Swimming in the saltwater has many benefits for your body and soul but one of the downsides to ocean swimming is that it can leave your hair quite dry and thirsty.
While you might get the perfect voluminous curls or mermaid hair after your morning ocean swim, you are often left with brushing through dry, knotty hair and sand flying everywhere later in the day when the post-swim honeymoon period is over.
In this deep dive, we look into the pros and cons of saltwater in our hair and how you can protect your hair and still enjoy the ocean every day.
Let’s start with your hair cuticle, which is the outermost layer of a hair strand. It’s what protects your hair from damage and imparts shine. If looked at under the microscope you would see several scales sealed together to create a nice smooth protective layer over each hair strand.
When you go swimming in the ocean or a chlorinated pool the acid levels of the ocean or chemicals in a pool create damage to that smooth protective layer.
Then add in the harsh UV rays we get from that glorious sun, and combined they can leave your hair looking and feeling dry.
As with anything, there are plenty of pros and cons so you’re going to have to weigh them up and decide what you feel is most beneficial for you.
No one wants to give up their love of being in the ocean and swimming each morning just because it might leave their hair dry and knotty.
We’ve compiled a list of top tips from the experts on how to get the best out of the saltwater for your hair while enjoying your regular ocean swim.
Your hair is like a sponge, it does a great job of absorbing anything that touches it.
When your hair is dry it’ll harshly absorb any liquid that touches it, which means when you go ocean swimming it will suck up as much saltwater as it can.
I’m sure you’re thinking, how do I make my hair less absorbent? Well, that is easy, before you go for an ocean swim rinse your hair in freshwater for a couple of minutes. It’s as easy as jumping in a beach shower on your walk down to the water’s edge.
By doing this your hair will become less absorbent in the saltwater, leaving your hair less knotty and dry after your ocean swim.
Being in any water whether that be salt water, fresh water or chlorinated water can strip the natural oils that protect your hair.
It helps keep those natural oils nourishing your hair while lovingly enjoying the water. Apply natural products such as olive or coconut oil to your hair to add an extra layer of protection and keep your hair hydrated.
Coconut oil is rich in fatty acids and can help moisturise your hair and scalp whereas olive oil is full of antioxidants and vitamins A and vitamins E which help to protect keratin (a protein naturally found in our hair that provides a protective shield around the hair follicle).
Saltwater and chlorinated water can cause damage to your hair even once you’re out of the water.
If you don’t wash your hair with fresh water after you finish your swim, the saltwater or chlorinated water can sit in your hair for the rest of the day and make your hair dry out and cracked.
When you finish your swim, ensure you wash your hair thoroughly with fresh water even if you’re not shampooing or conditioning it that day. This will wash all the saltwater out of your hair and prevent it from drying out.
There are plenty of shampoo and conditioners out on the market these days that are tailored to swimmers.
Find a shampoo and conditioner that your hair likes and responds well to. You want a clarifying shampoo that will get rid of any extra salt or chlorine from your hair and a conditioner that is hydrating and will rehydrate your hair after being in the water.
Putting oils, treatments and conditioners in your hair before you swim is great and will offer temporary protection but after being in the water for a while they will wash away.
Having a good swimming cap will provide a physical barrier to help protect your hair from salt water or chlorine water. In fact, sometimes a well-fitted swim cap will keep your hair dry throughout your entire swim!
Lathering your hair with a leave-in conditioner will help repel and defend your hair against the saltwater.
The conditioner will keep your hair soft and you will find fewer knots and tangles after you have finished swimming.
Leave in conditioner not only helps to detangle your hair pre and post ocean swim but it also helps with eliminating frizz, calming flyaways, smoothing bedhead, and reviving curls – all things we love too!
No, we’re not suggesting getting a haircut but simply trying a hairstyle such as having it braided or putting it into a bun or ponytail so that it fits nice and snug under the protection of a swimming cap.
Using one of these protective hairstyles will help eliminate knots and tangles in your hair after your swim.
If you’re wanting to braid your hair, ensure you do it when your hair is dry because braiding your hair when it’s wet can sometimes cause more damage since your hair is fragile when wet.
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