then braiding your hair to “lock the product in the hair follicles for further protection” during swimming. This way, hair is shielded from some of the harsh effects of chlorine.

Do a pre-pool rinse

“Make sure you get your hair wet with clear water before jumping into the pool to minimize the chlorine saturation,” advises Sharon Medina, INOAR’s main stylist and professional educator. Rinsing hair with cold water prior to a dip is also ideal, as wet hair is less likely to absorb as much chlorine as dry hair. Cold water helps seal in color, especially along the midshaft where hair follicles are the most porous, leading to greater color loss.

Restore and rehydrate ASAP

Immediately following a plunge in the pool, Nawrot recommends rehydrating your hair and neutralizing chlorine residue by shampooing and conditioning with products that are created specifically for color-treated hair. Lather up right away with a clarifying shampoo to remove chemicals such as color-stripping chlorine, which oxidizes hair color just like a bleach.

Manage moisture levels by treating post-swim strands with extra conditioner and/or a deep-conditioning mask. Ones containing coconut oil are ideal in rehydrating from head to toe, leaving hair soft and moisturized.

“The effects of chlorine on color-treated hair are manageable! You have to use more moisture such as a hydrating mask and also a daily leave in,” concludes Medina.

Instead of nixing your next dip, try these tips and save your strands from a pricey emergency salon visit!

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Crystal Fenton

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