Hair Care

What To Do With Curly Hair After Swimming

Why Does Curly Hair Need Extra Care?

Does this question even need to be asked? I feel like if you know, you know. Curly-haired girls learn to dread full-submersion swimming from a young age, as maintenance and detangling after can be a nightmare.

This fear also amplifies the second we learn how to alter our style with heat. Once our hair gets wet, it’s like an episode of H2O, except in this case the transformation isn’t into a mermaid, it’s a curly frizz ball!

But it doesn’t have to be like this. With proper care and love, you can confidently enjoy swimming again. This is great since it is the perfect low-impact cardiovascular exercise almost anyone can enjoy — now including us curly-haired girls!

Let’s go over the parts of swimming we need to protect our hair from and the list of exactly what to do with curly hair after swimming.

Damaging Properties Of Chlorine

When it comes to choosing the beach or a pool, I’ll pick a pool every time. Something about the quiet sophistication of a pool beats out the harsh weather and force of the ocean when it comes time for relaxing.

However, chlorine can wreak havoc on anyone’s hair, but especially curly girls! Chlorine does a great job of stripping pools of germs and bacteria, but it also uses the pulling power to strip your hair of natural oils.

Since our natural oils are what protect our hair, when they are removed hair can become weak and damaged, meaning the strands lose their curly properties over time.

Damaging Properties Of Salt Water

Saltwater is said to be the cure for all things. “Tears, sweat, and the sea,” ring a bell? But the same cannot be said for your hair. Your hair is absorbent and responsive to its environment.

Much like our hair reacts to a humid day from soaking in the moisture from the air, when you go to the ocean your hair is drinking that saltwater all day. Imagine how dehydrated you feel after drinking salt water — or a good sushi dinner with lots of soy sauce! — and then picture that effect, but on your hair.

Your hair is parched! When hair is dry it becomes brittle and breaks, so protect it from such at all costs. Or, just follow your new swimming with curly hair routine I’m about to walk you through.

Prepare Before Your Dip

Although impromptu skinny dipping adventures are certainly fun to daydream about, I have to admit most of my swimming excursions are premeditated.

A woman swimming

Knowing ahead of time you will be swimming gives you just the advantage you need to battle the dreaded post-pool reveal.

My number one way to prepare? Oil.

You may be “smarter than a fifth-grader” if you know oil and water don’t mix. So use this secret weapon to repel salt or chlorine-filled water from your luscious locks. Whether you want to invest in an expensive, hydrating hair oil, or raid your kitchen cabinets for some olive or coconut oil, spray or rub some on from tips up to get a head start on curly hair protection.

Not down with throwing cooking oils in your hair? No problem. I also use a leave-in conditioner sometimes.

This tip I learned way back when I was on the swim team in the third grade. Lots of girls — curly-haired and not! — would cover their hair in condition before throwing it up in their swim caps. I am by no means recommending a swim cap for casual swimming.

Of course, it does help protect your hair, and some girls swear by it, but the crime against fashion is too great. Looking cute in the hot summer weather is a must, which is why we are so concerned about our hair in the first place. So stick with a leave-in conditioner. It is a sufficient protector against salt, water, chlorine, and the sun.

Once the leave-in conditioner is in I always put my hair in a protective hairstyle. By that I mean braids. These lifesavers leave less surface area available for damaging elements to enter the hair, as well as keep hair from tangling and straying beyond repair in the water. Save yourself the trouble of detangling after by braiding before.

Immediately after

Immediately after swimming, find yourself in the nearest shower. I am so grateful for both pool and beach showers when it comes to my curly hair protection routine, even if it means rinsing off next to the old lady who decided to lose the suit for the shower.

When washing your curls, look for a shampoo that clarifies, and that is also sulfate and silicone-free. Silicones are awful for curly hair, and explains why best here. Though these products may feel like they are leaving your hair silky soft, they are actually drying and damaging your locks that you’re spending so much time trying to preserve.

Finally, do a deep conditioning treatment. Your hair has lost a lot of moisture and needs help regaining it. Use a deep conditioner to show your hair some love and keep it healthy and bouncy. has a great selection of products for curly-haired girls if you are looking for some of the products I recommended. They have some of my favourite products for curly hair post-swim sessions, as well as leave-in conditioners to use before you dive in. These not only protect curls from damage like chlorine and salt but also make care and styling a breeze after you get out.

Your New Routine

To recap, I’ve turned my advice into a condensed list so you can spend less time stressing about your hair and more time enjoying your newfound swimming freedom.

  • Cover hair in oil or leave-in conditioner before swimming.
  • Braid it up in a protective style.
  • Take a dip without fear!
  • Shower off immediately, or as soon as possible, after exiting the water.
  • Use a clarifying, sulfate, and silicone-free shampoo to remove salt and chlorine.
  • Deep condition to restore moisture to those beautiful curls.

There you have it! Your guide to what to do with curly hair after swimming.


Hi I'm Hati and my hair is naturally very curly, obviously! I have started this blog to share curly hair stories and what I use to manage my own hair. Hopefully you will find it useful! My other main passions are food, art and animlas. I have a little cat who I love very much.

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