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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 turns out to 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 hair.

The hair is biologically dead matter composed of over 80% keratin. The hair fiber (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 to ensure 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 that are 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 consists of hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and is richly vascularized.

The effects of chlorine on hair.

The chlorine found in swimming pool water has detrimental effects on the skin as well as on the hair. Indeed, it strips the hair fiber, 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 color of hair : dark hair can lighten and blonde hair can develop greenish tints. In the case of frequent swimming, chlorine weakens the horny layer of the scalp's skin causing irritations, dryness and dehydration.

How to protect your hair at the pool?

In order to mitigate the harmful effects of chlorine on your hair, we recommend using a silicone swim cap which is more impermeable than those made of fabric. If you do not wish to use one, tie your hair up in a high hairstyle such as a bun, for example, 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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