In this guest blog post, Madison Freeland shares her top 5 tips for keeping natural hair healthy after swimming. Madison has been swimming since age 5, and is now a junior competing in Howard University’s Division 1 Swimming and Diving program. She hopes that sharing her experience balancing caring for her natural hair and swimming competitively can positively impact younger swimmers.

Over the course of my swimming career I’ve experimented with numerous hair care routines to combat chlorine damage and keep my hair healthy and moisturized. After much trial and error, I have stuck with a few simple tricks that have made a huge difference for me — and might help you, too! 

Check out my top 5 hair care tips for swimmers with natural hair!

1. Rinse Your Hair After Each Swim 

Photo by Mark Coleman

Related: Check out these swim caps designed for voluminous hair!

Chlorine has the ability to remove all the natural oils in your hair, which can cause your hair to be weak, brittle and easily damaged. When submerging your hair in chlorine for a long period of time, the chemicals in the pool dry your hair out. Therefore, it is imperative to rinse the chlorine out of your hair as soon as possible and follow up with a co-wash or leave-in conditioner depending on what works best for your hair. 

2. Find Your Hair Porosity

Hair porosity is the ability for hair to absorb moisture. There are three types of hair porosity: low, medium/normal, high. 

To discover your hair porosity, try this simple test: Take a strand of your hair and place it in a cup of water. Let it sit for five minutes. If the strand sinks to the bottom, that means you have high porosity hair. If the strand sinks to the middle, you have normal to medium hair porosity. Finally, if the strand floats at the surface, you have low porosity hair. 

When looking for hair products, it is more important to factor in your hair porosity type rather than your hair texture. Your hair porosity type will help you indicate what ingredients and methods will keep your hair well-moisturized and strong. 

3. Deep Condition 

Since I am in the pool multiple days of the week, my hair is constantly exposed to all of the chemicals in the water. This exposure can lead to dry and brittle hair if I don’t care for my hair properly. 

After my weekly wash, I always follow up with a deep conditioner to replenish my hair. I typically deep condition my hair for 30 minutes and let the conditioner sit. It is a plus if you are able to deep condition with heat, because it will open and lift the hair’s cuticle layer so that the strands are moisturized. 

The type of deep conditioner you will need depends on your hair porosity. A moisturizing deep conditioner is best for low porosity hair, which tends to be dry and has a harder time absorbing moisture. 

People with high porosity should look for protein-based conditioners to strengthen the hair shaft, because the hair is not able to retain moisture as well as the other hair porosity types. Overall, deep conditioning improves the health of your hair and prevents breakage. 

4. Switch Up Your Hairstyles

Being a student-athlete, I have been guilty of resorting to the hairstyle that is the most convenient and takes the least amount of effort. My guilty pleasure is putting my hair in a high puff too many times. While this hairstyle itself is not bad, it can be detrimental in the long run when the style is repeatedly done. Wearing your hair in certain styles repeatedly can add tension to the areas that the style pulls on the most, causing weakness and damage. 

Think about wearing low tension styles to prevent damage. You can resort to braiding styles, twisting styles, low buns, or even wearing your hair out to let it breathe, which is good to prevent tension on your scalp. 

5. Protect Your Hair at Night 

Many people do not realize the importance of properly protecting your hair at night. Remember to always wear a satin head scarf or bonnet. Also, if you happen to be a heavy sleeper that wakes up and discovers that your scarf is no longer on your head, it may be time to invest in silk pillowcases! The silk fabric protects your ends, especially if you are tossing and turning at night. 

In contrast, regular cotton pillowcases absorb the oils from your hair, which can leave your hair dry in the morning. This will cause your hair to lack moisture and shine.

In another attempt to protect your hair at night, make sure your hair is dry before sleeping. I know this may be hard for us swimmers, but hair is most vulnerable when it’s wet. Therefore, it is super important to make sure it is completely dry to prevent any tugging and severe breakage while sleeping. 

Lastly, avoid sleeping with your hair tied up. Keeping a hairstyle in for hours while you’re asleep can put a huge strain on your scalp, leading to potential breakage in the future. 

How do you care for your natural hair as a swimmer? Share your go-to routine in the comments. Follow Madison on Instagram at @naturallymadlove for more hair care tips!



  1. thank you so much! Not sure if you are still checking this but when you say deep condition for 30 minutes, do you mean regular conditioner that sits for 30 or could that be a weekly hair mask that I rinse out later?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Laura,

      A hair mask would probably work best! Madison mentions that she washes her hair weekly, so she’s likely using a deep conditioner that’s more potent than a day-to-day conditioner. Hope this helps!

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