With summer in full swing, Miami residents are rushing to local beaches and swimming pools to find cool relief from the rising temperatures of July and August. Spending too much time in chlorinated water can be bad for your skin and hair, however. This week, the Miami Hair Blog explores the science behind chorine-induced hair damage and the ways it can be prevented.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Chlorine, Hair Damage, and Health
Though common in most public and private swimming pools, chlorine is a corrosive chemical that many health experts say is bad for human health, particularly the skin and eyes. Chlorine has an oxidizing effect that may cause dryness and irritation after prolonged exposure. In some cases, chlorine exposure may lead to the formation of hypochlorous acid, a substance known to penetrate cells and destroy them from the inside (i).
However, low concentrations of chlorine are highly effective in keeping swimming pools sanitary. In summer months, swimming pools are among the primary cause for chlorine exposure in humans. Though encountered in low concentrations, chlorinated pool water still has the potential to cause serious harm to the hair, skin, and eyes.
Stay healthy this summer by taking a moment to review these frequently asked questions about chlorine, hair damage/ loss, and health.
Does chlorine cause hair loss?
No. Normal exposure to chlorine does not cause hair loss. This myth was debunked after a study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Dermatology. In the study, researchers compared the hair of 67 professional swimmers to that of 54 individuals who spent little to no time in the pool. Although swimmers’ hair exhibited signs of chlorine-induced damage (i.e. dryness and coarseness), swimmers were not significantly more likely to experience hair loss.
However, there is evidence that suggests abnormally high exposure to chlorine might cause the scalp to become agitated, dry, and flaky. Thinning or shedding might occur as a result, but it’s important to understand that the chlorine exposure needed to bring about such side effects far exceeds that of a normal swimming pool.
Will chlorine change the color of my hair?
No. According to chemist and biologist Anne Helmenstine, Ph.D., chlorine does not change the color of one’s hair. Although prolonged pool-time might give hair a greenish tint, the discoloration is actually due to the oxidized metals in the water, like copper (ii). However, color treatments and chlorine might make it easier for hair to turn green.
As mentioned above, one of the primary side effects of chlorine exposure is that it causes dryness and irritation. When paired with hair treatments and dyes, hair can become extremely dry, porous, and brittle. Once porous, hair is primed to absorb more copper and other chemicals that cause discoloration.
Can I reduce the damage chlorine does to my hair?
Yes. Many people are surprised to know that chlorine damage can be significantly reduced simply by wetting hair with fresh water prior to getting in the pool. Strands of hair have the amazing ability to absorb moisture, much like a sponge. By thoroughly rinsing hair with fresh water prior to entering the pool, you make it more difficult for hair to absorb chlorinated water while swimming (iii).
Is chorine-related hair loss/damage reversible?
Yes. The most common way that chlorine damages hair is by making it dry and porous, which may lead to discoloration. To reverse the damage, be sure to thoroughly wash and rinse hair after each swim session. Use ample amounts of shampoo to remove all chemical traces, and finish your post-swim wash with a protein-enriched conditioner that will replenish the hair’s natural moisture. For those who have color-treated hair, special shampoos and conditioners are available to minimize discoloration.
Chlorine and Hair Loss: Schedule an Evaluation Today
Along with chlorine damage, there are a variety of other factors that can contribute to hair loss. Stress, genetics, and other lifestyle choices might each play a causal role. If you experience hair loss this summer, contact our Institute to learn more about surgical and non-surgical restoration techniques that will have you looking your very best, fast.
The Hair Transplant Institute of Miami is home to South Florida’s top hair transplant surgeons. For more information on our clinic, staff, and hair loss treatments, please call 877-443-9070.
(i) “The Facts About Chlorine.” New York State Department of Health. Accessed 22 July 2013.
(ii) “Why Does the Pool Turn Blond Hair Green?” About.com. Accessed 22 July 2013.
(iii) “How to Keep Hair from Wrecking Hair, Skin and Swimsuit.” ABC News. Accessed 22 July 2013.