Does Chlorine Cause Hair Loss? Your Summer Hair Care Guide.

I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and got to enjoy all of the seasons. I loved going up to Asheville to see the colors of the leaves in the fall and couldn’t wait for the first snow so we could go sledding. Summer was by far my favorite season though. Water skiing at Lake Norman, catching lightning bugs in jars, having impromptu barbecues, watching spectacular fireworks on July 4th… summers always felt magical.

Dealing with summer hair wasn’t quite as idyllic, though. Trying to get my frizzies under control when the humidity was at its peak was an exercise in futility and inevitably always ended with a not-so-sleek ponytail. The struggle was real. Now that I’m an adult with alopecia, summer brings a whole new set of hair dilemmas. Will chlorine make my hair fall out? UV light treatments are good for hair loss. Is the sun okay too? Will a hat protect my hair or harm it? Is summer shedding really a thing? So I gathered up the staffers and set off on the research train to get answers to our summer hair questions. There are so many old wives’ tales out there that it can be challenging to separate fact from fiction. Read on to learn how to keep your hair healthy and lustrous during the warmest time of the year.

Fact #1: Everyone Loses Some Hair Daily
The first thing you need to know is that no matter what time of the year, seeing strands of hair in the sink shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. People typically lose 50-100 strands of hair per day. (01) There’s a difference between normal hair shedding and excessive hair loss, though. If you start to notice your hair gradually thinning, bald spots developing, or hair loss on your body, something else may be occurring.

Fact #2: Hair Loss Peaks During the Summer
If you think you’re seeing more hair in the sink now than you saw a few months ago, it’s certainly possible. People have been proven to lose more hair during the summer than other times of the year. (02) When 823 women were tracked over a six-year period, researchers found that a maximum proportion of hair was in the telogen stage during the summer compared to other times of the year. Telogen rates were the lowest during the winter. (03)

The reason why still has yet to be determined. One hypothesis is that people naturally keep their hair in the winter in response to cold weather. Like animals who grow a winter coat and shed it in the summer, people may keep their hair to stay warm during the colder months. When the weather warms, the body reacts by shedding excess hair.

Figuring out whether the amount of hair you’re losing is typical can be challenging, especially during the summer. Ponytails, chlorine, salt water, and the sun can all contribute to damage and breakage, which you might think is hair loss. If you’re concerned, it’s always a good idea to consult with a board-certified dermatologist or hair specialist, especially if you notice thinning or bald patches.

Fact #3: Chlorine Does Not Cause Hair Loss
Although chlorine can damage your hair, it will not cause hair loss. In a study published by the Journal of Dermatology in 2000, researchers compared the hair of 67 professional swimmers to that of 54 non-swimmers. The study did not find evidence that the swimmers had more hair loss than the non-swimmers. The swimmers, however, did have hair discoloration and cuticle damage due to the chlorine. (04)

If you swim a lot or are on vacation, you can prevent chlorine from damaging your hair. Here are some tips that will help:

Wet and condition your hair before swimming
Wear a swim cap
Wash your hair thoroughly after getting out of the pool
Replace lost moisture with a deep conditioner
Fact #4: Wearing a Hat Will Not Make You Bald
Hats that fit properly do not make your hair fall out. That’s a myth. The reality is that it’s sweltering outside, and we’re seeing extreme temperatures all over the world. If you’re heading out to the pool or the beach, wear a hat to protect your hair and scalp. UVA (Ultraviolet A) and UVB (Ultraviolet B) rays damage your hair’s cuticles causing thinning, frizziness, discoloration, and dryness with prolonged exposure to the sun.

A hat is critical if you’re already using oral or topical medications such as Minoxodil, Finasteride (05), or Spironolactone. Medications can cause sun sensitivity in some people, resulting in sunburn or a rash. In some cases, UV light can cause a structural change to medications. As a result, some people produce antibodies that make them photosensitive. In other cases, the medication absorbs the UV light and releases the evolved drug into the skin. (06)

Fact #5: Hydrating Your Hair is the Best Way to Fight Humidity and the Elements
Hydration is your best bet if you’re worried about your hair being dry, brittle, dull, or frizzy. Here are some tricks that will help:

Use a sulfate-free hydrating shampoo
Deep condition regularly
Try heatless hair styling
Hydrate from the inside out by drinking plenty of water
Test out hydrating hair misting solutions made from natural ingredients
Fact #6: It’s Easy to Get Traction Alopecia During the Summer
Beware of pulling your hair back into tight buns and ponytails when your hair is wet. The pulling can cause traction alopecia, which can be reversed early on but not after the hair follicles have been damaged. If you want to wear braids, keep them loose. Frequently changing up your hairstyle will also help prevent a particular hair loss pattern from forming.

Fact #7: Eating a Protein-rich Diet Will Help Your Hair Stay Healthy and Shiny All Year-round
Protein is the primary building block that makes up your hair. If you’re concerned about your hair staying healthy during the summer months, be sure to load up on avocados, nuts, grass-fed chicken, salmon, tuna, seafood, and other clean sources of protein. Although the richest source of protein comes from animals, there are also plenty of protein sources for vegetarians. Egg whites, beans, and authentic Greek yogurt are all good sources. Protein supplements have also been proven effective in supporting healthy hair growth and are easy to pack for vacation. (07) Although many people use whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate is a better option, especially for people predisposed to androgenic alopecia.

Do You Still Have Questions About Your Summer Hair Loss?
If you’re losing more hair than normal over the summer, it’s possible that you’re experiencing summer hair shedding or have telogen effluvium that resolves itself. However, if it turns out that you have a form of alopecia such as androgenic alopecia, the sooner you are treated, the faster you can stop the hair loss and start the regrowth process. Topical and oral hair regrowth options range from easy-to-apply over-the-counter topicals such as Minoxidil and Finasteride to oral medications such Spironolactone. Keep in mind that many hair loss medications are only available by prescription. If you have further questions, contact us for a complimentary consultation with a board-certified dermatologist and hair specialist.

Resources:
(01) https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding

(02) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/bjd.16075

(03) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19407435/

(04) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11092265/

(05) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jgf2.510

(06) https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/sun-sensitizing-drugs

(07) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jocd.12400