Why Does Hair Turn Green in the Pool?
by Susannah Murdock August 02, 2017
Image by Madison Reed
Whether or not you believe blondes have more fun (personally, we’re of the mindset that all gorgeous hair colors have fun), one thing is for sure - come swim season, blonde hair is more likely to adopt an unwelcome greenish tint. With rainbow-hued hair being trendy these days, you could tell people that you did it on purpose. But if you’d rather skip the tinge, we’ve got some tips on how to avoid green highlights, and keep your hair looking shiny and healthy all summer long.
Why does hair turn green in swimming pools?
Although chlorine often gets the blame for turning hair green after swimming, it’s actually copper and other hard metals that do the dirty work; chlorine is just along for the ride. Copper and metals like iron and manganese are present in a lot of our water, including tap water and well water. When chlorine is introduced to pool water as a cleaning agent, it oxidizes the hard metals found in the water. Hair, being naturally porous—that’s how we’re able to color our hair, after all—catches the oxidized metals and turns a greenish tint. Why green? Think about the cast of the Statue of Liberty...our lady of liberty was sculpted in copper, and these hard metals turn green when they are oxidized. While this patina might be appreciated on a statue or weathervane, it’s probably not something you want for your hair.
Why does only blonde hair turn green?
Put simply, blonde hair is more susceptible to discoloration because of its light hue, and of course lightening hair can add to the porosity, making it even more susceptible. Brown, black, and red hair is just as exposed to copper and chlorine in pools, but they just don’t show the tint as obviously as blondes. But no matter what your hair color is, if you have highlights in your hair, those lightened strands can be affected, so it’s important to take the same precaution as blondes when it comes to swimming.
How can green hair be avoided?
Thankfully, there are several things you can do to avoid green hair. If you own your own swimming pool, be sure to use a copper-free algaecide, and look into attaching a filter to your hose that prevents metals in the water from entering the pool. Without the metals in the water, chlorine has nothing to oxidize, and will leave your hair free from those bonds.
If you don’t own a pool but you swim quite a bit, take preventative steps with your hair. Before swimming, thoroughly apply a leave-in conditioner (you can even use apple cider vinegar on wet hair!), and rinse hair out between dips. Once you’re done swimming for the day, do a thorough wash and condition to help eliminate build up from the chlorine-oxidized copper. We love our Color Protecting Shampoo and Conditioner because they are gentle enough to use daily, and packed with nourishing ingredients like argan oil. They also protect from UV damage, another side effect of hanging poolside.
Frequent swimmers will benefit from deep conditioning treatments, as chlorine and copper can not only discolor hair, but can also dry it out. The easiest deep conditioning treatment is to apply conditioner and leave it in your hair for fifteen minutes, then rinse with cool water. If you’re swimming a lot, be sure to do this at least once per week.
And while we know it may not be very chic, a swim cap is the simplest (and best) way to ensure that your hair won’t turn green. It will also help prevent the drying effect of chlorine exposure as well. This is particularly important for people that swim regularly.
How do you get rid of green pool hair?
If your hair already looks a little green around the gills, there are several products you can buy that remove the green, and there are also a few at-home remedies using ingredients you probably already have around the house…
Using one quarter to one half cup of baking soda (depending on how much green is present in your hair), create a paste with baking soda and water. Coat the green areas and massage into the hair strands. Rinse, then shampoo and condition hair.
This one relies on color theory, as green is opposite the color wheel from red. Massage catsup through hair and wrap in aluminum foil for a half hour. When the half hour is up, rinse, then wash and condition like normal. (If you don’t have catsup, or are saving it for french fries, you can use other tomato-based products like tomato juice or V8.)
If you prefer a gloss to catsup, we’ve got you covered. Our Color Reviving Gloss in Miele is also an option to neutralize the green hue.
Using lemon juice in your hair might be familiar, though you may have used it as a natural way to lighten blonde hair in the sun. To get rid of the pool green, thoroughly saturate hair with lemon juice (either fresh or bottled). Let sit for several minutes before rinsing, washing, and deep conditioning. Note: lemon juice can strip hair of natural oils, making hair feel brittle. So do deep condition if you go this route!
Your green hair might be giving you a headache, but that’s not what the aspirin is for. Crush up eight aspirin in a bowl and mix with water. Once dissolved, wash hair with the aspirin water, letting it sit for 15 minutes. Thoroughly rinse hair, then wash and condition. As with lemon juice, you may want to deep condition as the aspirin acts as a clarifier and may strip hair of natural oils.
Take a Dip
With these preventative and corrective treatments for green pool hair, there’s nothing stopping you from getting in the water. Yep, that’s right - it’s the green light for swimming. Happy summer!
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