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Chlorine and Hair: How to prevent and reduce damage?

Chlorine and Hair: How to prevent and reduce damage?
Chlorine exposure can damage hair through various chemical and physical mechanisms.
Understanding the technical aspects of how chlorine damages hair can help you make informed decisions about protecting and maintaining your hair’s health, especially if you’re a frequent swimmer or spend time in chlorinated environments.

Does Chlorine damage hair?

Hair is primarily composed of a protein called keratin. Chlorine is a strong oxidising agent, meaning it can break down protein structures by disrupting disulfide bonds that hold the protein chains together. This can lead to weakening of the hair’s structural integrity, causing it to become brittle, dry, and more prone to breakage.

How does chlorine damage your hair?

Chlorine can strip the natural oils (sebum) that coat and protect the hair shaft. These oils help maintain the hair’s moisture balance and flexibility. When chlorine removes these oils, the hair becomes more porous and susceptible to moisture loss, resulting in dryness, frizz, and an overall unhealthy appearance.

Chlorine can interact with hair pigments, particularly dyed or colour-treated hair. This interaction can cause the colour to fade or change, leading to undesired colour shifts or a greenish tint, especially in lighter shades.

The outermost layer of the hair shaft, called the cuticle, consists of overlapping scales that protect the inner layers. Chlorine exposure can cause these scales to lift, exposing the inner layers to damage. This makes the hair more porous, susceptible to tangling, and further moisture loss.

Chlorine exposure can alter hair’s natural texture, making it feel rough, coarse, and less manageable. This can be particularly noticeable in individuals with curly or wavy hair, as chlorine-induced damage disrupts the regular pattern of the hair strands.

It is also known to irritate the scalp, leading to dryness, itching, and flakiness. This can be particularly problematic for individuals with sensitive or dry skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis. Some individuals may be allergic to chlorine or the byproducts of chlorine disinfection. Allergic reactions can manifest as redness, itching, and rashes on the scalp and skin.

In severe cases of chlorine exposure and damage, hair loss can occur. The combination of weakened hair shafts and scalp irritation may contribute to hair thinning or shedding.

How can you protect your hair from Chlorine damage?

Here’s how you can minimise chlorine damage and protect your hair:

  • Wet hair before swimming.
  • Use protective products – Oil or Swimmers hair mask are great options for a protective layer.
  • Rinse with water immediately after.
  • Exfoliate 1-2 times a week. Choose the Clear Clay that not only exfoliates your scalp but also nourishes your hair and brings back its shine.
  • Keep that swimming cap on all the time.