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What does chlorine do to red dyed hair?

Chlorine can have damaging effects on colored hair, especially vivid red shades. When hair is dyed, the cuticle layers are opened up so the color molecules can deposit inside the cortex. However, this makes the hair more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals like chlorine. Red dye molecules are larger than other hair dye pigments and require bigger cuticle openings. This means red dyed hair is even more prone to fading and damage when exposed to chlorine.

How Does Chlorine Damage Dyed Hair?

There are a few ways that chlorine can negatively affect dyed hair:

  • Fading color – Chlorine oxidizes the hair, causing the color molecules to break down and wash out of the hair shaft. This leads to rapid fading, especially with red tones.
  • Dryness – The oxidizing effects of chlorine remove moisture from the hair, leaving it dry and brittle.
  • Brassiness – Red tones are replaced with brassy, orangey shades when the red pigment molecules are destroyed.
  • Damage – Disulfide bonds in the hair are broken down by chlorine, damaging the protein structure of the hair.

Overall, the oxidizing power of chlorine degrades hair color pigments, robs moisture, and damages the internal protein bonds in hair. This leads to obvious fading of vibrant red shades as well as dry, brittle hair that is more prone to breakage.

Does Chlorine Turn Red Dyed Hair Green?

No, chlorine does not turn red dyed hair green. This is a common misconception. The green hue that is sometimes seen after swimming is a result of chlorine interacting with traces of copper in the water supply or color contamination from swimwear fabrics. The chlorine itself will not turn red hair green. Instead, it causes rapid fading to a dull brassy orange shade.

Does Color-Treated Hair Need Extra Protection from Chlorine?

Yes, hair that has been dyed, especially red tones, requires additional protection from chlorine. There are a few steps you can take to limit damage from swimming pool chemicals:

  • Wet hair with clean water before swimming – This creates a barrier that prevents chlorine from rapidly penetrating the hair shaft.
  • Apply a thick conditioner or hair mask before swimming – Conditioner helps lock in moisture and temporarily seals the cuticle.
  • Rinse immediately after getting out of the pool – This prevents chlorine from lingering on the hair and continuing to cause damage.
  • Use a clarifying shampoo – Once a week, use a clarifying shampoo to remove chlorine buildup and hard water mineral deposits.
  • Deep condition regularly – Use a weekly nourishing hair mask to add back moisture and smooth the cuticle.
  • Avoid shampooing immediately before swimming – Shampooing opens the cuticle, so try to swim with 1-2 day old hair.
  • Protect hair with a cap – Wear a tight fitting swim cap to limit water and chlorine exposure.

Taking these precautions allows you to swim without having to sacrifice your vibrant red dyed locks!

How to Fix Red Hair After Swimming in Chlorine

If your red hair has already suffered some chlorine damage, don’t panic! Here are some tips to nurse your hair back to health:

  • Do a clarifying wash with sulfate shampoo – Sulfates help remove chlorine buildup from the hair.
  • Deep condition with a protein treatment – Protein-rich treatments temporarily rebuild damaged protein bonds.
  • Rinse with apple cider vinegar – This helps close up the cuticle layers after the clarifying wash.
  • Use an intensive hydrating hair mask – Look for masks with oils like argan, coconut, or marula to replenish moisture.
  • Allow hair to air dry – Limit heat styling, which causes additional damage to compromised hair.
  • Use a nourishing leave-in conditioner – Redken Anti-Snap is great for reducing breakage.
  • Avoid re-dyeing damaged hair – Wait until hair is healthy before attempting to redye.
  • Trim away split ends – Cutting off damaged ends helps prevent further breakage.
  • Protect hair from sun – UV rays degrade hair color even further.

With time and the proper hair care regime, chlorine-damaged red hair can regain its health and vibrancy.

How Does Chlorine Affect Other Dyed Hair Colors?

Chlorine can cause fading and dryness in any colored hair, but some dye pigments are more vulnerable than others. Here is how chlorine impacts other common hair dye colors:

Hair Color Effect of Chlorine
Blonde Brassiness and yellow/green tones
Black Fading to a brown shade
Brunette Warm tones become more pronounced
Fashion Colors (Blue, green, purple) Significant fading after just 1-2 swims

As shown, vivid fashion shades like electric blue and mermaid green are the most prone to chlorine damage. Black and brunette colors are a bit less vulnerable to fading. However, chlorine’s drying effects can make dark hair look dull until moisture is restored.

Does Chlorine Damage Natural Hair Color?

Chlorine does not damage or alter the natural underlying pigment in hair. However, it still causes dryness by removing the hair’s natural oils and moisture. Some natural hair colors change in appearance when the cuticle is rough and hair loses its shine. Dryness from chlorine may make blonde hair appear brassy and dull. It can also make gray and white hair look yellowed and brittle. Any natural hair color will benefit from the use of moisturizing hair masks and oils after chlorine exposure to restore a healthy appearance.

Does Salt Water Also Damage Dyed Hair?

Yes, salt water can cause similar damage to dyed hair as chlorinated pools. Salt water has a high pH, which opens up the cuticle and allows dye pigments to wash out. The salt is also very drying to hair. However, fresh water lakes and rivers do not contain damaging chemicals and will not cause significant fading or dryness. Sea and ocean water damage dyed hair because of their mix of salts, minerals, and other substances.

How Soon After Dyeing Can Hair Get Wet?

It’s best to wait 2-3 days after dyeing before exposing hair to chlorinated water. Those first few days are crucial for allowing the dye to fully oxidize and adhere within the hair shaft. Wetting hair too soon can cause more rapid fading. After about 3 days, dye molecules are more settled and won’t wash out as easily.

However, always keep in mind that color-treated hair is more vulnerable overall. So even after waiting the ideal 72 hours, take steps to protect dyed hair from chlorine damage.

What Ingredients Help Protect Dyed Hair from Chlorine?

Certain ingredients can help limit fading and dryness when swimming with color-treated hair. Look for products containing:

  • Silicones – Form a protective layer over the hair shaft to repel water.
  • Sunflower seed oil – Seals in moisture and adds shine.
  • Jojoba oil – Mimics natural oils to smooth the cuticle.
  • Dimethicone – Reduces hydration loss from hair.
  • Behentrimonium chloride – Conditions hair and prevents chlorine absorption.
  • Glycerin – Draws moisture into the hair.

Using shampoos, conditioners, and masks with these components before and after swimming will help maintain your desired dyed hair color and condition.


Chlorine can cause red dyed hair to fade to unflattering brassy shades. It strips moisture from hair, leaving it dry and prone to breakage. Take steps like pre-soaking hair in water, using protective products, and deep conditioning to limit chlorine damage. Avoid shampooing and re-dyeing damaged hair until it has recovered. With some TLC, you can maintain beautiful red locks even after regular swimming.

Understanding how chlorine impacts your specific hair color and texture allows you to take steps to defend against fading and dryness. Arm yourself with knowledge and the right products to keep your hair looking vibrant and healthy all summer long.