The sun, heat, and humidity can all have adverse effects on one’s delicate strands regardless of whether they have been dyed (chemically treated) or not, but when it comes to dealing with dyed hair, nothing affects it quite like chlorinated water (the pool) and/or saltwater (the ocean).
But, alas, your bestie just invited you to their weekend pool party and you really want to go (even though you just dyed your hair). Or, perhaps, you’re looking to change up your hair color but aren’t sure how swimming in the ocean (saltwater) will affect that. Either way, the specific question you’re pondering is probably something along the lines of how long after dying my hair can I swim? … Do I even need to wait?
While one may be tempted to jump on that invite (and into the pool) or don’t want to delay the ocean swim routine, one will want to wait at least 3 to 7 days- depending on the hair dye (permanent vs semi-permanent)- before getting in the pool or ocean after dying the hair.
Salt and chlorine can both cause hair dye to fade. Thus, your just dyed hair is not [immediately] ready for chlorine and/or salt (i.e the pool and/or ocean)- you will need to wait a bit to preserve the longevity of the color (and to not end up wasting money).
Permanent hair dye has chemicals in it- such as those that give one’s hair the permanent color of their choice- that when mixed with the chlorine can cause a reaction that will most likely yield unwanted results.
These unwanted results include the color fading and/or being completely ruined, and, in some cases, damaging the hair itself. Thus, if one has dyed their hair with permanent hair dye, they will need to wait at least 7 days (1 week) before getting in the pool or ocean (though it is recommended to check with your stylist as well just to be sure).
Semi-permanent hair dye does not use the same type of chemicals (i.e. they aren’t as strong) as permanent hair dye. Thus, if one has colored their hair with semi-permanent hair dye, they will need to wait only 72 hours (3 whole days) before getting in the pool or ocean.
Again, it is recommended to check with your stylist to be sure of the wait time for your particular hair dye to avoid any potential adverse effects of the chemicals in the dye coming in contact with chlorine or salt on your hair.
Though there is a waiting period before getting back into the pool or ocean water after dying your hair and the harsh effects of both types of water are felt a little bit more with dyed hair, with a good hair hygiene/moisturizing routine, and some pre-swim hair care steps, one can easily help prevent damage to dyed hair that can result from prolonged exposure to chlorine/saltwater and keep their dyed locks looking healthy. (Source A) (Source B)
Recap: to allow time for the pigments of the hair dye as well as the other chemicals in hair dye to set in your hair, it is best to wait [a minimum of] 3 to 7 days after dying your hair before you go swimming- whether it be your next open water training swim (i.e. saltwater/ocean) or your bestie’s pool party (i.e. chlorinated water)
Also check out What Happens if You Do Not Wash Your Hair After Swimming?!
- Does Ocean Water Ruin Dyed Hair?
- Does Chlorine Ruin Dyed Hair?
- Do Swim Caps Keep Hair Dry?
- How Do Swimmers Protect Their Hair?
- How Do I Take Care of My Hair After Swimming?
Does Ocean Water Ruin Dyed Hair?
The sun is not the only thing that can leave hair dry and/or damaged after a day at the beach/in the ocean. In addition to the UV rays that can damage one’s delicate strands, the ocean (salt) water can also damage it- particularly dyed strands (hair).
Spending lots of time in salt water can fade/change the color of one’s hair, especially when it has been dyed. The salt crystals in ocean water wick moisture away from both the hair and skin which can leave both hair and skin dehydrated and feeling dry.
Saltwater, especially constant or overexposure to it, can leave dyed hair feeling coarse (rough), looking frizzy, and brittle/more susceptible to breakage and split-ends. And, regardless of whether one’s hair is dyed or not, prolonged overexposure to saltwater can result in irreversible damage to their hair.
For this reason, one should shower/rinse their hair as soon as possible after swimming in the ocean. Also, to minimize the harsh effects the saltwater can have on dyed hair, one will want to wait a minimum of 3 to 7 days- pending whether permanent dye or semi-permanent dye was used- after dying their hair before swimming in the ocean. (Source A) (Source B)
Does Chlorine Ruin Dyed Hair?
Chlorine is a chemical used [in small amounts] in pools to help kill bacteria and disinfect the water, thus keeping the pool water clean and sanitary. While chlorine is great for killing germs and keeping things sanitary, it is not so great for recently dyed hair (or hair in general).
Chlorine enjoys bonding to other elements, particularly metallic substances such as sodium, potassium, and copper. So, when it enters the pool water, if any of those substances are present, the chlorine will bond with it/them and turn them into salts. These salts are what in turn causes one’s hair and skin to dry out.
Chlorine will also attach itself directly to one’s hair and skin. When it does this it will draw out the natural moisture in the hair which will, in turn, cause the structure of one’s strands (hair) to break down. Thus, over time, hair becomes dry and brittle leaving it feeling coarse and more susceptible to breakage/split-ends. When it comes to dyed hair, the chlorine will also bond with the artificial color/chemicals in the hair dye and draw out the color rather quickly.
When chlorine bonds with copper it creates a chemical substance that is marked by its blue-green color and is ultimately the cause for one’s hair turning a greenish color. Though a greenish tint can occur, it typically doesn’t happen after just one swim, but, rather, can happen over time to those that swim consistently and/or just spend a lot of time in the pool.
When you don’t follow proper precautions, including the allotted wait time after dying your hair, it can lead to some less than desired results. These negative results can be as minor as the hair dye runs into the pool/ocean water and your hair color thereby fades to the more serious of the chemicals in the hair dye react with the chlorine and change your hair color/result in irreversible damage.
Thus, as with dyed hair and ocean water, one will want to maintain hair hygiene and moisturizing routine and shower/rinse off as soon as possible after getting out of the pool. Also, one will want to assure they wait the recommended 3 to 7 days, depending on whether they dyed their hair with permanent or semi-permanent hair dye, before getting in the pool to swim. (Source A) (Source B) (Source C)
Do Swim Caps Keep Hair Dry?
A common misconception regarding swim caps is that they keep hair dry. Though swim caps fit snuggly and may appear like they would keep water out/your hair dry, this is not true/the case. Swim caps were not designed to keep hair dry while swimming and are not waterproof; therefore, they will not keep one’s hair [completely] dry.
They were designed with the intention of making a swimmer more streamlined/hydrodynamic (i.e. reduce drag so that one is faster in the water). Secondary to this is that they help to keep long hair out of a swimmer’s face, thereby, increasing their visibility in/under the water.
Though a swim cap fits snuggly, there can still be small gaps/cracks, and water will seep through the tiniest of cracks. Thus, it is pretty much impossible to make a swim cap waterproof- short of an engineering miracle and/or being custom made (specifically fitted to) for one’s head to eliminate any gaps/cracks for water to be able to seep in through.
While a swim cap may not be waterproof, and thereby, will not keep one’s hair completely dry while swimming, it will keep it from getting drenched and act as a physical barrier between one’s hair and the water. This physical barrier between water and hair can help mitigate, or at least reduce, the harmful effects of chlorine and salt on one’s hair.
Additionally, one could double up their swim caps (i.e wear two swim caps) to create a greater seal and additional barrier, thus keeping more water out and keeping it closer to completely dry (but, still not completely dry). If doubling up on swim caps, it is recommended that the outer one be a silicone swim cap. This will help to create a good seal that keeps a decent amount of water out, and thereby, keep one’s hair more dry than wet while adding a layer of protection between the chemicals in pool water or the salt in the ocean water, and one’s hair. (Source A) (Source B)
How Do Swimmers Protect Their Hair?
Those that swim consistently (i.e. with any regularity) will want/need to have a good hair hygiene and moisturizing routine post-swim. In addition to the post-swim hygiene/moisturizing routine for one’s hair, there are some steps swimmers can take before taking to the water for their swim to protect their hair as well.
Some ways for one to protect their hair pre-swim, particularly after dying it, from chlorine and saltwater plus UV rays include:
1- Wet Your Hair (with freshwater)
Rinse your hair with fresh water- via a hose, shower, or sink- before getting in the pool or ocean. This will supersaturate one’s hair. Super-saturating the hair means it won’t be able to absorb as much chlorine/saltwater. That in turn means the color of your hair will be protected as well.
2- Oil (Coconut, Argon, Morrocan- whatever your preference is)
Chlorine as well as the salt in the ocean water and UV rays from the sun can dry hair out, particularly hair that has been dyed. Applying oil to your hair can create a protective barrier between your hair and the chlorine water/saltwater and sun; thus, reducing their effects on one’s recently dyed hair. Apply a couple of drops of your preferred oil to your hands and then apply to hair evenly- make sure every strand gets some. For the maximum protective effect of the oil, it is best to apply your chosen oil after your pre-swim hair rinse/shower.
3- Sunscreen for Hair
It may seem odd or silly, but it really is a thing- putting sunscreen on hair. Spray UVA/UVB sunscreen on your hair or use hair products that have UVA/UVB protection. This will help protect it and the pigment of the hair, whether it is the natural pigment or dyed pigment, from the harmful effects of UV rays. A bonus, it also helps protect it from chlorine and salt too. Check out our recommended hair sunscreen (Amazon Link)
4- Swim Cap
Though a swim cap will not keep hair dry, it can minimize the harsh effects the pool and ocean water can have on hair. A swim cap helps add another barrier between hair and the water; thus, helping to protect it- particularly if it has recently been dyed. Most swim caps are rubber/latex, but they are also made of silicone and lycra as well. (Source A) (Source B) (Source C)
We also highly recommend that you check out our post Different Ways Hard Water Affects Hair: How to Address Them!
How Do I Take Care of My Hair After Swimming?
Both chlorine and saltwater are harsh on hair (and skin)- particularly dyed hair. Thus, it is important to shower/rinse off, particularly one’s [dyed] hair, immediately after a swim in the pool/ocean (or at least as soon as possible after one’s swim).
Because prolonged (constant) exposure to chlorine and/or saltwater can result in irreversible damage to the hair- particularly dyed hair, rinsing it (showering) with freshwater is important. Taking this step removes any chemicals/salt from the water as well as other dirt, sand, and debris that have stuck to your hair.
As part of one’s shower/rinse-off routine, there are a few different types of products that swimmers can (and should if they don’t already) use regularly to keep their hair – dyed or not- healthy despite constantly being in the water.
Some of the products that can help repair damage to as well as protect hair, particularly hair that has been dyed, include:
One way to protect hair is through cleansers specifically designed to remove chlorine and saltwater from hair. There are several on the market- one can do a quick google search/research to find one that would be best for them/their hair. Some cleansers act as your shampoo/conditioner while others are a separate product/step in one’s hair hygiene routine. Check out our recommended product (Amazon Link)
2- Sulfate-Free Shampoo & Conditioner (specifically for colored hair)
Using a shampoo and conditioner that is specifically designed for colored (dyed) hair (and free of sulfates) will help to hydrate the hair, thereby, putting back some moisture. Shampoo and conditioner specifically designed for colored (dyed) hair also help to restore the color and shine of one’s hair; thus, bringing it back to life/keeping it vibrant looking.
3- Deep Conditioner
In addition to your normal shampoo and conditioner routine post-swim, be sure to use a deep conditioner (also known as a hair mask and/or leave-in conditioner). This step will provide your hair with an extra dose of moisture and nourishment that is long-lasting. It also provides a protective barrier around one’s strands to help block things that can cause them to become dry, brittle/weak, and dull. (Source A) (Source B) (Source C) (Souce D)