How to Detox Your Summer Hair from All the Chlorine, Salt Water, and UV Damage
Too much fun in the sun, pool, and ocean? Here’s how to restore your mane to its former glory.
"When the temperature goes up, so does the humidity in the air and the sweat you produce," says Rachel Zipperian, a research and development expert at Herbal Essences. "Then factor in free radical damage from the sun, chlorine from the pool, and salt from the ocean, and your strands are bound to need all the help they can get by the end of the summer." Although protection is important, it's often difficult to sustain (swim caps and hats usually play second fiddle to sunscreen). This detox plan will help you fix whatever has gone awry, so you can start the fall with a healthier head of hair. (Related: 5 Easy Ways to Detox Your Summer Hair)
"If you've ever seen fabric that has been left out in the sun-think patio furniture-the fibers are faded, fragile, and rough," Zipperian says. "UV rays cause oxidation, which destroys structural proteins in hair and the protective outer cuticle layer, leaving it more likely to snap and causing split ends and frizz." That means that the more sun your strands take in, the more damage you can expect. In addition to shielding your strands with a UV-protective product, such as Kenra Daily Provision ($19 for 2; amazon.com), before heading outdoors, counteract the sun's dulling effects with a weekly deep-conditioning mask, like Virtue Restorative Treatment Mask ($28; amazon.com). Don't skimp on regular conditioner either. Keep product off your roots if you have fine or thin hair, and apply it all over if it's normal to thick. (These hair masks can help bring damaged hair back to life.)
Chlorine Green and Product Buildup
"It might seem counterintuitive to wash hair when it feels dry after being in a pool, but you want to remove the chemical residue as soon as possible," says Brianne West, the founder and CEO of Ethique. That's because chlorine strips the natural oils in the hair shaft, which accelerates damage and results in rough hair. Over time, it can even lead to a shift in color (for example, blonde hair can look green). To fully remove chlorine and all product buildup, give charcoal a try. "The pores on charcoal's surface allow for meaningful absorption of toxins and impurities, beyond what a standard shampoo can do," says Nancy Twine, the founder of the hair-care line Briogeo. Give chlorine-soaked strands a deep cleanse with a charcoal-infused shampoo, like Herbal Essences Detox Shampoo With Black Charcoal ($6; target.com) or Drybar's On the Rocks Clarifying Charcoal Shampoo ($26; sephora.com).
It's beneficial to give your scalp a good detox once in a while too. "Chemical and product buildup on the scalp has been known to cause follicle inflammation and can potentially even lead to hair loss," Twine says. Try clarifying scalp drops, like Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment ($32; nordstrom.com), and keep excess oil in check on days you don't wash with a toner, like Philip Kingsley Scalp Toner ($28; net-a-porter.com). (Here's more on how to revive damaged hair post-swim.)
A little salt can help create textured, beachy waves, but too much of it, or leaving it on for too long, will severely dry out your hair, Zipperian says. This is because when salt hits your strand, it sticks to the surface. The salt not only pulls moisture out of your hair but also builds up and hardens, leaving a clumpy, crusty residue. Again, this is why it's important to wash your hair right after a day at the beach (or if you've OD'd on salt spray). Stick with a mild cleanser for daily washing, like Hair Food Root Cleansing Shampoo ($9; target.com).
If it feels as if regular cleaning isn't cutting it, look for another purifying ingredient: cider vinegar, which helps balance your scalp's pH levels and cleanses the hair without stripping away natural oils or color. In the summer, aim for a weekly vinegar rinse, with R+Co Acid Wash ACV Cleansing Rinse ($32; nordstrom.com) or Redken Color Extend Vinegar Rinse ($24; amazon.com), or use it biweekly if you're an avid saltwater swimmer.