Everything To Apply To Your Face & Hair Before & After You Swim

While spending the day by the pool or beach may be bliss, it can wreak havoc on hair and skin

Discover our picks of products that protect against the harsh effects of sun, salt and chlorine. Photo / Getty Images

A dip in the ocean or pool is many things, a means of unwinding after a stressful day, a way to rejuvenate the mind or a method of gentle, low-impact exercise.

But time spent in the pool or ocean, soaking in chlorine or salt water, can leave hair, scalp and skin dry and itchy.

Not to mention, if you have coloured hair chlorine can be stripping, leaving hair looking streaky, damaged, or worse — with a greenish tinge (caused by the heavy metal build-up of chlorine, especially prominent in blonde hair).

Plus, if you’re swimming outdoors, there’s also UV rays to contend with – which can burn skin and leave hair dry, brittle or frizzy.

So, to help you protect your hair and skin while you swim, we enlisted the help of The Facialist founder Ashleigh Scott and internationally-acclaimed hairstylist and texture expert Sky Cripps-Jackson for their tips on how to offer these areas some much-needed TLC before (and after) you take the plunge.


Unfortunately, pools are riddled with irritants, which can leave skin dry and tight if the necessary skincare tweaks aren’t made.

The primary culprit? Chlorine, which has the potential to strip skin of its natural oils and lipids, and interfere with its naturally acidic pH.

Changing the pH of the skin can disrupt the skin barrier, causing trans-epidermal water loss and resulting in dry or irritated skin.

Salt water (or salt water pools) are kinder to skin than chlorine, but can still be drying.

Before You Swim

According to The Facialist Ashleigh Scott, the best defence against salt water or chlorine’s drying effects is to slather up before getting in.

“Prep your skin with a barrier [cream] before going into the water — this will stop moisture loss from the skin and also help prevent the salt and chlorine from damaging the surface of the skin,” she says.

Ashleigh loves the balm texture of the Josh Rosebrook Vital Balm Cream, $80, or a lightweight oil like the Biologi Br Organic Rosehip Oil, $31, both of which act as great barriers pre-swim.

It goes without saying, but applying a water-proof, broad-spectrum protection sunscreen which defends against UVA and UVB rays is a must. Try the La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Wet Skin Sunscreen SPF50, $39

Left to right: Josh Rosebrook Vital Balm Cream, $80; Biologi Br Organic Rosehip Oil, $31; La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Wet Skin Sunscreen SPF50, $39. Photos / Supplied

After You Swim

It’s a good idea to rinse your skin with fresh water as soon as you get out, Ashleigh says, as the longer you leave chlorine or salt or your skin, the more time it has to dry it out.

“Ideally, you would cleanse your skin and apply a serum and moisturiser to replace lost moisture,” she says.

Keep things simple with a gentle, non-foaming cleanser like the Aesop Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk, $45.

Follow this with a light layer of a serum rich in hyaluronic acid — which can hold more than a thousand times its weight in water — like The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $15.

Your moisturiser’s job is to lock in all of that moisture, so seek out one that’s loaded with ceramides or glycerin to boost hydration levels in the skin. Try the new Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Lift & Firm Day Cream, $86.

It’s not always possible to stash skincare in your beach bag, but there’s something you can do to bridge the gap until you get home.

“If you’re at the beach and don’t have these handy, spritz your skin with a hydrating mist like the Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator [$65],” Ashleigh adds.

Left to right: Aesop Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk, $45; The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $15; Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Lift & Firm Day Cream, $86; Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator, $65. Photos / Supplied

Routine For Regular Swimmers

Combat the aftereffects of a daily dip by building a solid skincare routine, brimming with hydrating and antioxidant-rich products, along with beauty ingestibles, Ashleigh advises.

“Support your skin internally with essential fatty acids and collagen supplements. The stronger health your skin is in, the less it will be affected by the harshness of swimming,” she says.


Salt and chlorinated water have a far more alkaline pH (7.2 - 8.1) than healthy hair (4.5 - 5.5) says Sky Cripps-Jackson, hairstylist and texture expert at Auckland-based salon, Colleen.

“When salt and chlorine enter the hair, they break down the natural lipids (oils) and keratin (protein),” she says.

At its worst, Sky says this can lead to hair colour lightening or fading, staining lighter hair green or impacting the hair’s condition over time, leading to split ends and breakage.

It’s worth noting that in some cases, salt or chlorinated water can promote natural curl and body within certain hair types, Sky adds, but the long-term damaging effects will be the same.

Before You Swim

Thankfully, swimming caps have become more stylish, which is good news because Sky says they’re the best way to protect your hair from the water.

“If your hair is bleached or you have concerns about colour [fade], fragile hair, a swimming cap will help minimise the rinsing effect of your hair being out and exposed,” she says.

The next best thing to wearing a swim cap? Building up your hair’s condition by using a leave-in moisturiser suited to your hair type.

Sky loves Olaplex No.6 Bond Smoother, $55, a leave-in, reparative cream which contains UV protectors for an extra layer of defence. Or try Sisley Paris Protective Hair Fluid, $140, which forms a protective film over hair to defend against the harmful effects of sun, sea and pool water.

Left to right: Olaplex No.6 Bond Smoother, $55; Sisley Paris Protective Hair Fluid, $140. Photo / Supplied

After You Swim

Done with your dip? Those with straight to curly hair (type 1A to type 3B) should rinse their tresses with fresh, cold water, followed by a co-wash like Evo Heads Will Roll Co-Wash, $50, or conditioner suited to their unique hair type. Sky loves Botaniq Replenish Butter, $53, for those with wavy or curly hair.

Over-washing hair is a no-no, so use a gentle, hydrating shampoo like Evo The Therapist Hydrating Shampoo, $43, every second day to maintain hair’s condition and keep it feeling fresh.

Coily or kinky hair types (3C and above) may like to try a rich leave-in conditioner to replenish moisture loss and strengthen the hair’s protective surface layer, Sky says. Try Shea Butter Strengthen & Restore Treatment Masque, $39.

Left to right: Evo Heads Will Roll Co-Wash, $50; Evo The Therapist Hydrating Shampoo, $43; Shea Butter Strengthen & Restore Treatment Masque, $39. Photos / Supplied

Routine For Regular Swimmers

A weekly deep cleanse using a shampoo treatment like Kevin Murphy Maxi Wash, $51, will be your BFF if you’re frequenting the water, Sky says. It contains AHAs to rid hair of impurities and combat staining of lighter hair colours.

The aforementioned leave-in conditioners and co-washes will also help, otherwise aim to minimise hair damage by avoiding hot tools, not tying hair up tightly when wet and always remember to wear a cap while out in the sun.

If you’re overdue for your colour, Sky recommends planning to do it nearer autumn to spread out the damaging effects on hair.

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