With the amount of money, time and effort we pour into our skincare routines, it only makes sense that we slather on the sunscreen when we’re heading outside. But did you know that like our skin, our hair is just as susceptible to damage caused by exposure to harsh UV rays, chlorine and salt water?
Luckily, you don’t need to employ a 10-step Korean skincare philosophy to keep your hard-earned locks healthy while enjoying a swim in summer.
Like you, we love a swim! So we’ve done the hard work and tested out some fool-proof techniques that keep our hair healthy even in the toughest summer conditions. Lazing around by the pool and relaxing at the beach is a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.
In order to protect against the elements, it’s important to understand how some common summer elements can affect our hair, causing it to become dry, extra frizzy, limp and dull.
Salt water: If you’ve ever tried to make the perfect pork crackling, you’ll know that the key is to draw out all the moisture before it goes in the oven. How? By dousing it in salt of course. In the same way, sea salt draws the moisture out of your hair, leaving it dry and crispy (not ideal).
Chlorine: There’s a reason we wear gloves when using harsh chemicals to scrub the kitchen and bathroom. Just like it breaks down unwanted scum and stains, it can also begin breaking down the protective outer layer of your hair strand, called the cuticle. Once again, this means that moisture is more easily drawn out of the hair, leaving it dry, brittle and vulnerable to breakage. Ouch!
UV and heat: In the same way that chlorine can damage your hair cuticle, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays (UV) from the sun can also cause cracks to show. To add insult to injury, hot and dry conditions only accelerate this moisture loss.
Pic: a damaged hair cuticle leaves your hair exposed to the elements and allows moisture to seep out. Credit: Hair Theme.
So what can you do?
Now that we’ve identified the key culprit - moisture loss - here are some simple steps to keep those thirsty curls quenched while swimming in summer!
Think of your hair as a sponge. A dry sponge will immediately soak up whatever liquid you put it in, while a saturated sponge will be less absorbent. Prevent your hair from absorbing as much chlorine or salt water as it normally would by saturating your hair with clean water and applying leave-in conditioner or a deep conditioning treatment masque all over your hair.
If you want to take it another step further, try protective styles like braids (while it’s wet and covered in conditioner) to keep it from moving around too much in the water.
If you plan to swim a lot, consider investing in a swimming cap. Not only will it protect your hair, but it’ll also make you more aerodynamic under the water, allowing you to live out your childhood dreams of becoming a sleek dolphin/mermaid.
Cleanse: Once you’re out of the water, swiftly remove the sea salt or chlorine by washing your hair with a hydrating shampoo or cleanser. Try to not let your hair dry without rinsing it out.
If you can’t find a shower, steal your best friend’s water bottle. Your hair is more important than their 2L/ day water drinking goal.
Condition: Once you’re confident that your hair is completely cleansed, follow it up with a generous amount of conditioner or treatment. Ensure you coat every strand of hair and squish the conditioner into those dry, vulnerable ends. Leave your conditioner in for a few minutes, giving it time to absorb deeply through the hair cuticle and into the shaft of each strand. Finally, rinse it all out and relish in that post-conditioner softness.
Style: Now that your hair has been revived, go ahead and style as normal. Be sure to use moisturising products to inject some hydration back into those thirsty curls.
Section your hair and apply your leave-in conditioner, spreading it through with your fingers or a comb/brush, then scrunch your hair from the ends to activate your curls.
Next, set your curls with your favourite gel (you might even like to add a curling cream in first for added hydration and styling). This locks moisture into the hair and keeps frizz at bay by forming a protective cast around each curl.
Optional - oil: Once your hair is dry, you may choose to add an extra layer of protection and shine using oil. Warm 2-3 pumps of your chosen lightweight hair oil (argan oil or jojoba work well) in your palms before scrunching out the gel cast.
And that's it! You don't have to miss out on those summer beach days, and your hair doesn't have to suffer either! What are your favourite summer hair hacks and products? Share them in the comments below!
When Layla isn’t experimenting with various curly hair products and techniques or creating digital content, you’ll find her at the beach with a good book or on the couch watching The Office for the 17th time. Follow her @layleeeeeee on Instagram.
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