Swimming is a favourite pastime beloved by kids and adults alike. This life saving skill is not only fun but also extremely important to learn. But having natural hair can make swimming complicated. Figuring out what to do with kinky, coily, and curly tresses can actually deter some of us from even getting in the water. How many of us have been guilty of watching from poolside or beachside in order to avoid getting our hair wet? In some cases, some of us have never even learned how to swim for fear of ruining our hair as well as our hairstyle.
But, what can we do to maintain the health and style of our hair and still enjoy the water when we’re on vacation, at the beach, at a friend’s house or a community pool? Read on for our tips for swimming with your natural hair and how to keep your tresses in shape even after a dip in the water.
Swimming and hair damage
Chlorine used in pools to sanitize the water and keep if free from bacteria can be extremely damaging to hair. It strips the hair of natural oils and causes dryness and brittleness. Continued exposure can cause split ends and breakage.
Similarly, sea water or salt water found in oceans can also be damaging with continued exposure. Salt water can create buildup, and make hair dry and unmanageable.
As curly hair is fragile by nature (due to the bends and curves in each strand) and prone to dryness, both chlorine and salt water can spell disaster for natural hair if not well managed. If you want to hit the water this summer or you have a child that does here are some great ways to enjoy the water without ruining your hair.
9 tips for swimming with natural hair
- Buy a great swimming cap. Conventional swimming caps aren’t designed for our voluminous hair. I picked mine up at KidsSwag online (they carry adult sizes too). They have afro-centric caps designed to fit the smallest fro to the longest dreads.
- Pre-saturate your hair with water. Once your hair is saturated it can’t hold much else. That means less chlorine water or salt water in your hair. So if you’re on vacation, step into one of the showers they usually have beachside before you take a dip in the water. Or if you’re at the local pool, wet your hair in the showers before you jump in.
- Apply conditioner or oil. If it’s not practical or possible to pre-saturate right before you go into the water, you can apply conditioner or oil on your hair beforehand. You can even apply it the night before so it has time to absorb into your hair. Oil and conditioner work to seal your strands and slick moisture away so that the water can’t penetrate the hair shaft easily.
- Place your hair in a protected style. After you’ve applied oil/conditioner, place your hair up and out of the way. Some great styles to try include large twists or braids, halo crown braid/twist, or buns. Protecting your hair in this way will help keep the conditioner and oil in your hair and stop your hair from tangling or matting.
- Put on that swim cap – wear it with pride. These days, people from all walks of life wear swim caps. So no need to feel like a fish out of water. You may find you will get compliments and queries on wear you got yours.
- Rinse your hair. Once you’re finished with your swim make sure to rid your hair of chlorine/salt water with a cool water rinse. This is a great initial step.
- Wash your hair. As soon as you’re able, wash your hair thoroughly because any residual chlorine/salt water left in your hair can be damaging. There are specific shampoos designed to remove chlorine from the hair, however, a good clarifying shampoo should do the trick. I use Naturalicious Moroccan Rhassoul 5-in-1 Clay Treatment. Clays are natural detoxifiers and cleansers that work without stripping or drying your hair. Whatever you do, don’t let the day end without washing the chlorine or salt water out of your hair.
- Condition your hair. Nourish and restore moisture to your hair with a great deep conditioner. If you have low porosity hair, use heat (i.e., hooded dryer, steamer, thermal cap or your own body heat) to ensure the conditioner is well absorbed into the hair.
- Style as desired.
Follow these steps whenever you swim and your hair will remain in tip top condition. Enjoy your time in the water.
Let us know if you have any other recommendations for swimming with your natural hair.