How to Swim With Long Hair: Top Tips

How to Swim With Long Hair

It’s tough being an athlete with long hair. If maximum performance was all one cared about, then the best option would be to be bald. Hair is known to create drag underwater and makes one less hydrodynamic. For casual swimmers, hair can get in the way, get yanked on, and can end up clogging the pool filters. What should one do in order to swim with long hair?

To safely swim with long hair, you must first tie your hair up in a compact hairstyle (e.g. buns, ponytails, braids). Then you should wear a swim cap over your hair. Swim caps are essential because they streamline your head shape by keeping your hair packed down, prevent hairs from floating in the pool, and can limit the amount of chlorine and sunlight your hair is exposed to. The end result is maximum safety and performance despite having long hair.

There are also things you can do outside of the pool both before and after swimming. It’s a good idea to rinse your hair so it is moisturized, and rinsing afterwards can wash off the chlorine. There are also special shampoos you can use to treat your hair, and tools you can use to untangle hair that is knotted or matted.

This has been just a general overview of how to swim with long hair. If you want to know the deets, keep reading on for a more in-depth, step-by-step explanation on how to swim with long hair while maintaining high performance and protecting your hair.

Can you swim with long hair?

First things first, can you actually swim with long hair or is this a fool’s errand? You can absolutely swim with long hair even at the highest levels of swimming.

Don’t just take my word for it, google “olympic female swimmers” and see how many of them still have normal to long lengths of hair. Having long hair does require more maintenance on your part, but it’s manageable, so keep that in mind before you decide to shave your head.

This should come as a relief, especially to most women and the few men with long locks of hair. The reason why this is possible is thanks to swim caps. By tying one’s hair in a pulled back style and then wearing a swim cap over it, the cap smooths out the head shape to be similar to that of a bald person’s head. (As an aside, bald swimmers still wear swim caps).

I suppose the caveat is that if your hair is exceptionally long to the point that it still makes a noticeable bump on your head even after pulling it back and packing it down with a swim cap, that it might cause a negative impact on performance. This should not be a problem for most people, and if it is, then perhaps you should give your hair a trim to more reasonable lengths.

Tips for swimming with long hair

Wet your hair before swimming

One issue of swimming too much is that you are exposing your hair to chlorine, a harsh chemical that is necessary for sanitizing the pool. Unfortunately, this chemical has the side effect of stripping your hair of its oils, causing it to dry out and become brittle, and ultimately damaging it.

To limit how much damage chlorine can cause your hair, you should always rinse your hair with fresh water beforehand. This is something you should be doing anyways because you should be showering before you enter the pool.

Hair is very absorbent, and by rinsing it with fresh water before the pool, you are saturating it with fresh water until it can absorb no more. This makes it harder for the chlorinated water to get absorbed into your hair. Admittedly, some will still get absorbed, but it will be far less than if you hadn’t first wet your hair.

Tie it up

Whether you choose to wear a swim cap or not, you should tie your hair up so that it doesn’t float everywhere and get in the way. You don’t want your hair to block your eyesight, other’s eyesight, or to have somebody accidentally pull on it.

Furthermore, long hair can become all tangled and knotted up if left to float freely in the water. And, as mentioned, the chlorine can dry out your hair, making it brittle and harder to untangle without causing further damage to your hair.

Thus, you should tie your hair up when you go swimming, and these are some great styles to go with:

  • Bun: You can’t go wrong with putting your hair into a bun. This keeps your hair pulled back and neatly compacted into one place, and a swim cap can easily be worn over it.
  • Ponytail: A ponytail is the minimum you should do to keep your hair out of your face. However, the end of the ponytail can still tangle and knot, so you may want to braid the ponytail or just tie it into a bun.
  • Pigtails: An alternative to ponytails is pigtails, and it is great because it separates your hair into two sections, making them less likely to tangle. Can be worn high or low.
  • Braids: Braiding your hair makes it less likely to tangle, but ironically can be hard to undo when you’re done swimming.

Wear a swim cap

Whether you have long hair or short hair, too much exposure to chlorine or other chemicals can damage it.

The other concern of swimming with long hair is how it impacts your performance. Long hair, if left to float freely, can get in the way and increase drag underwater.

Thankfully, swimming caps can solve both problems (actually a lot more) in one fell swoop.

Swim caps can act as a physical barrier between your hair and chlorine and other chemicals in the pool, or salt if you’re swimming outdoors. It doesn’t keep your hair dry, but it can still reduce your hair’s exposure to water. Swim caps can also protect your hair from the sun’s UV rays.

There are a lot more benefits to wearing swim caps. They can keep your head warm, contain hair that naturally falls off while swimming and stop it from clogging the pool filters, make you more visible when swimming outdoors, keep your hair from tangling up; the benefits are numerous.

For these reasons, it’s generally a good idea to wear a swim cap even if you don’t have any hair, and an especially good idea if you have long hair.

Wash your hair after swimming

After swimming, it is vital to wash your hair once again but this time you should also use shampoo and conditioner. Even with all of the preventative steps taken, chlorine, salt, and other undesirables will still be in your hair, so you must wash them off.

For most people, regular shampoo and conditioner will suffice. If you frequently swim in the pool, you should specifically look for  shampoo and conditioners that remove chlorine. This is known as clarifying shampoo and it will ensure no chlorine remains in your hair.

If your hair is prone to tangling up, consider also investing in a hair detangler. Your hair will be in a sensitive, brittle state after swimming, so you must be gentle with it to avoid further damage. A detangler can help you remove any knots and tangles easily without harming your hair further.

Parting words

If you are a swimmer with long hair, do not be discouraged. You can definitely swim with long hair, but you need to know how to take care of it so that it doesn’t get damaged and negatively impact your performance.

By saturating your hair with fresh water, tying it up, wearing a swim cap, and then thoroughly cleaning your hair with shampoo, conditioner, and a detangler afterwards, you can keep your luscious locks from exposure damage while still performing at your best.