With summer in full swing, most of us are headed for the pool or the beach for cool relief. However, it’s important to know that spending too much time in chlorinated water can be bad for your skin and hair. Dr. Anthony Farole, an experienced hair restoration expert who has worked with thousands of patients in the Philadelphia area, answers questions about chlorine exposure and hair health.
Chlorine, hair damage and your health
Though common in most public and private swimming pools, chlorine is a corrosive chemical that many health experts say is bad for human health, particularly the skin and eyes.
Chlorine has an oxidizing effect that can cause dryness and irritation after prolonged exposure. In some cases, exposure to chlorine may lead to the formation of hypochlorous acid, a substance known to penetrate cells and destroy them from the inside.
However, low concentrations of chlorine are highly effective in keeping swimming pools clean and healthy. Though low in concentration, chlorine in pool water still has the potential to cause serious harm to the hair, skin, and eyes.
Stay healthy this summer by taking a moment to review these frequently asked questions about chlorine, hair damage and loss and your health.
Does chlorine cause hair loss?
Normal exposure to chlorine will NOT make you lose your hair. This myth was debunked after a study was published in the Journal of Dermatology. In the study, researchers compared the hair of 67 professional swimmers to that of 54 individuals who spent little to no time in the pool. Although swimmers’ hair exhibited signs of chlorine-induced damage such as dryness and coarseness, swimmers were not significantly more likely to experience hair loss.
However, there is evidence that suggests abnormally high exposure to chlorine might cause the scalp to become irritated, dry, and flaky. Thinning or shedding of hair might result, but it’s important to understand that the chlorine exposure needed to bring about such side effects far exceeds that of a normal swimming pool.
Will chlorine change the color of my hair?
Chlorine does not change the color of one’s hair. Although prolonged pool time might give hair a greenish tint, the discoloration is actually due to the oxidized metals in the water, such as copper. However, color treatments exposed to chlorine might make it easier for hair to turn green.
As mentioned above, one of the primary side effects of chlorine exposure is that it causes dryness and irritation. When paired with hair treatments and dyes, hair can become extremely dry, porous, and brittle. Once porous, hair is primed to absorb more copper and other chemicals that cause discoloration.
Can I reduce the damage chlorine does to my hair?
Yes. Many people are surprised to know that chlorine damage can be significantly reduced simply by wetting hair with fresh water prior to getting in the pool. Strands of hair have the amazing ability to absorb moisture, much like a sponge. By thoroughly rinsing hair with fresh water prior to entering the pool, you create a barrier that makes it more difficult for hair to absorb chlorinated water while swimming.
If I experience hair loss or damage from chlorine, is it reversible?
The most common way that chlorine damages hair is by making it dry and porous, which may lead to discoloration. To reverse the damage, be sure to thoroughly wash and rinse hair after each swim session. Use ample amounts of shampoo to remove all chemical traces, and finish your post-swim wash with a protein-enriched conditioner that will replenish the hair’s natural moisture. For those who have color-treated hair, special shampoos and conditioners are available to minimize discoloration.
Thinking about hair restoration? Dr. Farole is ready to help.
Dr. Farole has created specialized treatment plans for men and women who face the frustration and heartbreak of hair loss. Our Bala Cynwyd office is a comfortable, convenient spot to meet and discuss your options. Dr. Farole will do a careful exam and recommend the best treatment for your unique needs. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation.