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. 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.
1. 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). Then, start slathering on the conditioner. Find one with SPF? Even better. Products like the Philip Kingsley Swimcap, originally developed for the U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swim Team ($32 at philipkingsley.com), protect 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.
Why pre-treat? The conditioner acts as a barrier to the pool water, protecting your locks, without leaving a gross residue in the water. (Actually, don’t even think about the gross residue you’re likely to come into contact with in the pool. Really. Erase it from your mind.)
2. 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. 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?
3. Raid your kitchen pantry. If your hair already has that green swimmer’s tint, there are a few home remedies that 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. So, once you get home (we don’t recommend trying this one in the pool shower room at the Y), squirt or pour enough of the condiment of your choice (um, you may need help here) all over your hair, let it soak in and then rinse. Repeatedly. We’re not sure which is worse: green hair or smelling like you bathed in eau de Heinz.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.