Protecting Curly Hair While Swimming

natural girls beach
Image source: fycuteblackgirls.tumblr.com

Unless you’re swimming in a fresh water spring with follicle-strengthening minerals, all curly girls should take some measures to to prevent the dryness and brittleness caused by summer’s most popular activity. Personally, I like to swim every chance I get, so my hair is regularly exposed to chlorine and salt water. Yet, the last thing I want to think about (or deal with) while splishing and splashing is my hair (and let’s face it, most swimming caps just aren’t that fashionable). Here are three quick and effective ways to keep your curls healthy while floating in your favorite body of water.

Braids
We often braid children’s hair before they get in the water to avoid the dreadful detangling process afterward, so why not braid our own?  Braids not only keep hair tangle-free, but the majority of your hair is protected from becoming brittle as it dries post-swim. Lately I’ve been preferring two french braids since my bangs are growing out, but you can do a single braid, corn rows – whatever suits your fancy. Another bonus: braids are a hairstyle, so your hair will look good at the pool whether it’s wet or dry!

Oil
This one is so simple, yet so effective. Oil is a natural barrier against water, so to keep salt and chlorine from penetrating deeply into your hair shaft, massage in an extra bit of your favorite sealing oil from root to tip before diving in. My favorites are extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, but some of the heavier ones like castor oil may do an even better job. For double protection, oil your hair, then braid it up!

Conditioner + Water
I swore by this mixture when I had blonde highlights. The highlights had already dried out my hair, and I spent a couple of weekends that summer at the beach, so I had to protect my hair from both the drying effects of the ocean AND the brassy effects of the sun on blonde hair. I mixed my detangling conditioner with a bit of water so it was thin enough to spray through a nozzle, but still thick enough to coat my hair, and put the mixture in a travel-sized spray bottle. Every time I got out of the ocean, I sprayed a generous amount through my hair.  When my hair dried, I had gorgeous ringlets from the salt water but they were soft and shiny, and the thin coating of conditioner kept the sun rays at bay.

Part of the beauty of wearing our hair naturally curly is the ability to get it wet at a moment’s notice. Taking a few preventative steps will keep it looking and feeling healthy all summer long.

How do you protect your curls during swimming season?

The Finger Coiling Method

finger coiling long curly hairMy hair is temperamental and difficult when it wants to be. I would love to have curls of equal shape, size and texture throughout my head. But I have to work with what I’ve got, which are smooth ringlets around the perimeter of my head and dry, frizzy wave-curls on my crown. Oh, and one or two pieces so dead-straight that I’m like, “Where did YOU come from?” So in an effort to achieve more uniform curls all over, without the use of heat or rollers, I did the finger coiling method.

With my hair still feeling pretty good after last week’s deep conditioning treatment, I didn’t want to shampoo again, so I drenched it in the shower and used gobs of TRESemmé Naturals Nourishing Moisture Conditioner to detangle. I rinsed the conditioner out completely, split my hair into two sections, and applied about a quarter-sized amount of Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie to each.  I always use this product when I want more curl definition. Then I started the 30 (or was it 40?) minute process of finger coiling.

finger coils on long curly hairI started at the back, taking down a small section, and clipping the rest up and away. I took very small sections, about pencil-sized in diameter, and twisted each one tightly from the root to the end, wrapped it around my finger, then let go. I did this all over my head, adding more Shea Moisture to the problem areas on my crown.

I always seem to wash my hair at night (terrible for air drying, since my hair takes HOURS to dry), so I let it dry for about an hour, then draped a large silk scarf over the pillows I sleep on and the area right above it. I did this because if my hair is still wet when I go to sleep, I fan it out over my pillows, but because of the length it ends up on the sheet above the pillow, and I don’t want it to rub and get frizzy. I then try my best not to move during the night; rarely does that work.

But this time it worked! The top photo shows my hair the next morning, at about 90 percent dry. I have to say, I really like how these finger coils turned out. For the most part, my curls were uniform, they were smooth and shiny, and my hair felt so soft. Toward the end of the day, the coils got bigger and  started frizzing, and it gave them a completely different look. I loved it! (I should have taken a picture of them later that day – will next time. Sorry!)

As my hair continues to grow, this may become my go-to styling method. I am typing this with day 3 hair, and my curls are still somewhat intact. All it takes is a little water and Curl Enhancing Smoothie to retwist the problem curls, and I’ve got hair for another day. Not bad!

Let me know what you think. Have you tried finger coiling? I recommend trying it!

~Thaïs