5+ Things That Happen When You Don’t Wash Your Hair After Swimming

Avoiding washing your hair after swimming can cause dryness, scalp dehydration, itchiness, brittle hair, color change, and hypersensitive skin.

what happens if you don't wash your hair after swimming

Regardless of your hair type, washing your hair after taking a dip in the pool or sea is indispensable to keeping your hair safe by maintaining its shine and strength.

Missing it once might not matter much, but habitually avoiding hair washing after swimming can negatively impact your hair and scalp. 

Chlorine is the main culprit behind the risk of hair damage. While it is a potent agent to keep a pool free of bacteria, it can also have harsh effects on your hair.

While you do not have to shampoo your hair each time after swimming, giving it a good rinse can protect your hair from the damage that can occur if left unwashed.

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So, what happens if you don’t wash your hair after swimming? We’ll discuss the list of the most noticeable issues you might face if you do not wash your hair after swimming. 

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Hair Dryness

Almost all swimming pools have chlorinated water to disinfect them from bacteria, parasites, and other contaminants. The chlorine in the water prevents microbial growth. However, this chlorine can negatively impact your scalp and hair health if left to settle. 

Exposure to chlorinated water increases hair pores. The increased size of the pores makes it difficult to retain moisture. Thus, hair becomes dry and fragile. According to research, chlorinated pool water makes the hair and skin tight and irritated.

If you do not wash your hair after swimming, the pool water can destroy your hair proteins and cuticles. That can lead to weakening the strands and a greater risk of hair fall.

Scalp Dehydration 

Repeated exposure to chlorine water and a lack of washing can lead to scalp dehydration. Ocean water swimmers also face adverse effects from swimming in saltwater. 

Your scalp has abundant amounts of glands that release natural oils and sebum. These oils help keep the scalp and hair moisturized and elastic. Chlorine and saltwater strip the oils and lipids from the surface of the scalp, making your hair appear dry, dull, and brittle.

A dry scalp increases your chances of falling prey to hair issues like itching and flaking. 

Itchiness and Flakiness

A scalp dried out by chlorine and saltwater exposure becomes flaky. You will notice flakiness of the skin paired with a constant urge to scratch and itch. 

The production of sebum and the activity of sebaceous glands play a vital role in maintaining scalp health and healthy hair growth.

Decreased sebum production is directly linked to dry scalp flaking and hair conditions such as dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. That can ultimately lead to temporary or permanent hair loss.

Brittle Hair and Split Ends

A study found that chlorine water from a swimming pool has the potential to damage your hair proteins. The strong oxidizing agent, i.e., chlorine, causes significant damage to hair proteins.

Protein damage is directly linked to the weakening of strands and reduced healing potential of the hair. The hair becomes brittle and can easily break away. If you do not follow hair-washing protocols after swimming, it can likely result in split ends. 

Hypersensitive Skin and Rashes

The chlorinated water in the swimming pool gets quickly absorbed by your skin. Within 10 minutes of bathing, a significant amount gets absorbed into the scalp.

That can lead to scalp irritation. Redness (erythema) may also develop as a result of chlorine exposure. 

Individuals with sensitive and delicate skin are more prone to damage and irritation. In severe cases, you can also develop rashes. The poisonous gas can also worsen inflammatory skin conditions such as dermatitis. 

Color Change

If you are still wondering what happens if you don’t wash your hair after swimming, here is another reason for you to ensure that you do not overlook the importance of a good post-swim rinse.

Chlorine in the pool water can change the light color of your hair to green. People with light-colored or naturally blonde hair need to pay attention to washing their hair after a swim.

Your hair has different pigments that impart a specific color to them. The green-blue hue occurs due to chlorine oxidation of copper (in your hair). The green hair caused by chlorinated water is called swimmer’s hair. 

A study pointed out the changes in colored hair due to exposure to chlorine. It found that dark brown hair becomes red and bleached hair becomes less red. However, all types of hair turned yellow after treatment with chlorine. 

The same study also concluded that swimming in a chlorinated pool and exposure to UV radiation (in the presence of sun radiation) could damage your hair proteins. 


The following are some frequently asked questions related to washing your hair post-swim.

What type of hair are most prone to damage after swimming?

Chlorine damage can affect all types of hair. However, there are specific groups that can get more affected than others. 

Fine-colored and bleached hair can undergo significant color changes due to the oxidation potential of chlorine in swimming pools. 

Physical damage is most pronounced in hair that is already damaged. Examples of damaged hair include chemically treated and permed hair. 

Dry hair can also easily break off due to repeated exposure to chlorinated water.

How to wash your hair after swimming?

Rinse the wet hair immediately after swimming to remove all chlorine deposits from your hair and scalp before they settle in. We recommend you use a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo to protect against the dehydrating effects of chlorine water. 

A soft shampoo helps wash away any remnants of chlorine. Apply a leave-in conditioner to the hair after washing it with shampoo. That allows the hair to regain the moisture lost due to chlorine. 

How can I fix hair damaged by chlorine?

The first step to fixing chlorine-induced hair damage is to wash your hair after every swimming session to prevent further damage. The major consequence of swimming without washing hair is scalp /hair dryness. You can do some damage control by adopting some simple home remedies.

The best way to heal the scalp and hair is to moisturize it. Coconut oil and olive can help remoisturize it and retain the much-needed moisture. 

Another viable step is to use a hair clarifier by mixing baking soda and apple cider vinegar. 

Use a deep conditioner twice weekly to replenish the hair by locking in the lost moisture.

If you are a frequent swimmer, we suggest you add some natural oils to your hair care routine. Natural oils such as jojoba oil, olive oil, and coconut oil help moisturize the hair strands and add a protective layer to prevent further damage. 

How can I protect my hair before going for a swim?

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You can follow these steps before going for a swim to prevent hair damage:

  • Put on a swim cap
  • Try swimming in outdoor pools (chlorine evaporates faster in outdoor pools)
  • Apply a leave-in conditioner after the pre-swim wash to protect the hair from losing moisture
  • Use natural oils, as they help form a protective coating on the hair.
  • Make a ponytail if you have long hair.

Is ocean water good for your hair and scalp?

Swimming in the ocean can be beneficial for your hair and body. There are many minerals in the sea that are good for the body. 

Minerals like potassium and magnesium help maintain your scalp pH, ensuring optimal scalp and hair health.

With that said, extended exposure to ocean water can also dehydrate your hair by eliminating its moisture. However, it is not as harsh as chlorinated water. 

But what happens if you don’t wash your hair after swimming in the ocean? The outcome can be the same as swimming in a pool, i.e. dry, rough and frizzy hair with possible breakage. 

More FAQs

Is it OK to not wash hair after swimming?

It is acceptable to not wash your hair after swimming, but it is recommended to at least rinse it thoroughly with fresh water. Washing your hair daily can remove its natural oils and lead to dryness of both the hair and scalp.

Can you just rinse chlorine out of hair?

The statement: “You can just rinse chlorine out of hair.”Rephrased answer: To effectively remove chlorine from your hair, it is recommended to promptly rinse and wash it after swimming. Many pools provide outdoor showerheads for convenient hair and body rinsing. If clean water is not readily available near the pool, it is advisable to shower as soon as possible.

What happens when you sleep with chlorine in hair?

Sleeping with chlorine in your hair can result in the depletion of your hair’s natural oils, leading to damaged, dry, and rough hair. The presence of chlorine can trigger chemical reactions within your hair, causing changes in its natural color, splitting of the ends, and weakening of the strands. These effects occur due to the essential role that natural oils play in maintaining the health and smoothness of your hair.

How do swimmers keep their hair healthy?

Swimmers can keep their hair healthy by rinsing and wetting their hair before and after swimming. By pre-soaking their hair with clean tap water or non-chlorinated water before entering the pool, the hair strands absorb this water, reducing the amount of chlorine that is absorbed.

Do you have to wash your hair everyday after swimming?

The answer to the question “Do you have to wash your hair everyday after swimming?” is that you don’t need to shampoo your hair every day after swimming. Instead, it is recommended to skip shampooing and only use a high-quality conditioner. Shampooing can potentially dry out already weakened hair, and if you swim regularly, your hair won’t require shampooing after each swim.

What to do with wet hair after swimming?

The question is: What should be done with wet hair after swimming?Rephrased answer: After swimming, wet hair can be styled in various ways such as a messy bun, tight ponytail, sleek comb back, French braid, two simple braids, or double and triple bun.

Is it bad to not shower after swimming in chlorine?

It is not advisable to skip showering after swimming in chlorine. Chlorine and other pool chemicals left on your skin can strip away its natural oils, leading to dryness. This can be particularly problematic if you go to bed without washing off the chlorine, as it can cause irritation and make your skin more susceptible to infections. If you experience itchiness after swimming, this could be a result of not showering afterwards.

Does your body absorb chlorine in the shower?

The body does absorb chlorine in the shower, as it is not only absorbed through the skin but also vaporized and inhaled into the lungs, ultimately entering the bloodstream. Showering accounts for more than 50% of our daily chlorine exposure.

Does chlorine water cause hair loss in showers?

Chlorine water does not cause hair loss in showers, as research indicates that hair loss is caused by various factors unrelated to chlorine. However, it is important to note that excessive exposure to chlorine can be detrimental to the health of your hair, leading to dryness and coarseness.

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