It's almost summertime and like you, I'm looking forward to hitting the beach and the pool, big time.
But, do you ever worry about what the sun, sea, and pool are doing to your hair?
Well I do, all the time.
As the head of Product Development for Oribe Hair Care it’s my job to think about hair all day long. Wet or not, it’s important to protect your hair when you head to the pool or beach, especially if you have colored or chemically treated hair. The biggest culprits -- UV rays from the sun, chlorine, salt, and even water.
Let’s start with a bit of Hair 101.
Hair has two main layers. The outer cuticle protects the hair. The inner cortex gives it strength, structure and elasticity.
The cuticle is made up of cells that overlap like roof tiles. In healthy hair, the cells lie flat and fit snugly together, locking moisture and keratin in and imparting shine and elasticity. When the cuticle scales lie flat, they are able to protect the hair from aggressors (environmental or from heat styling), and chemical treatments. When hair is damaged, the cuticle is lifted, allowing elements and moisture in and natural keratin out. The hair is weakened and damaged. And then guess what? Hair looks dull and frizzy; it feels coarse and can be unmanageable.
Our warm weather hair care goal: keep the cuticle intact and the hair healthy.
What causes damage?
First let’s talk about the sun.
UV rays from the sun weaken the hair cuticle and lead to discoloration, dryness and breakage. Fine, light, color-treated and/or chemically processed hair are most vulnerable because they are weaker to begin with and/or lack pigment (did you know that pigment protects hair?). For that reason, even if your hair stays dry, you still need to protect it, just like you would your skin.
Next let's go swimming.
When you do take the plunge, both chlorine and salt can lead to damage. Both remove natural oils from the hair, leading to over-drying and increased porosity. This means the “shingles” on the cuticle are lifted and the hair is now unprotected. Hair can become dull, tangled and rough. Chlorine can also lead to a chemical reaction in hair. Does a brassy color sound familiar?
Salt water is somewhat less damaging than chlorine pool water, but even salt water tends to dry out the hair and scalp and can reduce the length of chemical straightening treatments.
And believe it or not, water itself can be damaging to hair. When hair is dry and damaged (from chlorine, heat styling, chemical treatments) it is more porous and absorbs more water than is optimal. The extra water stresses the hair, making it weak over time.
Do I think you should stay inside and let that gorgeous day pass you by? No way! Head out to the pool or beach, but when you do, think about your sunny day hair care as you do your skin.
Do the prep work
Wet or dry, apply a moisturizing prep product (a leave-in conditioner or nourishing oil) before going out in the sun. I like my products to do double duty - I also use them to style a slick pony or braid. If and when you go in the water, the products will also help to lock moisture in and keep chlorine out.
You should also apply UV protection to hair, just like you apply SPF to your skin, or wear a hat. Many hair products are formulated with UV protection. Take special care with ends, which are older and already more damaged. Re-apply a UV protection hair spray or cream while in the sun throughout the day and/or after swimming, as you would a sunscreen for the face or body.
Hair acts like a sponge – the drier it is, the more water (including chlorine and other chemicals) it will absorb. To ensure you’re soaking up as little pool water as possible, wet hair with fresh water before entering the pool. Now the chlorinated water can't absorb as easily.
Wash it away
The sooner you rinse your hair with clean water after you swim, the better. When you shower, wash hair with a hydrating shampoo and conditioner to replenish moisture that the chlorine or salt have stripped away. Choose a formula that also addresses your primary hair need, whether that is color correcting to reduce brassiness, or strengthening products to fortify hair. If your hair tangles easily, be gentle when you comb so you don’t cause further damage.
If you swim often or just vacationed, go the extra mile. First, deep cleanse weekly with a clarifying shampoo to help remove chlorine buildup. Some are formulated specifically for swimmers. Salons also provide treatments for hair particularly damaged or discolored by chlorine. Second, treat your hair with a moisturizing masque for at least 10 minutes once a week. It will work wonders.
A day in the sun is so much fun, but you have invested a lot of money in getting your hair to look just the way you want it. Don't be concerned about damaging your hair this summer. Follow these easy steps, and get on out there and enjoy yourself!
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