How to Protect Your Hair While Swimming

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Whether it be countless beach trips, a late-night dip in the pool, or a splash about in the local lake, swimming and spending leisure time in the water can wreak havoc on your hair.

Everyone’s hair is different and requires its own unique care routine and products, but one thing is for sure, chlorine, fresh, and salt water can be a nightmare for all hair types. Our guide below will show you how to take care of your hair when swimming and what to look out for with different types of water. We also asked Olympic snowboarder – and avid surfer – Jenny Jones for her top tip on taking care of your hair whilst in the water.

Salt Water

The one thing salt water is great at is giving your hair natural beach texture and waves. But overexposure to salt water will have an adverse effect on your hair leaving it dry, frizzy, and damaged. What salt water does is draw out the moisture from your hair, which will leave it feeling rough and dehydrated leading to a flaky scalp, split ends, and breakage. Goodbye beautiful beach waves!


Chlorine is one of the harshest chemicals that your hair encounters when swimming. Chlorine can cause huge amounts of damage to the hair, which is why protection against this chemical should be at the top of your list.

Chlorine strips the hair of its natural oils and can cause the cuticles to break apart. This will leave your hair dry, stressed and brittle. It can also irritate your scalp too, causing excessive dandruff. Those who have processed hair need to be extra cautious! Chlorine will fade and strip hair colour, making your beautiful, glossy mane dull and lifeless. We have all heard those horror stories of blonde hair turning green after a quick dip in the pool!

Fresh Water

Fresh lake water is often considered ‘soft water’, and so this can be one of the best and safest ways for your hair to encounter a natural water source. Fresh water has lower levels of calcium and magnesium, which minimises the impact on your hair. Guilt-free swimming guaranteed!

Hard Water

Hard water contains a higher mineral content than soft water. These minerals can leave a build-up on your hair, which can cause it to look dull. For those that live in a hard water area, they may find that their skin and hair is sensitive to their daily shower – think dry, itchy, and flaky skin and scalp. When it comes to dealing with hard water, using the right products is crucial.

Hair care tips before swimming
  • Cut back on the heat: After swimming and exposure to the environment, heated styling tools will only help to accelerate any damage your hair feels. It is best to embrace your hair’s natural texture during the summer months, especially if you spend a lot of time in the water. Braiding your hair before entering the water can help give that natural beach wave effect that will take you from day to night.
  • Protection: Leave in products are a great way to give your hair an added barrier of protection. Philip Kingsley’s Swimcap is one of the best on the market and is a simple and convenient way to get protection for your hair whilst adding in moisture. Jenny Jones also recommends running conditioner through your hair before going into the sea – something she does religiously before hitting the surf!
Hair care tips when swimming
  • Cover your hair: Not everyone loves a swimming cap, however there are many cute vintage style swim caps available today. This is the best way to protect your hair from swimming, as it pretty much stops your hair from encountering the water. If you cannot bear the thought of wearing a swim cap, then tie your hair up into a bun, and you can always add a scarf wrap too for added style points at the pool.
  • Rinse it out: Give your hair a good rinse once you exit the water to stop any elements from further stripping your hair of moisture. Make sure you reapply your protective leave-in treatment before heading back into the surf.
Hair care tips after swimming
  • Be gentle: Once you are out of the water, use a soft microfibre towel to pat your hair dry. Rough drying your hair with a beach towel will only make damage and split ends worse.
  • Use a comb: Instead of rushing to brush your hair straightaway, leave it for a few minutes to dry in the sun and then brush through with a wide tooth comb.
  • Deep condition: Replenishing your hair after a swim or a day at the beach is a great way to give thirsty and lifeless hair a pick me up. We recommend Philip Kingsley’s Elasticizer treatment. You can apply this once you come out of the water and leave it on whilst you soak up some sun. Simply rinse it off in the shower when you are ready.

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