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A shirtless man with dreadlocks at the beach.

Swimming with DreadLocks: What You Should Know

Dreadlocks are an ancient and all-natural hairstyle. The earliest humans probably wore dreadlocks.

Many people wear dreadlocks because you never have to use synthetic or harmful hair grooming products if you wear them naturally.

Still, wearing and maintaining dreadlocks requires a lot of grooming sacrifice and discipline on the wearer's part.

Dreadlocks form by using your fingers or palms to twist your hair into coils. Your hair can naturally form dreadlocks without manual manipulation if you just stop combing it.

As dreadlocks naturally form, individual hair follicles stick, lock, and become matted. The dreadlock's exterior may look matted and rope-like, but the interior of the dreadlock is like a jumbled latticework of coiled and blocked hair follicles.

The end of the dreadlock can become very tightly locked. But hair grows about half an inch or more each month. The hair at the scalp will always feature looser hair follicles. So, you should have a grooming habit of twisting your dreadlocks once or twice a week.

While dreadlocks are naturally beautiful, they are also very delicate. You need to keep them from drying out to prevent follicle breakage as they twist. Dreadlocks are a sponge for moisture, so you need to keep them completely dry as much as possible.

Once unnatural and harmful chemicals seep into your dreadlocks, getting them out can be very difficult.

And that is why you must take extra maintenance steps before and after swimming in chlorinated pools or saltwater bodies of water.

We have some tips on how you can protect your dreadlocks.

But first, you need to understand why you must take such hair maintenance precautions, especially if you have dreadlocks.

So, let's talk about chlorinated pools and saltwater first and the damage they can wreak on hair.

Lion Locs offers organic hair grooming products with all-natural ingredients that make dreadlock maintenance hassle-free. Check us out today.

Related: What to Know About Knotless Braids

The Damaging Effects of Chlorine and Saltwater on Dreadlocks

  A man swimming underwater in a pool.

To understand why you must take extra precautions with your dreadlocks when swimming in chlorine or salt water, we must understand how these chemicals work.

Let's first talk about chlorine.


Chlorine is a bleach. Full stop. 

When pool chlorine is introduced to water, it becomes a weak kind of acid called hypochlorous acid. Pool chlorine is a bleach that is designed to kill germs, bacteria, viruses, E.coli, salmonella, and the viruses found in diarrhea.

And chlorine should not produce any chemical smell in a pool. If you think that you smell chlorine at a pool, know that it is not chlorine. Pools must be "shocked" or regularly replenished with strategic amounts of chlorine.

Sometimes, the number of germs, bacteria, and human waste particles in a pool will outnumber the chlorine particles. So, the chlorine will transform into the chemical chloramine if the pool has not been shocked recently. And chloramine, not chlorine, is the chemical smell that is produced.

Over 44% of Americans do not shower or bathe before jumping into a public pool. Many consider jumping into a pool a form of bathing. And 38% of people think a strong chemical smell from a pool, which is chloramine and not chlorine, is a sign that it is safe to jump in.

And not to get too gross, but over 25% of the people in a pool had a diarrhea incident without washing themselves an hour before they jumped into the pool.

Chlorine strips away the melanin and natural oils from your hair, damages follicles, and makes it extremely brittle. And chlorine destroys hair lipids, which makes hair shiny.


Without getting too lost in science, saltwater is hyper-corrosive. If left unchecked, saltwater can break steel down into its molecules.

In 2018, a bridge in Genoa, Italy, fell down partly due to decades of exposure to saltwater mist.

Saltwater dries out hair follicles and makes your scalp extremely dry. Saltwater also strips hair of natural oils, damages hair follicles, and promotes split ends.

As we previously mentioned, dreadlocks are like a sponge for moisture and chemical interactions.

So, why would you want chlorine or saltwater residue in your hair after swimming in a pool or saltwater body?

Here are some steps to protect your dreadlocks.

Soak Your Dreadlocks Beforehand

Before you go swimming, soak your hair with water. Pools have shower areas and bathrooms with sinks where you can wash your dreadlocks. If you are at the beach, then use bottled water if you have to.

Soaking your hair before a dip will make it absorb a lot of water. 

This can act as a temporary buffer to keep out chlorine or saltwater.

But the longer that you swim, the less effective this protective method will be in the long run.

Twist Up Beforehand

Another concern about swimming in chlorine or saltwater is that if you don't get it all out of your hair, it could damage your hair follicles.

Also, waterlogging your dreadlocks for an extended time may cause some unraveling of your locked hair follicles.

Take some time the night or day beforehand to twist your dreadlocks.

Use Essential Oils

Essential Oils are just the ultra-concentrated extracts of a plant. Because essential oils are so concentrated, adding a little of the essential oil to a neutral carrier oil before an application is necessary.

Some of the best essential oils for dreadlocks include, but are not limited to:

  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Clary Sage
  • Eucalyptus
  • Jojoba
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary

Generously apply essential oil to your dreadlocks a few hours before swimming. The essential oil will act like a sheen buffer to chlorine or saltwater for a little while.

Wear a Swimming Cap

Get a swimming cap that covers the entirety of your dreadlocks. 

It won't keep out all of the water. But if you aren't swimming for an extended period, it should keep your dreadlocks from being soaked to their internal follicles.

Wash Your Dreadlocks Immediately Afterwards

 Back view of a man with long dreadlocks looking out at a beach.

Some people with dreadlocks have a day or two in the week dedicated to washing their dreadlocks. You may want to swim on your dreadlock wash day.

Otherwise, make sure to dry out your dreadlocks after you leave the pool. Take the time to towel and squeeze each lock if necessary. Do not wrap up or tie up wet dreadlocks.

Wash your hair if there are nearby facilities that allow you to. 

Otherwise, let it air dry until you get home.

When you get home, wash your dreadlocks thoroughly. Please don't be shy about it. You may have to rinse and repeat a few times to get every chlorine or saltwater residue out of your hair.

Then dry your hair. Use a hairdryer or head-covering hairdryer to dry out your dreadlocks completely.

Wet and even mildly damp dreadlocks can cause dread rot or hair fungus growth and proliferation. And once you have dread rot, it takes a lot of effort to get rid of it.

Take care of your dreadlocks only with the best organic and all-natural products sold by Lion Locs.

Related:  5 Top Tips on Taking Care of Your Locs

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