One of my favorite things about the summer is swimming. Whether you’re swimming in an ocean, lake, river or pool, hot weather just begs for a quick dip in cool water! Unfortunately, if you spend a lot of time in the water, you might notice that your hair turns green. It can also create a color cast on darker hair tones, so don’t think your brunette hair is immune to this issue!
Typically we think the culprit is chlorine, and while chlorine contributes to the problem it isn’t actually the issue. When your hair turns green, it is from heavy metals such as copper, which are binding to the proteins in your hair. It is easier for this to happen when the cuticle, the outer coating on your hair, is roughed up due to damage. The heavy metals then oxidize and change colors, oxidized copper is green. If enough metal binds to your hair the effect can be rather dramatic.
Since the culprit is really copper and not chlorine, there’s some bad news. Green hair isn’t seen only with swimming in pools, you can have the same issue with washing your hair in hard water with a lot of copper. As well, you can have green hair after swimming in a salt water pool, since that water can still be hard.
Luckily there are a lot of ways to prevent your hair from turning green, and treat it if the process has already begun!
Remove Metals From Your Water
If you have hard water, you’ll need to treat it to remove the metals from the water, whether that is with a water softener or a specialty water filter. You should also be aware that even if the water in your area is not hard, if you have copper pipes in your home you may also have issues, consider a shower head filter if that is the case.
You hair’s cuticle does a great job of protecting it from the outside world, such as those pesky hard metals. When your hair has been damaged, the cuticle no longer lays flat and it is much easier for the metals to penetrate into the hair shaft where they bind to the proteins.
Exposure to chlorine, sun, harsh shampoos and heat styling all contribute to hair damage. You can protect your hair from further damage by avoiding harsh sun exposure, using a heat protectant before styling, and using a gentle shampoo. Intensive hair treatments such as a hydrating hair mask or Olaplex, which restores bonds within the hair, can both help to reverse damage.
If your main exposure to copper is when you are swimming in a pool, you can prepare before jumping in the pool to minimize the effects on your hair. Decrease the amount of metal that can absorb into your hair by wetting your hair and then applying a leave in conditioner.
When you’ve been swimming quite a bit, you need to remove the metals from your hair before they have a chance to build up too much and become more difficult to remove. Specialty swimmer’s shampoos are able to remove these metals while being gentle and not stripping your hair of all moisture.
Once the metals have begun to build up, you’ll need to take things a little more seriously. These more intensive treatments can break down the built up metals, removing the color cast and leaving behind hair that is easier to style with more shine and softness.