Does the water from a swimming pool really turn blonde hair green?
It is summer time and we get calls all the time about patients with blonde hair turning green. But what actually causes the hair to change color? It seems that the obvious answer would be the chlorine.
We need to review the components of pool water. Many pools are chlorinated but have other metals and chemicals that your hair is exposed to while swimming. So what is the main cause?
It could be that the water is considered "hard " and is damaging the hair. Hard water is water that is filled wth heavy metals. Two studies bring to light the effects of hard water on hair.
The first study shows the effects of hard water on hair has been shown to have a mininal effect on over hair tensile strength as shown in this recent study.
"Based on the above study it can be concluded that there was no statistical difference in the tensile strength and elasticity between the hairs treated with hard water and distilled water, hence we conclude that hard water does not interfere with the tensile strength and elasticity of hair."
Another study showed that the pH influenced metal uptake since increasing alkalinity increases deprotonation.
J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Jul-Aug;62(4):383-91.
The uptake of water hardness metals by human hair.
Evans AO1, Marsh JM, Wickett RR.
"The condition of the hair, a key representation of the binding capacity, was most influential. Interestingly, water hardness levels had only a small effect on uptake; hair became saturated with notable amounts of water hardness metals even after repeated exposure to soft water. Water pH influenced metal uptake since side chains of hair proteins deprotonate with increasing alkalinity."
So then what exactly is causing the hair to turn green? Surprisingly the answer is copper.
The copper is oxidized by the chlorine and binds the hair which is composed of protein.
What could be the sources of copper in swimming pools?
Well water could have copper and many algaecides contain copper.
The metal in the water turns the hair green.
And it can happen with any hair color but it is more noticeable with blonde hair.
So how can we prevent green hair?
Prevention with a good water filter or purification system you would help and use algaecides without copper.
By using a good water filter you can remove many of the hard water elements and prevent a head full of green hair.
Finally by using a good hair conditoner which coats the hair before it is exposed to chlorine and copper may act as a protective shield.