There’s not much in life that Murphy’s Law doesn’t apply to. When it comes to hair color maintenance, the paradox is alive and well: We spend all spring plotting our perfect summer hair color, only to have it turn a startling green the first time we go swimming. Don’t forsake the pool in favor of keeping your hard-earned color intact—just employ these tricks to protect your hair from chlorine, and enjoy those languorous summer days worry-free.
Shower before hitting the pool.
It may seem counterintuitive to shower before swimming (rather than after, of course, when you’re covered in chlorine), but the wellbeing of your hair may depend on it. Why? “Hair is porous,” explains Nicole Hitchcock, owner of NH2 Salon, a luxury hair salon in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Once it’s saturated with moisture, very little chlorine will [be able to] enter the shaft.” Imagine the cuticles of your hair acting somewhat like a sponge. If they’re filled with clean water, it’ll be harder for the pool water to work its way in and inflict damage. If showering beforehand isn’t an option, keep a travel-sized conditioner in your pool bag to saturate your hair with before entering the pool.
Try an oil treatment.
Celebrity stylist Scott Fontana, owner of Christophe Salon Newport Beach, recommends coating the hair in oil before diving in. He recommends olive oil topped with a swimmer’s cap. “You have to use oil on the hair before going into the pool, as anything else will rinse right out once you hit the water,” he advises. “However, you have to keep your head covered, as oil will also cook your hair in the hot sun.”
Embrace the swim cap.
We know: it looks a little silly if you’re just going for a dip, but using a swim cap keeps your hair dry and prevents it from coming in contact with the metals in pool water. You can even apply a deep conditioner before putting on a swim cap for extra protection. If you insist on skipping the cap, you’ll still want to pin your hair back to limit exposure as much as possible. “Tie hair up using a soft tie, or use a scarf or hat to keep hair from soaking in the pool,” says celebrity colorist Frederic States.
Don’t forget a post-swim rinse.
No matter what, you should always rinse your hair out after a swim to prevent residual chemicals and metals from building up. “Even if it’s not with shampoo, an initial rinse will help your hair keep its color and strength,” says Mario Russo, owner and lead stylist at Mario Russo Salon.
Remedy damage with a quick fix.
Nobody’s perfect, and damage control is sometimes necessary. “If you do get any chlorine deposits on your hair, you can remove them with a clarifying shampoo like Ultra Swim,” says Kyle White, lead colorist at Oscar Blandi. For a quick at-home solution, he recommends an apple cider vinegar rinse. Not only will this remove any leftover chlorine deposits, but it’ll also clear up any highlight-dulling product buildup, remove dead skin cells, and unclog hair follicles. As always, follow up your clarifying treatment with a deep conditioner to replace any lost moisture.
Another DIY option? eSalon Color Director Estelle Baumhauer says that dissolving an Aspirin in water and rinsing hair with the solution will work wonders to counteract the green hue. And be forewarned: if you have a salon appointment-pool day, make sure you wash your hair thoroughly before any chemical service. “If you don’t rinse, you can cause a chemical reaction” from chlorine residue, States warns. “I’ve seen hair fall out as a result of the chemical reaction, and it’s not pretty.”
Read more from Daily Makeover: Why You Should Consider Reverse Hair Washing