“Can I go swimming after dyeing my hair red?” I should have asked this question during the summer of 2016 before finding out the hard way what it meant to take a dip in the pool after getting some color.
I remember the first time I had my hair dyed permanently.
It was right after my second big chop, which was actually a tapered cut, though the front part was shorter than most of the tapered cuts I see.
I had caught a glimpse of a model in a magazine. She had red dye that just blended so well with her dark complexion.
I just had to have the same.
I was in that season where I just wanted to have some fun with my hair.
Having to deal with the effects of regular swimming on dyed hair is one of the biggest challenges that I faced when I decided to become a redhead.
This post has been many years in the making.
Table of Contents
Swimming With Permanent Dye
There are various ways you can get your hair colored.
For people like me who don’t worry a lot about returning to our natural hair color, permanent dyes are right for us.
These are the dyes that change our hair color completely.
There is only one way to return to your natural hair color: chop off the colored hair and allow for new hair growth.
Take caution when asking your stylist to dye your hair.
Don’t settle for just anyone, they have to be well-versed in coloring.
For instance, I wish I had a colorist who had advised me on the use of Olaplex.
This is a treatment that specifically works to strengthen and repair the bonds in our hair.
You also have to know the difference between permanent hair dye and other types like semi-permanent hair dye.
Permanent hair dye opens up the hair cuticles and due to the presence of ammonia and hydrogen peroxide, oxidation occurs causing an irreversible change in the color of your hair.
The dye contains molecules that are permanently attached to the hair structure as a result of oxidation.
One disadvantage of permanent hair color is the fact that it contains very potent chemicals like ammonia and hydrogen peroxide.
These are the ones in charge of altering the pigment of your hair to that of the specific dye you’re using.
My favorites are deep red and burgundy.
What Does Chlorine Do To Dyed Hair?
Chlorine is very reactive and is found in most swimming pools – if not all.
Since hair dyes are made of chemicals, they are bound to react with the chlorine in the water as we swim.
During that summer of 2016, I noticed my dyed hair was becoming lighter the more I swam.
This was mainly because chlorine was acting as a bleaching agent and made my hair color turn to a lighter shade of red.
Not only that, it made my hair lose its shine and also appeared dull.
The amount of chlorine in swimming pools is a lot.
This is because it acts as a disinfectant.
The effect on my dyed hair wouldn’t be as adverse if the water didn’t have a high concentration of this chemical.
At the end of the summer – with many hours spent in the pool – I had different shades of color on my head.
The beautiful, bright, and glowing hairdo I had was long gone.
My hair was a mess for sure.
That is when I started doing more research on what had happened.
I learned that chlorine and hair dye do not mix and if you can avoid swimming with dyed hair, the better.
That not being an option for me, I decided to learn how to control these effects on my colored hair.
Can You Swim After Dyeing Your Hair?
No. Well, at least not immediately.
I honestly think that I got some of the best hair dye advice from the second colorist that I went to.
She said to always wait at least three days before I went plunging headfirst into a pool.
She understood my love for swimming and it always clashed with my other love for dyeing my tresses.
I know how it feels.
You just left the salon feeling renewed with your hair glowing and looking amazing in that color you love so much.
Then the high is short-lived as your bestie calls with news of a fun weekend getaway at a new resort with a pool.
You know it will be lots of fun but there are mixed feelings involved after spending a small fortune on your hair.
Do you go or not?
This has happened to me more times than I care to count.
There is always a reason for me to get my newly-colored hair wet in a pool.
All the restraint in the world has no effect whatsoever, especially after working long hours during the week.
How am I to say no to such offers?
Chlorine ruins freshly-dyed hair completely.
Even if you’re just in the pool for a few hours, the damage will be there for everyone to see.
I still take weekend trips but don’t go into the pool with my dyed hair if three days haven’t passed.
Chlorine is a very reactive chemical and since your hair dye is still fresh, the chemicals it contains are yet to settle well in your hair.
This means when they interact with chlorine, a chemical reaction is bound to happen, resulting in a change in the pigment of your hair.
My favorite color has always been red and I learned a long time ago chlorine turns it into a dull, copper color.
Related Post: How To Protect Your Hair When Swimming Everyday
Can I Dye My Hair After Swimming In The Ocean?
So, you want to dye your hair but have just finished swimming in the salty ocean water.
It’s important to know that it won’t end well if you do it immediately.
The best way is to first get all the salt out of your hair before you can dye your hair.
You should always head to the salon to get it done the right way.
A qualified stylist knows what you need to do to get rid of all the salt.
In a perfect case scenario, they’ll cleanse and deep condition your hair then ask you to come back the following day for color.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Salty water tends to strip the hair of its moisture and natural oils, leaving it brittle and exposed.
When you dye your hair in this state, it causes more damage and results in drier and brittle hair.
Once more, the chemicals in the hair dye will react with the salt and this can have some serious effects on your hair.
What You Need To Know When Swimming With Permanent Hair Dye
Most of us have been dyeing our hair in different shades for as long as we can remember.
For the most part, we know what is important when it comes to maintaining our hair once it’s colored.
You have to cover your dyed hair if you are swimming in chlorinated water.
Chlorine tends to lift the hair dye which is something no one wants.
Invest in a good swim cap to prevent your color from fading too fast.
Recommended Post: Best Swim Cap For Dyed Hair
If your hair is dyed, and you spend a lot of time in the pool or seawater, you’ll need to wash your hair frequently.
Chlorine strips it off leaving your hair dry and dull.
Saltwater can have similar effects on your dyed hair as chlorinated water.
There is a high concentration of salt in the ocean.
To avoid these effects being adverse, wash your hair thoroughly (not just rinsing it) after you leave the beach.
Related Post: How To Get Rid Of Permanent Hair Dye Fast
Swimming With Semi-Permanent Hair Dye
As the name suggests, semi-permanent hair dye is just that – a dye that is not long-lasting.
This means you can have your natural hair color back after some time.
It wears off after a short while and doesn’t cause pigment change to your natural hair.
This type of hair dye doesn’t contain the harsh chemicals – ammonia and hydrogen peroxide – responsible for altering hair color as permanent dyes do.
The dye doesn’t embed itself in the hair cuticle, it simply coats the hair strands and will start fading soon.
The semi-permanent hair dye is suitable for people seeking a short-term color change for their hair.
Not all people want to go all out and alter their natural hair color like me.
Going back to your natural color is very easy since this dye only coats the outer layer of your strands.
Does Semi-Permanent Hair Dye React With Chlorine?
A lady I met at the gym has had a rather different experience from others.
She’s a semi-permanent hair dye enthusiast.
She usually dyes her hair darker shades and sometimes she tries out lighter shades.
What she has learned is that dark semi-permanent dyes aren’t adversely affected by chlorine.
Even if chlorine reacts with the dark dye, it’s not as noticeable.
However, without proper care, it may affect the hair – leaving it dry and damaged.
What chlorine does is fade the color rather quickly.
The one thing she did to help her hair, even more, is to get a good swim cap as opposed to swimming with her hair exposed.
The reaction with lighter shades, however, is different.
People who dye their hair lighter shades will experience some noticeable reaction after chlorine comes into contact with the dye.
This results in dull hair that has lost its luster after a prolonged time in the pool.
Does Seawater React With Semi-Permanent Hair Dye?
Yes, it does – but not as adversely.
Seawater is full of salt which is very potent.
Even though semi-permanent hair dyes contain fewer chemicals than permanent hair dyes, there is still a reaction between the dye and the salt.
This results in a faded color that loses its glow and appeal over a period of time.
The difference with semi-permanent hair dye is that the reaction is gradual.
You start noticing a change in your hair the more you’re in the water with exposed hair.
This effect can be handled if you constantly wash and deep condition your hair at the end of every swimming day.
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This prevents dryness and restores the lost shine and moisture to your hair.
What You Need To Know When Swimming With Semi-Permanent Hair Dye
It is important to have your hair colored a few days before you head out to the beach for a swim.
This gives you time to prepare your freshly-dyed hair for the salty water by deep conditioning it thoroughly, especially if wearing a swim cap is not your thing.
Invest in a good swim cap if you know you’re going to spend a lot of time swimming.
This is one of the best ways of protecting your hair from chlorinated water or seawater.
The sun aids in fading your color.
Getting a sun hat if you intend to be out in the open for long hours is highly recommended.
No need to have your hair dull and boring a few days into your vacation.
Swimming With Bleached Hair
I’ve come across many people at the beach who have bleached their hair.
Some locks looked fresh and others didn’t.
Personally, I’ve never done it but it’s a great way to change up your look every now and then.
The most common one I’ve seen is bleach-blonde hair.
When you bleach your hair, you remove its natural color leaving it lighter than its normal shade.
There are two agents involved here.
You have an alkaline agent responsible for opening up the hair cuticle and getting the strands ready for the alteration.
Then in comes an agent for oxidation that penetrates the hair and strips its natural color, leaving it lighter.
The more the bleaching agent stays on your hair, the lighter it becomes.
The texture of your hair is affected in the process and you may end up with less elastic hair.
Related Post: Bleaching Hair Side Effects: What You Need To Know
What Does Chlorine Do To Bleached Hair?
Chlorine is a very reactive chemical and even though it’s beneficial to the pool, it has the opposite effect on hair.
Bleached hair is lighter than its normal shade.
Lighter colors react with chlorine making the hair appear greenish.
You have to take some precautions if you intend to go swimming regularly in chlorinated water with bleached hair.
Related Post: How To Get Green Tint Out Of Bleached Hair
Does Bleached Hair React With Salty Water?
Bleaching alters the structure of your hair, leaving it vulnerable if not properly cared for.
The effect seawater has on bleached hair is that it makes it very dry and brittle after stripping it of its moisture and natural oils.
You have to wash your hair with shampoo to remove all the salty water as soon as you can.
It shouldn’t dry in your hair.
Rinsing it alone won’t do the trick either.
Follow this up with a deep conditioner and a leave-in conditioner to add moisture and oils back into your hair.
Recommended Post: Best Leave-In Conditioner For The Beach
Remember bleaching changes the hair structure and more care is needed to keep it healthy and strong.
What You Need To Know When Swimming With Bleached Hair
If you can wear a swim cap, please do.
Keep the salty or chlorinated water out of your hair as much as possible.
You can opt to apply a leave-in hair conditioner before heading out for a swim.
This will offer it more protection against the effects of salty or chlorinated water.
Additionally, you have to wet your hair with clean cold water before jumping into the pool or heading into the ocean.
This helps your hair not to absorb too much chlorine or saltwater when it comes into contact with it.
Swimming With Highlighted Hair
When you highlight your hair, you change the natural pigment of strands using a hair lightener or color.
It can be done on all types of hair, including chemically-treated hair.
This means you don’t color all the hair, just some strands.
For most people, highlighting is one way to make their hair appear fuller.
It’s also preferred by people with graying hair as a way of changing the gray pigment of the new growth – especially when it’s singular strands.
Hair highlights are the preferred option for those who want to have a fun look but not alter the color of their hair too much.
Not everyone is an avid fan of the complete color change.
Highlights remain on the strands and barely touch the base of the hair.
Highlights can be more than one color or shade.
You don’t have to settle for only one.
Consult a colorist who knows how to blend different colors and let them work some magic on your hair.
Related Post: How To Highlight Hair At Home Yourself
What Does Chlorine Do To Hair Highlights?
As we had discussed earlier, chlorine is a bleaching agent and does have an effect on your hair.
Pool water also has copper in it that collaborates with chlorine to oxidize and change the color of your highlighted hair to green.
Most highlights are blonde and with continuous swimming, you tend to note the color change in your hair.
It may also have a fading effect on highlights that are not blonde.
Faded hair looks very unnatural and tends to be dull and dry.
Does Highlighted Hair React With Salty Water?
Seawater has a lot of salt in it.
It may not have the same effect as the chlorinated water that can turn your blonde highlights green.
However, it will have an effect on the hair nonetheless.
Salty water is very harsh and will strip the hair of its moisture and natural oils.
One way to prevent this is to use a leave-in conditioner on your hair prior to heading out to the beach.
Related Post: Is A Salt Water Pool Good For Your Hair?
Can You Swim After Getting Your Hair Highlighted?
No. Not straight from your coloring appointment.
Hair highlighters contain chemicals that alter the natural color of your hair strands making them lighter in the process.
When you go swimming with freshly done highlights, you not only ruin a good look but can also cause your hair to discolor.
The chemicals tend to react with chlorine and other minerals like copper in the water.
This will eventually lead to a greenish appearance on the highlights.
On the other hand, darker highlights will start to get discolored.
Now that is just a waste after spending all that time at the salon.
What You Need To Know When Swimming With Highlighted Hair
Whether at the swimming pool or in the ocean, your highlights are bound to feel the effects.
Even if you love being in the pool or ocean, try not to go in with freshly done highlights.
Wait a few days, it won’t kill you.
It’s better than ruining a perfectly good look.
Deep condition your hair prior to swimming to add more moisture to it.
This helps your hair to remain moisturized and healthy even with constant swimming.
This is one way to swim-proof your hair.
You can also run some fresh cold water through your hair before plunging into the pool or ocean.
Dry hair absorbs the chlorine or salt in the water like a sponge, leaving a lot of room for this water to affect your hair.
Add oils like argan oil or coconut oil to it after wetting it to offer more protection.
Lastly, wash your hair as soon as you’re done swimming with a color-safe shampoo to remove all traces of chlorinated water or seawater.
Follow this up with deep conditioning for a few minutes to restore moisture to it.
Dangers Of Swimming With Freshly-Dyed Hair
When you dye your hair – especially with bold and intense shades – there’s a possibility that the color might come off and stain other things.
This can happen if your hair gets wet from chlorine in pools, saltwater in the ocean, or even just regular water.
It’s like when you use a marker on paper, and if it gets wet, the colors can smudge and spread.
The process of dyeing your hair can make it weaker, and when you add exposure to pool chemicals and saltwater in water bodies, the risk of damage increases.
To reduce the risk of color bleeding and staining, it’s recommended to wait for a few days after dyeing your hair before going swimming.
During this time, the color needs a chance to set and become more stable.
By waiting, you reduce the risk of the dye washing out or transferring onto your clothes or anything else your hair touches.
So, remember to be patient after dyeing your hair and give it a few days before diving into the pool or going for a swim in the ocean.
This waiting period helps ensure that your hair color stays on your hair and doesn’t end up on your favorite T-shirt or towel.
Hair Porosity And Color Preservation
If you have colored hair and you plan to swim, it’s important to understand your hair’s porosity.
Hair porosity refers to how easily your strands absorb and retain moisture.
It affects how your hair reacts to water, chlorine in pools, and saltwater in pools or water bodies.
High Porosity Hair
If your hair is overly porous, it behaves like a sponge that quickly takes in water.
So, when you swim, your hair tends to soak up water that has chlorine or salt in it.
This extra absorption can cause your hair color to fade more quickly.
If you’ve done treatments like the use of perms, relaxers, and heat styling appliances, your hair might be highly porous and easier to damage.
This means that when you go swimming, the chemicals in the water can cause more harm to your hair and make the color fade faster.
It’s really important to think about the condition of your hair and the treatments you’ve had before deciding how to swim after dyeing your hair.
If you understand your hair’s porosity well, you can take the necessary precautions to protect your hair color and prevent it from fading too soon.
Low Porosity Hair
If you have low porosity hair, it’s like a sponge that doesn’t absorb as much water.
Therefore, when you swim, your locks don’t soak up as much water.
When you go swimming, this can actually be a good thing for your hair color.
Since your hair doesn’t soak up as much water, there’s a reduced risk (unlike high porosity hair) for the color to get diluted or washed out by chlorine or saltwater.
This helps your hair color stay vibrant and last longer.
However, you still need to be careful and take all the precautions discussed in this post.
Use The Right Products
Regardless of your hair’s porosity, using special hair products made for colored hair is super helpful before and after swimming.
These products are designed to make your hair color last longer.
They have special ingredients that seal the outer layer of your hair, called the cuticle, which keeps the color from fading.
Color-safe products also protect your hair from the sun’s harmful UV rays, which can make the color fade faster.
Recommended Post: Best UV Protection For Color-Treated Hair
Incorporating these specialized products into your hair care routine is an effective strategy for maintaining the vibrancy and beauty of your hair color over an extended period.
By utilizing these products specifically formulated for colored hair, you can preserve the richness and intensity of your chosen hue, ensuring that it stays vibrant and lustrous for a prolonged duration.
Hair Texture And Color Fading
Hair texture is categorized as straight, wavy, curly, or coily.
Coarse hair – which is thicker and has a larger diameter compared to fine hair – tends to have higher porosity.
This means it is at a greater risk of color fading and damage when it comes into contact with swimming pools or saltwater.
The chemicals in the pool or saltwater can easily enter the hair shaft and affect the dye, leading to the color fading or even altering gradually.
This does not mean that fine hair is exempt from potential harm.
Fine hair is delicate and can also be easily affected by the harsh elements present in swimming pools or saltwater.
This can result in dryness, brittleness, and an increased risk of breakage.
Scalp Sensitivity And Swimming
Some people have scalps that are more sensitive.
This means that their hair and scalp can become uncomfortable or dry when they swim in pools or saltwater.
If your scalp is sensitive and feels uncomfortable or dry after swimming, it’s crucial to take extra steps to keep your hair and scalp safe and healthy.
Before you take a dip in the pool or ocean, it’s important to rinse your hair thoroughly with fresh water.
Wetting your hair will create a barrier between your locks and the pool or saltwater.
Your hair will be less likely to absorb as much pool chemicals or saltwater, which can be drying and damaging to your strands.
Some of us enjoy altering the natural appearance of our hair whether by dyeing, bleaching, or highlighting.
It’s important we learn the effect that chlorinated and seawater have on such altered hair.
Knowledge is power and once we know, we can take the necessary steps to combat or even prevent these effects.
You don’t have to miss your swimming sessions or not go into the ocean during summer because you’re worried about your colored hair.
It’s important to know how to protect hair when swimming regularly to avoid having chlorine-damaged hair.
It’d also be good to look for the best shampoo for swimmers with color-treated hair to protect the hair dye.
If you’ve just dyed, bleached, or highlighted your hair, remember you have to take some time before plunging in the pool or ocean.
This is the best way to reduce the chances of ending up with dry and damaged hair because of exposure to chlorine or saltwater.