Haircare for athletes

Aug 3, 2008 at 5:20 p.m. ET

Diving, swimming, synchronized swimming, water polo... all of these sports have a lot of things in common. For starters, they're all Olympic sports and the best of the best in them are streaming to Beijing to compete for gold. For these athletes putting in the intense hours of training in the water means subjecting their hair to a lot of chlorine damage. However you don't have to be an Olympian for chlorine to take its toll on your tresses. Even limited exposure to chlorine will damage your hair so here's some tips to follow to help keep your hair shiny and new.

Blond Woman in Pool
Chlorine is used in most public pools as a disinfectant however it's no secret that it can hurt your hair. "Chlorine has a damaging effect on the hair by invading the hair and stripping the color and nutrients," explains Karen Smidt, President of SBR Sports, which makes the popular TRISWIM hair and skin products.

Furthermore that unsightly green tint is no myth. According to Smidt, copper added to the chlorine to kill pool algae can cause the color change. While the green obviously shows up more prominently in blonde hair, it can be noticeable even in dark hair in the right light.

Giving your locks a helping hand in the chlorine battle can start before you even hit the pool. Before you hit the deck, rinse your hair in the shower so that it becomes saturated with non-chlorinated water.

Then once you're done at the pool, shower right away and don't let the chlorine sit. Unfortunately regular shampoos are inadequate to remove the chlorine bound to your locks. To really get it out you need to look for shampoos specifically formulated to strip chlorine. These products (such as TRISWIM, Ultraswim and Summer Solutions) are not typically available in drugstores. You may be able to find a good selection at sports stores, however online shopping is probably your best bet. Try Aardvark Swim  or

Because the chlorine exposure can leave your hair dry, make sure you follow up your shampooing with an extremely hydrating conditioner. If your hair is still in distress, consider a deep conditioning treatment at a salon. They're pricey but very effective.

Of course prevention is really the best cure. If you're just swimming laps and aren't trying to impress some looker in the next lane, consider wearing a swim cap. Yes, they look silly, but sometimes form has to follow function.