Written By: Eva Pierre-Antoine
1% of registered swimmers at USA Swimming are African-American. Combined with a prevalent stigma and the difficulty to care for natural hair exposed daily to chlorine, many Blacks girls shy away from joining competitive swimming. As a Black girl who swam all of her life with no guidance on how to care for her hair, I have gathered tips and tricks to maintain healthy hair constantly doused in chlorine:
Wet hair before swimming. Put a conditioner on the body of your hair and a moisturizing oil (I use olive oil) on the edges. Make sure to fully saturate the hair to avoid clumps and allow the swim cap to stay on. This is especially important, as a cap sliding off can put unnecessary pressure on hair and create even more breakage.
Make sure to focus on the ends of your hair. If you have super curly hair like me, your hair might curl back and form knots while wet. Try to dry your hair out or do some form of protective style that prevents this from occurring.
Use castor oil before bed to grow back edges. Be careful how roughly you put on your cap, your edges are fragile!
Only shampoo your hair at most twice a week! I recommend you get a specific chlorine-removing shampoo. Even better, get a chlorine shampoo that is moisturizing as well. Personally, I use UltraSwim Shampoo & Conditioner for Swimmers which combines both of these ideal characteristics.
Deep condition your hair once a week. This is especially important as chlorine causes intense breakage. I suggest protein deep conditioners, as protein primarily works to combat this breakage. If possible, balance this protein with moisturizer to get the best of both worlds!
DO NOT be scared to get braids! I grew up with the myth that braids would NEVER fit under my cap and are just too much work for swimmers. But, this is NOT true. As long as the extensions are not too long and the braids are not too thick, braids will be perfect. They can even fit under a regular cap, but if not, do not worry! Bigger caps are designed specifically for braids. Braids are an absolute time-saver, allowing you to simply rinse your hair daily and not have to style hair.
Do not get discouraged. Maintaining healthy hair with chlorine is possible!!
Two miscellaneous Tips that have nothing to do with swimming, but help nonetheless:
Use shea butter to moisturize lips and goggles. Use castor oil, or some other moisturizing oil, to moisturize your face.
Use two coats of lotion for the body. Black skin gets ashy easily, so TRUST me 2 coats of lotion are needed.