What Barbers Need to Know About Chlorine Damage

Published 21st Jul 2023 by Josie Jackson
With summer well underway, clients will be facing environmental factors specific to the season: think increased sun exposure, humidity, and of course, chlorine. You might find that your clients aren't aware that their hair will be affected by these changes, so it's your job to educate them on the topic. From spotting the signs of chlorine damage to the precautions you can take to prevent it, here are all of the answers barbers will need to support clients this summer.

What are the common signs of chlorine damage?

Chlorine can affect the hair in different ways and it’s worth remembering that not all hair within a particular type will react the same way. That being said, common signs of chlorine damage most often include brittleness and dryness. Those with colour-treated hair are also susceptible to discolouration, sometimes referred to as swimmers’ hair. “We see this a lot more with blondes and colour-treated hair and it causes the hair to have a dull green tinge, caused by the oxidised copper in chlorine which is absorbed by the hair,” explains Shannon Giblin, Manager at En Route Hair and Beauty. With colour services on the rise in barbershops, it's now more important than ever for barbers to fully understand how chlorine damage plays out.

Are certain hair types more susceptible to chlorine damage than others?

In addition to colour-treated hair, thin and fine hair are also at an increased risk of damage from chlorine. However, just because a client doesn’t fall into one of these categories, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take precautions when swimming. “It’s often when we’re on sunny holidays that we’re swimming in chlorinated pools, and the added factor of UV rays from sun may exacerbate the damaging effect, breaking down the keratin in the hair,” says Susie Hammond, Consultant Trichologist at Philip Kingsley.

What precautions can be taken to minimise chlorine damage to the hair?

Unfortunately hair damaged by chlorine can’t be repaired, which is why prevention is so important. “Before entering a chlorinated pool, wet hair thoroughly with clean water,” suggests Safy B, from Safy B Salon. “This helps to minimise the amount of chlorine the hair can absorb.”

Some experts will also suggest recommending your clients wear a swimming cap, however this might be a hard sell for some. A more realistic suggestion would be to apply a protective product before jumping in the pool; Phillip Kingsley’s aptly-named Swimcap is a great option, as it can shield the hair from the drying and damaging effects of chlorine, as well as from salt water and UV rays.

Are there any specific ingredients or chemicals I should avoid in hair products if I'm dealing with chlorine damage?

With chlorine commonly causing strands to dry out, you’ll want to advise your clients to avoid any ingredients which could further exacerbate this – common culprits include sulphates, which can strip the hair of its natural oils, and alcohol, which can contribute to dryness. On the flip side, Lisa recommends clients look out for derivatives of coconut oil and Vitamin C, as these will provide moisture while helping to break down the chemicals left behind from chlorine.

However, the best ingredients for chlorine damaged hair can also depend on the hair type, and it’s not just those with fine or thin hair that need to watch out. “Coarse and textured hair types, such as curly or afro-textured hair, tend to be vulnerable to chlorine damage, too,” says Alex Thaddeus, from Alex Thaddeus Hairdressing. “The natural structure of these hair types makes them more prone to dryness and frizz, which can be magnified by chlorine exposure.” As such, she recommends clients use moisturising masks or treatments containing ingredients like shea butter, argan oil, or keratin.

Speaking of summer, following the launch of the new Barbie movie, blonde hair à la Ken is on the rise – and here's how you can help your clients get the look.


Josie Jackson

Josie Jackson

Published 21st Jul 2023

Josie supports the team with content for the print magazine, website and social media channels at HJ. Having grown up in a salon environment (thanks to her hairdresser mum) and even working as a Saturday girl before getting her degree in English Literature, Josie feels right at home in the industry. Although she’s experimented with a few creative colour looks in the past, she always comes back to blonde, and loves all things hydrating and bond building.

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