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How Does Chlorine Affect Your Hair?
Water is not necessarily your hair's best friend. It amplifies any weakness or damage that your hair may have. Combine these qualities with chlorine and you have a recipe for trouble. Swimming pools can have at least three effects on your hair: blonde hair can turn green, hair can become dull and dry, and hair can turn weak and brittle.
Blonde Hair Turning Green
I'm sure everyone has either seen or heard of blonde hair turning green after frequent swimming in chlorinated pools. I have had to buzz cut two of my boys' hair after only three trips to the swimming pool. Depending on the concentration of chlorine, the green can set in quite quickly. Sometimes darker hair can even develop a slight tinge of green.
What this is caused by is high concentrations of copper dissolved in the water. This copper chemically interacts with the chlorine, resulting in a chemical compound (combination) that very easily attaches itself to the outside layer of your hair shafts. If you have high levels of copper in your tap water, it can also make your hair green even without the chlorine. You can try to treat blonde-hair-turned-green with hot vegetable oil or hydrogen peroxide. I find it easier to buzz cut my boys' hair and put a waterproof swim cap on my little girl.
Dull and Dry Hair
Your hair naturally has an oil coating to give it a shiny look. This natural oil gets removed by the chlorine, giving it a dull look.
Your hair also has a hard outer layer, made up of overlapping scales to protect it. Chlorine can get between these scales, and push them up to give an otherwise smooth hair a very rough exterior. The combination of the oil being stripped off and the scales being roughed up results in hair that looks dull and dry and can feel rough to the touch.
Weak and Brittle Hair
As I've already mentioned, water is not your hair's best friend. Hair is much weaker when it is wet than when it is dry. Hair actually absorbs water and when it has soaked up as much as it can, wet hair is 20% weaker than dry hair. Because of this, handle your hair very gently when it is wet, avoiding tightly pulled back styles or vigorous combing.
Another thing to think about is that chlorine is a salt solution. When you are in the pool, the chlorine can actually get inside your hair fibers because they have holes in them and water can get inside. When your hair dries after you swim, the salt from the chlorine will crystallize inside your hair fibers. You might think that if you shower immediately after you swim, you can wash out the chloine. Yes and no. You can wash the chlorine that is sitting on the surface of your hair, but not the chloine that has gotten inside your hair fibers. The only way you can get rid of that chlorine is to soak your hair in clean water for about 10 minutes.
As your hair dries and the chlorine crystallizes inside your hair fibers, the salt crystals get larger and change the structure of your hair -- it weakens your hair by separating the scales that overlap to protect and strengthen it. As the scales stand out (instead of lying flat), your hair is weak and very prone to break.
After you've read this article, you'll think twice about swimming in a chlorinated pool again! Do your hair a favour and protect it with a swim cap.
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