Summer has arrived, the weather is warm and the days are long. Our “to-do” list is all about being outdoors, working up a sweat in the summer sun, running through the sprinkler beneath blue skies, diving into backyard pools, and jumping in the surf every chance we get. Water, water, water and more water, please.
Watery, summer activities are even more fun when your hair looks more bomb than your cherry bomb. So, what is the best way to care for your summer hair? Protect it from water - whether it’s sweat, chlorinated pool water, hard water in the shower or salt water at the beach. How you care for your hair matters.
Wet Hair is Weak Hair
Water damage occurs when hair is exposed to water for a prolonged period of time. When hair gets wet, the outer protective cuticle layer opens, allowing water to flood the inner cortex of the hair, causing the hair to swell and stretch, making it extra prone to damage and breakage. Open cuticles also lead to frizz and tangles as well as a dull, lifeless look.
Depending on the water you’re playing in, hair reacts differently.
The chemical composition of different types of water will interact with the chemical composition of your hair, causing a unique set of bad-hair-day effects with each water type. The more chemically treated your hair is (colored, bleached, relaxed, etc), the more porous it become, making it more susceptible to water damage. Today we’re breaking down some of the more common types of water, how they can wreak havoc on your hair, and what you can do to protect it before the damage sets in.
Post-pool hair is something most of us can relate to - it’s gummy and tangled when wet and brittle after drying. The main cause for that is chlorine, which strips the hair of its natural moisture. The natural oils in your hair help your hair to be hydrophobic (since too much water is bad for your hair, this is nature’s way of water-proofing). When that natural moisture is stripped, your hair becomes less water-resistant and even more prone to damage. Not to mention, your hair color is at risk as well. Just like with bleach, chlorine will oxidize hair color, causing it to fade faster, as well as adding a green tinge to bleached tresses.
There’s nothing like plunging into the surf headfirst, it’s bracing and exhilarating all at once, and we love the beachy waves from the salt water. But much like chlorine, salt water also removes the natural moisture from your hair and scalp. Salt is hygroscopic, meaning that it easily absorbs moisture (think about how thirsty you get after eating salty food), leaving your hair yearning for moisture. A healthy pH for your hair is about 4.5-5.5. Having a balanced pH keeps your cuticle smooth and closed and protects the inner cortex of your hair. Ocean water has a pH of around 8, so as your hair drifts up to an alkaline pH of 8 when you’re swimming in the ocean, the cuticle will open, leading to damage, frizz and tangles.
HARD WATER (Surface Water or Well Water)
Depending on where you live, the water you’re exposed to when you shower can be classified as hard water. Hard water is rich in mineral deposits like calcium and magnesium, which affects hair by causing build-up that’s hard to cleanse from the hair with normal shampoo, especially ones that are gentle and sulfate-free. Build up clogs your hair, making it feel dull, limp and frail, and is often more difficult to style and can look discolored. Hair that is treated is also more susceptible to damage from hard water, because of the chemical relationship between the minerals and treated or damaged hair.
Hard water is the most challenging to avoid since tap water in many areas is rich in mineral deposits. Here’s how various minerals affect your hair:
Calcium: Clogs hair at the mouth of the follicle, causing it to break and block new hair growth
Copper: Weighs hair down
Iron (Usually found in well water): Weighs hair down, gives hair an orange tint, creates an excessive dry feeling
Magnesium: Leaves hair feeling dry and weighed down
So, how can enjoy every lake, pool, outdoor shower and ocean you want to this summer and protect your hair? Prevent damage before it happens.
Summer is here, dive right in!
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