What are the best hair treatments for swimmers?

Sadly this is not a legitimate hair treatment.
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Sadly this is not a legitimate hair treatment.

Swimming in our beautiful oceans is one of the best things about Kiwi summers, but all that salt water can be hard on your hair.

The sea's high salt content means it leaches moisture from your hair, leaving it dry. Swimming pools are no better. Pool chemicals can react with the sebum and oils that protect hair, stripping back its cuticle. And there's that old chestnut about chlorine turning hair green, which is only partially true.

What actually happens is that pool chemicals such as chlorine can oxidise the metals present in the water. These oxidized metals bind to the protein in the hair shaft. The metal that produces the green tint is copper, which naturally occurs in some water.

So how to protect hair from all this damage? You can use specific treatments that provide a protective barrier hair against salt and chlorine, such as Kerastase Soleil Aqua Seal, $41, which you would apply to hair before you dive in. Another trick is to simply fully wet hair with tap water before you subject it to chlorine or salt water – this fills up the cuticle so it can't take on as much of the damaging water you're swimming in. Wear a swim cap at the pool for another layer of protection.

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If you're swimming in chlorine a lot, it's a good idea to switch to a clarifying shampoo to remove all the mineral deposits from your hair. Joico K-PAK Clarifying Shampoo, $32, is designed for this purpose.

But once you've stripped all the deposits form your hair, you'll need to load it up with moisture. Use a conditioning mask to rehydrate hair after exposure to salt, sun and chlorine – anything ultra-moisturing and rich will be great (it doesn't need to be especially for swimmers).

Try John Frieda Full Repair Hydrate & Rescue Deep Conditioner, $19.90 or use an oil such as Argania Liquid Gold Hair Oil, $34, as rinse-out treatment. One caveat with hair oil and leave-in conditioners: don't use them as a treatment when you're in the sun (it's like baby-oiling your body with no SPF). Add a sunscreen (such as Kérastase Soleil Micro-Voile Protecteur, $41) over the top or just add a hat.

Finally, ditch the hot tools in high summer and just use the day's natural warmth to dry your hair.

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 - Stuff

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