August 05, 2019 3 min read

Apparently blondes have more fun, although I'd argue that everyone can have as much fun as anyone else - whatever your hair colour! However in the summertime, we get calls all the time about patients with blonde hair turning green! But what actually causes the hair to change colour? It seems that the obvious answer would be the chlorine. Many swimming pools are chlorinated but they also have other metals and chemicals that your hair is exposed to while swimming.

So what is the main cause?
It could be that the water is considered "hard " and is damaging the hair. Hard water is water that is filled with heavy metals. This study brings to light the effects of hard water on hair. The study shows the effects of hard water on hair has been shown to have a minimal effect on over hair tensile strength -

"Based on the above study it can be concluded that there was no statistical difference in the tensile strength and elasticity between the hairs treated with hard water and distilled water, hence we conclude that hard water does not interfere with the tensile strength and elasticity of hair."

So what exactly is causing the hair to turn green? Surprisingly the answer is copper. Copper and metals like iron and manganese are present in a lot of our water, including tap water and well water. When chlorine is introduced to pool water as a cleaning agent, it oxidises the hard metals found in the water. So the copper is oxidised by the chlorine and with the hair being porous, it binds to the hair and turns a greenish tint.

It’s the constant immersion in the pool water itself that damages hair by drying out the protective cuticle shaft wrapped around each hair strand. This protective sheath is made up of lots of tiny scales and when they dry, they start to peel apart. This allows copper deposits to lodge in the cracks of the scaly outer coating of each strand. The resulting green tinge is most noticeable in blonde hair, but all hair colours take up the copper deposits – they’re just less visible on darker hair.

How can green hair be avoided?
Prevention with a good water filter or purification system would help and to use of algaecides without copper - however we don't all own our own swimming pools ! Before swimming, thoroughly apply a leave-in conditioner and rinse hair out between dips. Once you’re done swimming for the day, do a thorough wash and condition to help eliminate build up from the chlorine-oxidised copper.

Frequent swimmers will benefit from deep conditioning treatments, as chlorine and copper can not only discolour hair, but can also dry it out. The easiest deep conditioning treatment is to apply conditioner and leave it in your hair for fifteen minutes, then rinse with cool water. If you’re swimming a lot, be sure to do this at least once per week.

Finally a swim cap is the simplest (and best) way to ensure that your hair won’t turn green. It will also help prevent the drying effect of chlorine exposure as well.

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