When it comes to hair loss, we start trying to figure out every single reason that might be causing it. And if you are the one, who can’t stay without a good swim in the pool during the summers, then you might be pointing at the chlorine used in swimming pools, as well, as one of the probable culprits! So, is chlorine bad for your hair and leads to hair loss? The answer is both yes and no. While chlorine is not good for the hair, it doesn’t lead to hair loss, and I am not telling this! This is based on the findings of a study in 2000, that was published in the Journal of Dermatology.
So what is chlorine and why is it used in swimming pools? Chlorine is a chemical element that is commonly used as an antiseptic. It helps in making drinking water safe and to disinfect swimming pools. When chlorine is added to a swimming pool, it forms a weak acid called hypochlorous acid. This acid helps kill bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, along with the killing of germs that cause diseases like diarrhoea and the swimmer’s ear.
But unfortunately, there has been a myth that chlorine may be leading to hair loss, which was definitely put to rest by the findings of the study. In this study, a team of researchers examined 67 professional swimmers and 54 non-swimmers, who spent little or no time in the pool. It was found that although 61% of the swimmers exhibited signs of chlorine induced hair damage like hair discolouration, dryness, and coarseness, there was no evidence of more hair loss in the swimmers, than those who didn’t swim.
Now although chlorine does not lead to hair loss, there is enough evidence to suggest that excessive exposure to chlorine might cause irritation to the scalp, making it agitated, dry and flaky, which can lead to some temporary hair loss. Coming to hair discolouration, chlorine cannot be blamed directly. This more often happens because of the copper compounds present in the pool, that are greenish in colour. When these compounds react with chlorine, it can bind to blond colour hair, making it look greenish. Also, for those who go in for a lot of hair treatments and dyes, this further makes the hair more porous, leading to the absorption of more copper and other chemicals, which causes hair discolouration.
All said and done; the good news is that, by using simple preventive measures like wetting your hair thoroughly before entering the pool, you can prevent hair damage to a large extent. Since our hair is spongy in nature, it absorbs the water, making it more difficult for it to absorb chlorinated water during swimming. That is also one of the reasons that most swimmers are advised to take a shower before entering the swimming pool.
So now that there is evidence that chlorine does have some negative effect on your hair, can swimming pools do without it? Well, swimming pools can do without it, but not you! Swimming pools are one of the hubs for germs. From E. coli to parasites like cryptosporidium, if there was no chlorine, then chances are very high that you would keep falling sick pretty often. Obviously, on the other hand, chlorine cannot be used in excess either because if chlorine is used in excess, it might kill all the germs but at the same time, it can increase the episodes of asthma attacks and even cancer!
So to enjoy your swimming sessions without fear of damage to your hair from chlorinated water, here are a few things that you can do:
- Gently massage your hair with olive oil or coconut oil. These oils not only nourish the hair but also effectively coat them, protecting them against chlorine.
- Before entering the pool wet your hair with non-chlorinated water
- After swimming, wash off your hair thoroughly with a good shampoo followed by a protein-rich conditioner.
- Wear a swimming cap
- Avoid dyeing and using other harsh chemicals on hair.
Medically reviewed by Rishabh Verma, RP