With the weather heating up and the season for trips to the beach and pool upon us, if you’re natural, there’s probably one thing on your mind: What are you supposed to do with your hair? Although the days of us using chemical relaxers and straighteners may be behind us, as black women, swimming has always been a bit of struggle. And with your newfound natural curls and delicate coils, it’s hard to know where to start. Here’s the good news: You can absolutely go swimming with natural hair. The key is knowing how to do it right.
Before we jump into the pre and post swim treatments for natural hair, it’s important to understand exactly what is happening when you’re immersed underwater with your natural tresses. There are two main circumstances you’ll generally find yourself in when you’re swimming with natural hair. Either you’re swimming in a pool or at the beach. In a pool, your main area of concern is chlorine. If you’ve ever struggled with hair that is dry and brittle after a day at the pool, it is because of chlorine. Chlorine strips hair of its natural oils and minerals that allow it to thrive. By swimming with natural hair daily in chlorinated water, hair will inevitably become brittle and prone to breakage. At the beach, while you don’t have to worry about chlorine, instead it’s the high content of salt in ocean water that can cause some damage to your natural hair if you’re not careful. Salt can be notoriously dehydrating and if not remedied, it can leave your hair looking fragile, dry, and dull.
The main thing you want to keep in mind as you’re heading off to the pool or beach with natural hair is, you want to make sure you’re keeping your hair moisturized and supple. Swimming with natural hair has a bad rap for hair that is dry and brittle, however, if you know the proper precautions and maintenance tips this shouldn’t be a problem. YES you can go swimming with natural hair. You just need to know what to do:
Pre-Swim Natural Hair Prep
1. Hydration is key. Almost any and every situation you may encounter with your natural hair can be remedied with hydration. When swimming with natural hair, hair that is already sufficiently hydrated will absorb less pool water which means absorbing less chlorine. To achieve really hydrated hair that will withstand a long pool session, you want to hydrate the hair in layers. A great way to ensure to do this is to start with moisture followed by a light coating of oil and topped with a thick conditioning mask. This method will not only help keep your hair hydrated but will also act as a barrier between the chlorinated pool water and your natural hair.
2. Wear a swim cap. Now, before you tell us how your big curly fro could never fit, hear us out! You should only be wearing a swim cap after you’ve done the three layer hydration method. Although your hair is covered, swim caps aren’t always air tight so you want to make sure your hair is prepped in the event some water slips inside. With this hydration method, your hair will be significantly easier to manage at this point because it will be slick and wet. Tuck your natural curls into a swim cap to minimize the damage that chlorine and salt water may have while your swimming with natural hair.
Post-Swim Natural Hair Maintenance
1. Apply a protein treatment. To be honest, a protein treatment is a great preventative method to help strengthen the hair. You should be doing protein treatments in the months leading up to swimming season so that your hair is in the best condition possible. However, after swimming, protein treatments are a great way to help strengthen damaged hair. As you head into the swimming months, make sure you add protein treatments to your hair routine once or twice a month using a hydrating treatment like the Urbanbella No. 14 Organic Coconut Cream Repair Mask. This protein treatment is full of nourishing ingredients like coconut oil, honey extract, and protein to condition and protect the hair while repairing damage.
2. Immediately rinse hair with clean water. The key to combating the damage that pool and ocean water is known for is making sure to remove it from the hair as soon as possible. The moment you step off the beach or out of the pool, you want to rinse the hair and shampoo. If you’re a daily swimmer, limit your shampoo sessions to twice a week and use a non lather cleanser after every swim.
3. Limit styling. When it comes to styling your natural hair after swimming, less is more. Air drying is the best option as heat drying actually works against swimmer’s hair. Even if you’re attempting a wash and go, be sure to let the hair air dry. You can even try to go without styling some days as well. After hair has been rinsed and cleansed, apply a hydrating conditioner like the Urbanbella No.4 Hydrating Conditioner and let it sit. If you feel like you need an extra boost, add some of the Urbanbella No.9 Hair Shine Butter on top for a flawless finish. This allows your hair to breathe and rejuvenate itself in between your swim and styling sessions.
Great article. Really good information!!
Thank you Michelle! What is your favorite way to keep your curls protected when swimming?