Swimming While Black: Protecting Our Hair
Swimming is a GREAT exercise some Black women shy away from due to its harmful effects on our hair. Protecting our hair while swimming can be a confusing and daunting task--we have to do more to ensure our thirsty strands stay hydrated. Do it incorrectly and you are left with brittle, straw like hair. However, done correctly--you can enjoy a great cardio workout and soft, hydrated hair! Here are some key tips to protecting your hair from harmful, drying chlorine:
1. Rinse hair throughly with filtered water. Let the water run over your hair until your hair is throughly wet and can no longer absorb any additional water.
2. Coat hair with a moisturizing conditioner. This may be the only time I would ever recommend a silicone conditioner as the silicone will lock out the chlorine. Using a good silicone based conditioner will prevent your hair from absorbing so much chlorine and will mitigate the nasty side effects.
3. Seal hair with a thick butter (such as shea or avocado) and/or oil (I prefer using coconut oil).
4. (Optional) Put on swim cap. Note: Do not wear the swim cap if it pulls tightly on your edges.
5. After swimming, cleanse hair with a good shampoo. It's important to use a shampoo that gets rid of chlorine and mineral build up. If your regular shampoo contains EDTA or Phytic Acid it will provide thorough enough cleansing. Some people recommend Ultra Swim, but research has found no substantial benefit in its ingredients.
6. Co-wash hair to restore moisture.
7. Deep condition hair w/ a moisturizing conditioner that DOES NOT contain silicones. Use steam or heat to get the best results.
The rationale behind these steps is to get your hair to swell as much as possible with good hair and conditioner and seal your cuticles so it can't absorb anymore. Afterwards, its important to wash the chlorine off the surface of the hair and repair the cuticles with a deep condition. Voila...no straw hair.
Key tips: if you are swimming regularly, it is important to minimize the amount of heat you use on your hair. Avoid direct or high heat if at all possible. Heat + chlorine = hair on ground and not on head.