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Comment protéger ses cheveux à la piscine ?

How to protect your hair at the swimming pool?

Chlorine is used to prevent the growth of microorganisms in swimming pool water. However, it can be harsh on the hair and scalp. Discover in this article the ways to protect your hair when swimming in the pool.

Published February 19, 2024, by Sandrine, Scientific Editor — 4 min read

A reminder about the structure of the hair.

The hair is biologically dead matter composed of over 80% keratin. The hair fibre (or hair shaft) is made up of 3 different layers:

  1. The most superficial layer is the cuticle which is composed of very flat cells, the scales, that protect the cortex. The cuticle should be closed and permeable with well-aligned and interlocking scales in order to fulfil its protective role. The scales are sheathed by a thin layer of sebum ensuring the shine of the hair shaft.

  2. Next comes the cortex which is composed of several layers of long pigmented keratin cells, bonded together by intercellular cement. This cement ensures the cohesion of the cells and the impermeability of the hair.

  3. Finally, the deepest layer corresponds to the medulla which does not have specific physiological properties.

However, the hair is alive at the level of the scalp. Just like the skin, the scalp is composed of 3 overlapping layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between the visible part of the hair, which is dead matter, and the scalp, which is made up of hair follicles, sebaceous glands and is richly vascularised.

The effects of chlorine on hair.

The chlorine found in swimming pool water has detrimental effects on the skin as well as the hair. Indeed, it strips the hair fibre, promoting the lifting of the scales at the cuticle level, which can no longer perform their protective function. As a result, the hair becomes brittle and rough.

Furthermore, chlorine alters the natural colour of hair : dark hair may lighten and blonde hair may develop green tints. In the case of frequent swimming, chlorine weakens the horny layer of the skin on the scalp causing irritations, dryness and dehydration.

How to protect your hair at the swimming pool?

In order to mitigate the harmful effects of chlorine on your hair, we recommend the use of a silicone swimming cap which is more watertight than those made of fabric. If you prefer not to use one, tie your hair up, opting for a high hairstyle such as a bun for instance, to limit the contact between the chlorine and your hair.

In this scenario, remember to protect your hair from UV rays! Just like the skin, hair gets damaged when exposed to the sun. Therefore, apply a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protective oil to your hair or wear a hat.


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