You say you’re spending a hot summer day splashing around at the pool? We’re green with envy. No, really, our blond hair is literally turning green at the thought.
We blame the chlorine. And the copper. See, when those two ingredients found in swimming pool water grab hold of your hair, it can cause light locks to seriously Hulk out. And while a green glow may look natural on a really angry giant super-hero, it just makes blond swimmers plain angry.
Jenny Balding, senior stylist at New York’s Cutler Salon and Redken’s grooming and styling expert, says hard metals found in pool water — copper, iron and manganese — are oxidized by the chlorine, and then bond to hair, causing that greenish tint. And tow-heads get the worst of it.
“Blond tones are more noticeable, as the hair is so light and tends to be more porous, so it grabs to the hair more easily,” she says.
The good news is there are steps you can take to keep your tresses looking their best. From pre-water treatments to specialty products to ketchup (yes, you read that right), here’s how to keep from going green.
Start with wet hair. Like, before you dive in. Hit the pool shower room (you know you’re supposed to rinse off first, anyway) and give that hair a good soaking with tap water – even water from a hose is fine (and oddly fun).
Next, Balding says, apply conditioner all over your hair — it acts as a barrier — and clip your hair up or use a swim cap.
One product we like: Philip Kingsley Swimcap, originally developed for the U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swim Team ($32 at philipkingsly.com). It protects blond hair from turning green and protects hair from the drying damage chlorine (and salt for you ocean types) can cause. Keep your swim cap, Esther Williams.
Treat your hair post-swim. You’re in a hurry to get back to work/to happy hour/home in time for America’s Got Talent. Sorry, but you’re gonna need a minute. Stop back by that pool shower and take the time to shampoo and condition your hair.
“Shampoo your hair immediately if you have had it in pool water to prevent maximum damage,” Balding says. “A clarifying shampoo or a shampoo designed for swimmers will remove any chlorine damage, and remember to condition thoroughly after the pool to seal in moisture, as chlorine can be very drying.”
For healthy hair, that should do the trick to staying green-free. If your hair is damaged — or you spend more time swimming than Missy Franklin – use a specialty product.
Ion Swimmer’s Shampoo ($6.99 at Sallybeauty.com), for example, is made to get rid of all that chlorine and mineral buildup from your time in the water. Shampoo Three from Paul Mitchell (at salons) is another one made to prevent and remove chlorine.
It may take a few more minutes to wash and dry, but it’ll be worth not having to cover your lime head in a hat all day, every day, right?
Raid your kitchen pantry. If your hair already has that green swimmer’s tint, a home remedy may get your color back to normal. Ketchup (or tomato juice if you prefer), lemon juice and vinegar are all said to cause chemical reactions that will erase the green right away.
“The red tones and the acid from the vinegar in ketchup help to neutralize the green,” Balding says. “This will help in an emergency if you haven't got a chance get your hands on the appropriate shampoo.”
Once you get home (we don’t recommend trying this one in the pool shower room at the Y), she advises, apply small, equal amounts of ketchup and conditioner to your hair, leaving it on for 10, minutes. Then, rinse with cold water. Repeatedly. We’re not sure which is worse: green hair or smelling like you bathed in eau de Heinz.