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Presoaking Hair Before Swimming

February 15, 2014

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Presoaking Hair Before Swimming

We just received a question about the benefits of presoaking hair with fresh water before swimming.  
Someone asked "Is there a study you have found looking at wetting the hair before swimming?" They reasoned that: "even though the hair can’t absorb the pool water in entirety, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the chlorine can’t enter the wet hair through osmosis...."  Great question.  I've shared my thoughts below.

Presoaking Hair - Some Thoughts.

There is plenty of data showing that hair absorbs water.  You can test for yourself by weighing a given amount of hair on a balance before and after swimming.  Most sources say that hair can absorb about 30% of its dry mass in water.  So, 100 grams of hair would weigh 130 grams after getting wet.
I am unaware of any study quantifying the benefits of presoaking (aka wetting) hair before swimming.  I agree with you that chlorine will get into the pre-soaked hair over time.  Chlorine should enter the hair to balance the chlorine concentration difference between the hair and the pool.  As this process adds chlorine to the hair, the hair would begin to react with chlorine.  The chlorine would begin to bond to the hair.  (Technically, the hair is reacting with the chlorine to form chloramines).
For me, the remaining question would be how quickly this happens.  How long would the fresh water effectively block the chlorinated water from entering? How much benefit is there to pre-soaking your hair? I expect that this rate would depend on the temperature of the water and the chlorine concentration.  It would may also depend on how attracted the hair is to chlorine in the pool.
In any event, I think there would be a larger benefit when the amount of exposure to pool water is minimum. For example, when the swimmer is wearing a cap.  
When wearing a swim cap, only a small amount of water gets into the cap and onto the hair.  If that hair is already wet, it would offer a barrier against this small amount of water.  The protection can be increased by also using a little SwimSpray under the cap.  Having the hair pre-loaded with vitamin C would give the hair the ability to neutralize that small amount of leaking chlorinated water.
I wet my hair with fresh water before swimming, then rub in 3 sprays of SwimSpray to neutralize the chlorine that does enter the cap.  Then I put my cap on and swim.  After swimming, I use SwimSpray during my shower.


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