There are simple ways to protect hair from chlorine, sun

July 03, 2005|By Katherine Heine | Katherine Heine,NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The summers of Christi Nichols' youth rarely passed without her soft, platinum blond hair turning into a green-tinted mop.

Chlorine damage from hours at the pool and excessive sun exposure can transform healthy hair into a brittle, filmy mess that may last for months. While damage is more apparent in those with blond hair, all hair types and colors take a beating during the hot, humid summer months.

"I remember when I was a little girl, we went out to the pool almost every day," Nichols said. "My hair would get green and slimy, and my mom would have to wash it in lemon juice to get the color back to normal."

Guy McCullough, owner of Salon Adeva in Waco, Texas, said that while salons offer corrective hair treatments, prevention is the most effective way to maintain healthy locks this summer.

Hair's dominant foe during the summer is the combination of chemicals lurking in pools, according to McCullough.

Repeated exposure to chlorine and other drying agents strips hair of its natural oils, causing split ends and dullness. Blond hair turns shades of gray or green, and color-treated or darker hair exudes a brassy hue, when chlorine mixes with copper and other heavy metals found in water.

Wearing a swim cap offers the most protection, but McCullough said using the right blend of high-quality preventive hair products is enough protection for you to avoid sporting a tacky swim cap.

He suggests swimmers rinse their hair before and immediately after taking a dip to prevent chlorine from taking hold. Applying a deep conditioner to hair before diving in also prevents the harsh chemical from absorbing into hair.

"What a lot of people don't know is that chlorine only really becomes a problem when people let it dry in their hair," McCullough said. "It is when you swim for 30 minutes, then lay out for an hour, that [chlorine attaches to hair and] it becomes dried out."

Mahisha Dellinger, president of CURLS, a line of hair-care products developed for multiracial women, recommends that black women avoid such products as hair spray or mousse, which can dehydrate hair further. Instead, choose a finishing lotion to protect against pool chemicals.

"We [blacks] use a lot of oils in our hair, so that keeps our hair moisturized," said J.B. Alexander, owner of Braids and Fades in Waco. "People just need to make sure they wash their hair after they get out of the pool and keep putting oils in their hair."

The sun and other environmental factors, such as wind and sand, are often overlooked as threats to hair's natural sheen. But UV rays, humidity and sand strip hair of essential proteins.

"Water naturally occurs in the hair, and when it is humid and hot outside, it creates a hydrogen peroxide-like effect on your hair," McCullough said. "Color-treated hair fades quickly and all hair types become extremely fragile from drying out. The good thing, though, is that we have many products that sunscreen the hair and keep color, treated or not, from fading."

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