Swimming and Black Hair: 7 Helpful Tips You Need to Know

One of the best parts of the summer is feeling the cool water from the ocean or swimming pool on your skin on a sweltering hot day.

But if you’re a black woman who is worried about protecting your hair, you might avoid the water.
Some women try to get in the pool without submerging their hair or getting it wet, but that can be stressful. 

In fact, when your hair accidentally gets wet in the pool, it can feel like this:

black woman swimming in pool with a swim cap

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.

However, there are steps you can take to ensure that your hair stays healthy and beautiful when you swim. 

In this article I will share 7 helpful tips you need to know about swimming and black hair.

#1) Get a Protective Style

You should braid or twist your hair before hopping into the pool or ocean. This will keep your hair from getting tangled, and make caring for your hair after swimming much easier.
If you’re going to be swimming often, consider getting a long lasting style like cornrows.

black woman with protective twists style swimming

#2) Wet Your Hair & Add Conditioner Before Swimming

Our hair is like a sponge. It absorbs the water from the ocean or pool easily. But this is not necessarily a good thing.

Ocean water has a high salt content. This saltwater can be drying for African American hair.

It can strip your hair of its moisture, which can lead to split ends and breakage. 

Pool water is even worse! It’s loaded with chlorine and other chemicals to keep the water clean and pretty. This makes the water look great, but is super harmful to your hair.

To combat this, saturate your hair with water and apply a little bit of conditioner to your hair before getting in the water. 

Since your hair is already wet, it will absorb less of the water that you’re swimming in. 

black woman with natural hair submerged in water while swimming in a back float

#3) Wear a Swim Cap

If you prefer to protect your hair from the water completely, you can wear a swim cap. Back in the day, we had to wear two or even three swim caps to make sure our hair was completely covered. 

And even then, sometimes you would get out of the water and the back of your hair would still be a little wet.

But these days, there are a variety of swim cap options available. There are even swimming caps that are designed specifically for black hair. 

There are satin lined swim caps, turban swim caps, and even XL swim caps that are large enough to fit your knotless braids. We’ve certainly come a long way.

#4) Rinse Your Hair Afterwards

It’s important to rinse your hair after you swim to get rid of any salt and chemicals your hair may have been exposed to.

If you swim frequently, washing your hair with shampoo after every swim may not be a good idea. This can further strip your hair and cause it to be even more dry.

Instead, try rinsing thoroughly and using a conditioner. Co washing does not completely cleanse your hair, but it is a great alternative in this situation. 

If you co-wash on your swim days, be sure to use a clarifying, or even a chelating shampoo at least once a month. These types of shampoos are specifically designed to remove the product and mineral buildup on your hair that can result from swimming.

black woman with natural hair sitting in front of a swimming pool

#5) Deep Condition Your Hair Regularly

Swimming in the hot sun can dry out your hair. Be sure to replenish that moisture with a deep conditioner on a regular basis, about once a week. 

Look for conditioners that have a thick consistency, as opposed to runny. Your deep conditioner should be packed with antioxidants and nutrients, and have moisturizing ingredients like Aloe.

#6) Use the LCO Method

The way you style your hair between swims matters greatly.

You should use the LCO method and moisturize your hair by spraying it with a bit of water, adding a leave-in cream, and then sealing that moisture in with oil when styling your hair for daily wear. 

This will keep your hair soft on days when you’re not in the pool or at the beach.

#7) Be Gentle With Your Hair

If you’re swimming in the summer, this is not the time to dye and relax your hair often, use heat on a consistent basis, or pull it into tight hairstyles. This can cause your hair to be fragile and break off. Let your hair rest and be free.

black woman with natural hair swimming underwater

Swimming or Your Hair: You Don’t Have to Choose Between the Two

Swimming is an enjoyable activity and is great for your health and fitness. 

With all of the amazing professional black women swimmers out there, like Simone Biles, Simone Manuel, and Natalie Hines– just to name a few, there is great representation and inspiration for black women to swim. 

If you follow these tips while you swim during the summer, you’ll be able to enjoy a dip in the pool or ocean, and keep your hair healthy at the same time.

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Brandelyn Green is the Founder of VoiceOfHair, a platform to help women of color find the best hair care products, regimens and hairstyles! Since starting VoiceOfHair in 2014 she has grown the social media platform to over 1MM+ on Instagram and Facebook. As a natural who is also a salon goer, she wanted to create a platform where people could find the best products, hairstylists, advice and trends.
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