How to Get Chlorine Out of Your Hair — and How to Prevent Damage In the First Place

Rely on these hairstylist-backed tips to stop chlorine from ruining your hair.

Hair Health Hotline: How Can I Remove Chlorine From My Hair?
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Hair Health Hotline is your direct access to dermatologists, trichologists, hairstylists, and other beauty pros. Each story in this series tackles a common hair or scalp concern and offers science-backed solutions to care for your strands.

There are few downsides to spending a scorching hot day in a pool, but it can have repercussions for your hair. Chances are you've experienced extreme dryness after a long day of swimming at least once.

You can still avail yourself of swim-up bars and water parks without resigning yourself to damaged, lackluster hair, though. Austin Burns, senior stylist and colorist at Mirror Mirror in Austin, Texas, is sharing his advice for how to prevent and address the effects of chlorine on hair.

Q: I've noticed my hair looks and feels worse when I'm swimming a lot in the pool. Is chlorine bad for your hair? And if so, how can I protect my hair from damage?

A: Chlorine can lead to dryness and discoloration, but various products and salon treatments can help prevent and fix these effects.

In pools, chlorine serves a pretty important function, killing off germs that could make you sick. But the chemical can have some negative effects on your hair, especially if you swim often. "Chlorine can really dry out the hair and it can make it feel kind of brittle," says Burns. Contrary to popular belief, while pool water can cause green discoloration, especially in people with blonde hair, this seems to be a result of copper in the water rather than chlorine itself, according to an article from the Journal of Cosmetic Science. However, chlorine may play a role in helping copper bind to your hair.

Hair that's porous or has undergone any treatment that lifts the hair's cuticle aka outermost layer (e.g. color or keratin treatments), is most susceptible to the damage, but everyone's at risk for chlorine's effects on hair, says Burns. "Even if you have brunette hair, you can still have chlorine buildup in your hair, you just might not see it," he says.

How to Get Chlorine Out of Hair

Plenty of people swear by the concept of double cleansing your skin, and you might want to start doing the same to your hair after you swim. "I like to tell my clients to use a purifying shampoo, but then use a shampoo that's a bit more moisturizing afterward to add a little bit more moisture," says Burns. "And that will give you a double cleanse to help strip some of [the chlorine] out."

Caveat: You should use that purifying shampoo (aka clarifying shampoo) no more than once a week, even if you swim daily, says Burns. "The chlorine itself is going to dry out the hair and then if you're clarifying it too much, you're going to overdo it, and your hair will just be even drier," he says.

To reverse the discoloration resulting from copper and chlorine, Burns suggests trying Malibu Swimmers Wellness Remedy, noting that you can use it daily if you swim a lot. To use the treatment, which is designed to remove chlorine, copper, and other minerals and metals from hair, you dissolve the packet of crystals in water. If that doesn't suffice, salons "have a little bit more of an aggressive version, which I would only use if my hair was like, neon green," says Burns.

Austin Burns

How to Prevent Hair Damage from Chlorine

Ideally, you'll take proactive steps to protect your hair from the effects of chlorine rather than just waiting until things get bad. One of the best things you can do is to wet your hair and use products to create a protective coating before getting in a pool. "I tell all my clients, put a ton of oil in, pull it up in a tight bun, and then go swimming," says Burns.

A heavy conditioner containing silicones can serve the same function, he says. "I know there's a lot of controversy about silicones, but silicones will protect your hair from chlorine," says Burns. "I personally don't have an issue with silicone. Sometimes brands put too much [in a formula], and then you get a build up of silicone in the hair, but a little bit of silicone's fine and that will protect your hair." If you're up for wearing a swim cap that can provide reinforcement too, notes Burns.

Drinking water contains some chlorine, and while you probably won't end up with chlorine build-up just from showering, it doesn't hurt to invest in a showerhead filter, says Burns. "It's always a good idea to have a filter," says Burns. "Especially with minerals too, there's so much within the water that can build up in the hair." When you swim a lot, it becomes all the more important to keep up with regular moisturizing treatments, which can help counteract the loss of your hair's natural oil that chlorine causes, he says.

Whether you love swimming laps for exercise or using a pool to cool off during the summer, it can take a toll on your hair. By using products to remove chlorine and add back moisture, you can avoid the consequences.

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