Once it warms up, SWIMMING moves to the top of my list of Things to Do during my downtime. But now since I’ve gone natural, I have had to put some thought into how to prevent chlorinated water from damaging my natural hair. Here are the recommendations I created and followed last summer that saved my hair and my sanity.
BEFORE Swimming in a Chlorinated Pool
Get wet and wear an “old school” swim cap
Before you take that first dive into a chlorinated swimming pool, go ahead and rinse your hair really well. Once you get in the pool, your hair should already be wet. This helps slow down the absorption of chlorine. Consider this: your hair is like a sponge, and will take on less (chlorinated) water when it’s already wet. Also, consider using a latex or silicone swim cap. I know that it won’t block the water completely – and isn’t the most fashionable looking pool accessory – but again, it slows down the process of allowing chlorinated water to dry out your beautiful natural hair.
AFTER Swimming in a Chlorinated Pool
Grab the Baking Soda or Apple Cider Vinegar. You’re gonna need one of them.
Have you ever noticed that when you step out the pool, shower, and dry off. . you STILL smell chlorine? Well, that’s because chlorine, unlike dirt, sweat, and general funk doesn’t just wash and rinse off. It’s a chemical that requires a little more work to get rid of. Once you’re done swimming for the day and do an initial shampooing of your natural hair, apply baking soda to your hair. Leave it for 5 minutes or so, to let the baking soda do what it does to your refrigerator odors. Absorb it. You can then rinse the baking soda out.
Apple cider vinegar is also a natural and cost-effective option to get chlorine out of your beautiful curly locks. Just add one part apple cider vinegar to four parts water and pour it over freshly washed hair. Then, do a final rinse.
It’s time to Deep Condition. . Again
Baking soda and apple cider vinegar act as clarifiers. So, once you rinse either option out, use your regular conditioning shampoo and conditioner, and if you follow the same natural hair treatment that I do then this is when you use the L.C.O. Method. Either way, take your time and remember to massage your scalp because the chlorine dries our your natural hair AND your scalp.
When you’re done cleaning, rinsing, clarifying, conditioning, and “sprucing” up your beautiful natural hair, do me a favor. Let it air dry. Your hair is going to still be vulnerable from being exposed to chlorine and from the steps you had to take to remove it. Don’t reach for the hair dryer or flat iron just yet.
Now, get out there, Sis. Show them that Black Girls swim, too!
A new study released by Johns Hopkins Medicine researches the association between hair loss and popular hairstyles in the African American community. It suggests that there is a strong association between certain scalp-pulling hairstyles, that are extremely common in the natural hair community, and the development of traction alopecia. This study is a huge deal, sisters, because Traction Alopecia is responsible for hair loss in one-third of black women.
I’ve been having alot of discussions with other Naturalistas and watching this discussion closely because many of the hairstyles that are identified as damaging are Protective Natural Hairstyles that women with natural hair frequently wear. And what brought me into the conversation was a comment that one of New2Natural’s followers posted in response to my Natural Hairstyles Top 10 List for May 2016 post. She was interested in the flat twist updo hairstyle that was feature, but was concerned that the hairstyle could cause her to have alopoecia.
And I take Natural Hair care SERIOUSLY. Not only do I enjoy wearing my natural hair, but I’m a Natural Hair Ambassador that is constantly taking in new knowledge and sharing knowledge about natural hair to my friends, family, and really, anyone who will listen. So, I started researching hair loss and Alopecia [since she mentioned it specifically] and how the natural hairstyles we wear and love may be causing long-term damage to our hair (and scalp).
What Exactly is Alopecia?
Alopecia is more of a generic term for hair loss, but the kind of Alopecia that’s referenced in this particular hot topic is Traction Alopecia.
This is a small or localized hair loss area caused by repetitive or persistent pulling or traction on hair roots. Tight braids and ponytails can pull hard enough on hairs to make them fall out. If this happens, it’s best to choose hairstyles that put less tension on hair. The sooner this is done the better to avoid permanent damage.
Even if you have never suffered from Traction Alopecia, I know you’ve seen/heard of someone who gets teased for balding edges. Yes. That’s Traction Alopecia, too.
Here’s a Summary of the Johns Hopkins Study’s Findings
In their research review, assistant professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Crystal Aguh and her colleagues categorize hair practices into low-, moderate- and high-risk styles based on the degree to which follicles are exposed to tension, weight, heat and hair-altering chemicals, such as straighteners. They review hairstyles applied to natural and the news for naturals is actually not too bad.
Basically, the lowest risk hairstyles are those styles that cause the least tension on hair and those that are used on natural hair. Ha! You don’t believe me? Check out this direct quote from the news release, “Moderate-risk styles, the authors say, include some of the same styles noted to be high risk, but because they are performed on natural, unprocessed hair, they are less likely to result in hair loss. Low-risk styles generally included low-tension styles, such as loose buns, and loose-hanging styles, such as wearing the hair down, as well as practices that decrease the amount of friction on the hair and scalp and avoid chemical relaxers. Aguh and her colleagues say the highest-risk styles include braids, dreadlocks, weaves and extensions, especially when applied to chemically straightened hair.”
Please read the chart closely because it doesn’t match up with the some of the sound bites that have been circulating in the media.
When the Nappi by Nature salon owner in Memphis, TN, PhuCha was interviewed on the topic of natural hairstyles causing hair damage, she said, “We have to remember we have to do everything in moderation. . Just because you wear braids does not mean you can wear them year-round and not give your hair a break,” she said.”
Yasmine Young, who owns Diaspora Salon in Charles Village (Baltimore, BD) said, “It’s usually from weaves or braids pulled too tight and someone has a bald spot. Then, they keep going back to the same style.”
Here’s My Best Advice on the Topic
I agree with the overall view of the researchers.
NATURAL IS BEST
That fact just cannot be denied. All of those perm chemicals that we use to put in our hair to straighten it in a worthless attempt to adhere to a European standard of beauty that has never even acknowledged or includes us is bananas! Those harsh chemicals eat our scalp away and cause our beautiful hair to be really vulnerable to natural. And who needs it?
Yaaaay, natural is best, but we still have to make wise decisions when caring for our natural hair. Allow your hair is “rest” as much as possible. You don’t have to wear a simple wash and go every day, but Good Grief!, at least get to the point where you know what your hair looks like when you clean it, moisturize it, oil it and LEAVE IT ALONE. Try to reduce or avoid updos every once in awhile to allow follicles to recover from stress. And when you decide to get all fancy or just mix up your look, remember to alternate styles.
Look, if you feel like pulling your natural hair into an updo, go for it. But don’t pull it so tightly. . and take it down at the end of the day to release the tension on your hair follicles. And at some point, again, just let it lay free.
And lastly. . and I know this is going to hurt a few feelings. . but I’m not even sorry about it because it will put you in a better position to not walk around here bald. . Lose the weave, sisters! Like, seriously! You have a full head of gorgeous hair. . whether it’s short hair, medium hair, long hair. . you shouldn’t care. It’s YOUR hair. And it’s gorgeous.