Swimming may be a refreshing and fun activity in summer but landing up with green hair as a side effect, especially when you’re a natural blonde or just recently spent some hard-earned cash on a few highlights, can be a fairly annoying occurrence.

Since most pools are chlorinated and the general belief is that chlorine is the culprit, it seems like a somewhat impossible task to prevent green hair. In a fascinating twist, the truth is that it’s actually not chlorine’s fault, well not totally.

The real culprit in the water is copper. Just like a copper coin can start turning green after years of being handled or left lying forgotten in a drawer, the same thing happens when copper is present in pool water. As the chlorine causes the metal mineral to oxidise it turns things green. This is also why you may sometimes also end up with pool stains of a greenish colour.

When it comes to hair, the oxidised metal binds to the proteins in the hair strands which means that every swimmer splashing around in the pool water ends up with oxidised copper in their hair, only with darker hair, the green effect won’t be visible.

In case you’re wondering, yes, saltwater pools do use chlorine to sanitize the water. However, it’s just a different process whereby the salt is made by a chlorine generator instead of being added manually in powder or tablet form. So, if there is copper present in the water, the chlorine created by the salt will oxidise it and it still has the potential to turn your hair green.

Where Does the Copper Come From?

The water you use to fill up the pool can contain a high copper content. While borehole water is the biggest culprit, some municipal water sources can also have high mineral concentrations.

Copper makes a good algae killer and is often an active ingredient in pool algaecide products which would increase the potential for turning hair green. However, if you are looking after your pool properly, you shouldn’t need to use an algaecide.

While chlorine is generally the most popular pool sanitiser, one of the active ingredients in a pool mineral sanitiser is copper, particularly for its algae killing properties.

Controlling the Copper in Your Pool

To help mitigate the green hair scenario, your best course of action is to keep the copper out of your pool water.

Testing your water source using test strips, a water testing kit or taking a sample to your local pool shop, will help you to determine whether your water source contains high amounts of copper.

Using a hose filter when filling your pool will be beneficial in keeping many minerals out of your water. Should your pool develop an algae infestation, use a copper-free algaecide.

A water additive like a metal sequestrant won’t remove metal from the water but it does bind the metal and prevent it from oxidising. If you already use a mineral sanitiser then you should skip the sequestrant as that may reduce the overall effectiveness of the sanitiser. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions to confirm the safer and best way to use any pool products.

Obviously, when you swim in an environment where you can’t control the copper content or chemicals in the water, like at a public pool or a friend’s house, your best course of action is to protect your hair. Preventative methods like wearing a swimming cap, using specially formulated swimmer’s shampoo, covering your hair with leave-in conditioner, rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar before you take a dip or washing your hair immediately after swimming, while it’s still wet.

Pool Spa knows their stuff. Chat to one of their friendly experts today about minimising copper in your pool water so that there is less chance of anyone landing up with green hair. Visit us at www.poolspa.co.za