So I swim about once or twice a week - a major reduction in comparison to my 12+ hours per week I used to spend in a swimming pool during my middle and high school days. My reduced stints in the pool with the Unsyncables (I do synchronized swimming!) is a blessing AND a curse. I am happy that I can wear different hairstyles now and not worry about the daily havoc chlorinated water can wreak on your hair. Then again, for 'delicate' hairstyles like a twist-out, any type of heavy water saturation can ruin those formed curls and waves! then what do you do? Re-do your hair after you spent the previous two days primping and priming for an eventual twist out that you were hoping would last the week? I find it funny how I have to plan my life around my hair - especially for those evenings where there is comb-out long over-due or a four hour henna treatment that needs to be done. I am not upset about how I have to accommodate my hair needs daily, weekly, and monthly because I understand the level of care that is involved. It's usually easy to anticipate when I will have practice in the pool (usually every sunday and occasionally on tuesdays) but I am sometimes presented with the dilemma of going out on a saturday night and doing a twist out but then knowing that the twist-out will be gone by Sunday morning when I jump in that pool! So this past weekend I took a chance and kept in mind some tips to maintain and take care of natural hair while swimming (tips courtesy of Hair Liberty)
If possible, rinse your hair with tap water before you get in the pool
I read about this tip when I read the The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care and the science behind it make a lot of sense. Saturating your hair with regular water is less harmful than if you hair is saturated with chlorinated water. It is also easier to remove the chlorine from your hair when you shampoo and condition after swimming.
Don't wear a swim cap if it pulls too tightly or rips out your hair at the hairline.
For those of us that swim with swim caps, I highly recommend a fabric, lycra-based swim cap like a TYR Lycra Swim Cap or a silicone swim cap (the Speedo Silicone Swim Cap lasts a long time) - both caps don't tug or tear out hair, especially the hair around the hairline. I prefer the soft swim caps for comfort purposes and I don't think there is as much friction either. The go-to, cheaper latex swim caps are the ones to avoid if you can. If I ever use a latex swim cap, I flip it inside out so the grooves on the inside don't tear out my baby hairs.
Always use a shampoo that contains EDTA or Phytic Acid...and also use a conditioner every time.
I actually did not know that it was important to have these certain ingredients in your shampoo. Those ingredients help to remove certain minerals and chlorine from your hair. I usually use very organic shampoos and conditioners, my favorite being Alaffia Nourishing Shampoo Shea and Honey which definitely was not helping revitalize my hair post swimming. For the last few months I was wondering why my hair was returning to its old ways - always being so brittle and dry! I started washing my hair with a throw-away shampoo I got from Walmart, Palmer's Olive Oil Shampoo, which fortunately does not contain parabens and sulfates but has EDTA to remove the chlorine from my hair. I finish off with a good DEEP conditioner only because my hair is just naturally dry all the time - chlorine exposure certainly doesn't help! There are also some shampoos and conditioners geared specifically to chlorine removal like Ultra Swim Dynamic Duo Repair Shampoo & Conditioner, but I couldn't find these products anywhere including Target and Walmart.
I kept in mind and followed all these tips when jumping into the pool with my twist out. Post swimming I washed my hair with the appropriate Chlorine-remover shampoo and used a deep conditioner. It also helps that I frequently use this Mesh net cap to wash my hair when I have twists or braids in, so as not to mess them up that much while shampooing and conditioning (you can easilybuy these mesh caps at your local beauty store). I then put in a leave-in conditioner (one I have been lacking for my post-swimming hair care routine for quite some time). I only used it once, but I liked the initial results of using Karen's Body Beautiful Sweet Ambrosia Leave-in Conditioner. The next morning I was happy with the results when I noticed most, if not all of the twist-out was still in tact, although there was more shrinkage from the washing; but it was light and bouncy and didn't feel hard which is what I was primarily concerned about. I'm curious to see if I will be regretting my decision this weekend when it comes time to comb out my hair - hopefully it's not tangled from all that water!