I’m ashamed to even acknowledge the last time I wrote an Ask Afrobella, and I’ve let the questions stack up. Let me get back down to work with a fresh new post for you!

When I was a little girl, I was afraid of swimming. Not many of my family members are swimmers, and after a few scary incidents in too-deep water I was pretty much good on swimming. It always seemed like a big deal, from finding the right bathing suit to taking care of my hair. I owned more than one swim cap in my childhood history. I don’t think we ever quite mastered taking care of my hair for swimming, because I never quite mastered swimming. I always said to myself, that whenever I have kids they WON’T be like me. I’d love my kids to be little swimmers!

 via Fotolia.

When someone on Twitter asked me specific advice for her little afrobella, I knew I’d need to consult the experts. Here’s the question:

@MoniRJ007 – Hey @afrobella do you mind if I ask if you have any advice for after swim natural haircare for my little one? That’s her in the pic. She’s going on mini vacay with her dad this weekend and I don’t want her beautiful hair destroyed.

She has GORGEOUS hair! Hey beautiful little bella! For hair advice, I turned to the professionals. Here’s what they all had to say!

Camille Robbins-Reed is the owner of Noire Salon in Silver Spring, MD. She’s an educator and natural hair expert, you can find her on Twitter @Noireboss1.

Camille says: “This young girls hair should be saturated with water first, then apply conditioner. Preferably a moisturizing one with a UV protectant (Kera Care Moisturizing Conditioner for Color treated hair). While the hair is still damp, section off into 7-8 plaits. Use as much tension as she can tolerate so the hair won’t unravel in the pool. After the pool: Shampoo, condition again then place into four or five large braids until the next pool time (for those taking daily or bi weekly swim classes). If it is a one time pool event, follow the first four steps, then place into wet two-strand twists afterwards.”

Cara B. Naturally makes natural hair products for little kids, and co-founder Landra Johnson offered some helpful advice for mamas out there:

“It’s important to think about caring for textured hair both before and after swimming, particularly if swimming in chlorinated water. Chlorine is a drying chemical agent and can make delicate hair brittle and cause breakage. To protect your daughter’s hair, you may want to think about styling her hair in 3-4 braids or twists prior to swimming to avoid the formation of tangles and knots while she’s in the pool. We recommend staying away from elastics, rubber bands, or any type of hair accessory that can pull delicate strands and become tangled. As soon as possible after swimming, you should wash your child’s hair with a gentle, moisturizing shampoo and be sure to rinse thoroughly to completely remove any remaining chlorine. Once hair is clean, we recommend using a moisturizing hair cream or conditioner and a wide-tooth comb to detangle – always starting at the ends and patiently working up to the scalp.”

You can find them on Twitter @CaraBNaturally.

Felicia Leatherwood, creator of the Loving Your Hair With Natural Care Workshop recommends a few specific products — Aubrey Organics Normalizing Shampoo & Conditioner for a Active Lifestyle, Nature’s Blessing Hair Oil for scalp moisture, or Shea Moisture’s Reconstructive Elixir Spray. She also recommended a specific styling technique.

“Keep hair in double strand twists while swimming, so that it will be more manageable when it’s time to shampoo and condition the hair. Also, she should send Felicia Leatherwood of Loving Your Hair with Natural Care a request for her detangle brush. It will make life so much easier when it comes to detangling and conditioning each strand of the hair.” You can e mail lovingyourhaircare@gmail.com to get this brush which is featured in this video on detangling by My Natural Sistas.

And finally, one of the best websites for children’s natural hair care is Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care — she just posted an excellent, very detailed piece on protecting your child’s natural hair while swimming that includes phenomenal advice. I especially liked her last point, that “There is no right or wrong way on how to approach swimming and hair. It’s really just a matter of personal choice and what works best for your family.” So true for so many things.

I hope your little one enjoys swimming this weekend! Have fun, be safe, and don’t forget that sunscreen!

Mama bellas, what’s your advice on swimming? Any favorite products or specific recommendations?


BlackBetty says:
July 12, 2012, 10:43 am
I've been swimming since February (it's never to late to learn Bella). Since cutting my hair into a twa, I don't worry about my hair. I wet it before getting into the pool so that it's saturated with clean water and won't absorb much chlorine. I then rinse after swimming and do a co-wash. I wash with shampoo once a week and deep condition. I don't use anything special. Just Hello Hydration and Hair Rules Kinky Curling cream to style. Just have fun! Don't take it too seriously and remember that the swim cap isn't designed to keep your hair dry but rather to keep your hair secure and out of your face.
teachermrw says:
July 12, 2012, 12:21 pm
Such a precious, beautiful little girl! Also, great haircare advice for natural bellas of any age. :)
Lola Zabeth says:
July 13, 2012, 6:42 am
Great, great advice!! Although caring for natural hair during the swimming months can at times be a task, I would just add that we should never let on, or share that sentiment with our daughters. Both of my daughters have been swimming since they were babies, and in the back of my mind I do think about all the things I need to do before and after swimming, and how much time it is going to take etc. But I kept that to myself, not for them to worry about. I just want them to hit the pool, roll in the sand and be just as carefree as any other child during the summer, and not feel like their hair had any bearing on when, and how often we'd go swimming. Again great post!
Katoya says:
July 14, 2012, 2:30 pm
I have been a swimmer since I was eight years old. It took a long while for me to figure out that natural is the only way to go! Lots of deep conditioning and protective styles changed frequently!
Sue says:
July 17, 2012, 11:36 pm
I also learned to swim at eight, it's one of the reasons I stayed natural--didn't want a hair routine that might mean less time in the pool! For those who don't know, it's never too late to learn. It's definitely easier to manage with cornrows, twists or braids, you just wash and condition after the pool. With extension braids, using an anti-frizz serum on them helps them look fresher longer! I would also emphasize wearing a swim-cap, sometimes you'll find the hair does not get wet.
Joey says:
July 20, 2012, 5:05 am
Great hair care tips. My daughter is a swimmer and her hair is always very dry after a swim. I guess it is due to the chlorine. I should let her know about this. Thanks!
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April 10, 2015, 12:56 pm
I have an 11 year old who is going away to camp for 4 weeks. At camp she will be swimming in both a pool and the lake multiple times in a day with only an 8 minute shower at day end. Her hair is natural, but I'm so scared about the damage that will occur...I was thinking about micros or weave or something to protect the hair....she went away last year for 2 weeks and all she did was pull it into a bun and she came back with one huge mat on the back of her head...any advice? I need some suggestions...