February 16, 2011

Swim training and protecting your hair against chlorine damage

That's me in the middle, nervously waiting for the start of the swim
Last year I learned to swim and took part in the British Gas Great London Swim in the River Thames. I managed to complete the one mile course in a rather slow 1 hour, 33 minutes and 13 seconds, but at least I finished and raised over £500 for the Child Bereavement Charity. Not bad really for someone who could not swim 25 metres at the start of 2010!

One year on I should be older and wiser, but I'm pleased to report I'm doing it all over again and this time I mean business with a target of under 45 minutes. It's only February but I am already squeezing in 4 training sessions a week exposing myself to chlorine damage. It would be wise to protect my hair with one of the many adult swim caps available on the market but last year I resisted until the day of the swim when it was compulsory.

Chlorine is used in swimming pools as a disinfectant, however it removes the natural protective oils of the hair and scalp causing a severe drying effect. If the hair is not rinsed post swim and the chlorine is left to dry the hair becomes brittle and prone to breaks as well as splitting.

This year I will be 47, so as you can imagine my hair is already suffering dehydration from the natural ageing process! That being the case I thought I had better research some preventative measures to combat chlorine damage.

You may feel silly in a swim cap but they do keep your hair safe from the harsh chemicals in the water. Besides things have moved on a lot since the 1950's and you no longer have to endure a frilly, floral bathing cap!

If you are against swim caps, read on:

Always soak your hair in the shower before getting into the pool. If your hair has already absorbed lots of fresh water there will be little room left in the hair shaft for chemicals.

Don't allow chlorinated hair to dry without washing, since this increases the chances of drying and breakage. Wash your hair with a shampoo that is specially formulated to dissolve chlorine (look for sodium thiosulfate in the ingredients).

Condition hair after every wash and alternate a regular conditioner with a deep-conditioning treatment once a week to keep hair moisturised.  There are many different products available including Circle of Friends pre-swim conditioner and swimmer's shampoo for children. The Paul Mitchell range includes Shampoo Three which removes chlorine and Philip Kingsley have a product called Swimcap which can be applied to the hair before swimming.

If you are a regular swimmer please leave us a comment about your favourite swim caps, shampoos, conditioners and other hair and skincare tips.