Avoid dreaded swimmer’s hair with helpful products and clever hairstyles.

Prevent children's swimmer's hair

Swimming loses its appeal when you have to deal with your child’s chemical-ridden, tangled hair. With a few preventative steps and a bit of follow-up care, you can avoid the gripes and tears that often accompany those post-swim comb-outs.

Allison Tyson is a second-generation swim instructor, former lifesaver and author of The Lush Long Hair Care Guide. “I know first-hand the importance of keeping hair from distracting and tangling when kids swim in the pool,” explains Tyson. “I don’t want to spend the entire class pulling hair out of goggles or having kids stopping to wipe hair from their eyes or swallowing their hair.”

Haircare for athletes >>

Master stylist Janet St. Paul of Austin, Texas, recommends following these very simple steps to prevent swimmer’s hair:



It’s a good idea to make sure hair is knot-free before swimming, or you’ll end up with a serious mess afterward. The Knot Genie™ Detangling Brush smooths even the curliest, most knotted hair — gently and painlessly, resulting in less breakage, fewer split ends and happier children. $20 at KnotGenie.com.

How to repair your hair in the sun >>



“Before swimming, wet the hair and load it up with conditioner,” says St. Paul. “Comb or work the conditioner through the hair until it’s evenly saturated.” This step prevents chlorine from penetrating into the hair shaft.

“Chlorine is very damaging to hair as it can destroy much-needed proteins in the hair,” says Tyson, who also suggests conditioning with coconut oil. “Hair depleted of protein becomes brittle and very dry and, as a result, tangles more.”

Try Fairy Tales Coco Cabana Leave-In Sun Spray which is a rich conditioner. Spray on the hair liberally and comb through with fingers. Reapply after swimming. $11 at Ulta.com. For African-American hair, Nicole Hollis of HairLiberty.com, a comprehensive online resource for African American hair care information, likes John Frieda Frizz-Ease Original Serum. $10 at Walgreens.com.

Best leave-in hair conditioners >>



“Braid the hair or twist it into a knot or ponytail,” says St. Paul.

Expert tip for African-American hair: Don't wear a swim cap if it pulls too tightly or rips out your hair at the hairline. — Nicole Hollis of HairLiberty.com

Longer-haired swimmers: “Style their hair into either a single braid or two side ponytails, then plait and tie off at the bottom,” says Tyson.

Shorter-haired swimmers (and those with bangs): “Put on an elasticized hairband to keep hair out of the eyes, nose and mouth. Keep the headband in place by securing with bobby pins or goggle straps,” suggests Tyson.

Swim caps: “Swim caps are always an option, but they tend to slide off if not put on correctly,” says Tyson. “My tip for placing a swim cap on any head is to saturate your hair first.”

Video: How to get the perfect summer braid >>


Condition again

After swimming, remove the braid, knot, pony or swim cap. Wash — shampooing is important because rinsing alone will not remove chlorine — condition again and comb out as usual. Piece of cake!

More on the beloved braid

Get the look: Braids
How to do a fishtail braid
How to create a braided headband


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Comments on "Best swimming hairstyles for children"

Shawna July 22, 2012 | 3:57 PM

Lauren... Just curious, but how many nannies do you have? :)

Lauren July 06, 2012 | 7:26 AM

I love the advice by Janet St Paul. I am definitely going to share these tips with all my nannies!

Char PSI Tutor Mentor July 06, 2012 | 12:03 AM

I agree with Allison, a fresh rinse is the way to go. I also have a copy of the Lush Long Hair Guide~ Mine's at elbow length~ quite the fashion faux pa for a woman at 40 ~:-)

Allison Tyson July 05, 2012 | 6:31 PM

Blondes and grey hair tends to go green from chlorine build up. I suggest rinsing hair with fresh water immediately after getting out of the pool. Then either a lemon juice rinse or rinse with club soda to break up/neutralise the chlorine deposits. Delva had a product called 'Solar Care' which comes highly recommended by my grey haired mother who swims everyday. Chelating shampoos are also an option but can be very harsh.

Cheri July 05, 2012 | 5:44 PM

Hi Kendra... I have two blonde, blue-eyed daughters and we've stayed green-free with tons and tons of conditioner - before and after swimming. I need a swimmers hair article for moms: my dyed hair always (ALWAYS) turns orange after I swim. It's why I avoid the pool :(

Kendra July 05, 2012 | 12:43 PM

Great article...but what about tips for preventing it from turning green?! I was blonde haired and blue eyed growing up, except in the summer in which case I was green haired and blue eyed :) I definitely advise using a good conditioner like the article suggests. Chlorine is so bad for your hair, keep it healthy as best as you can while still having a fun summer!

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