The Effect of Chlorine on Hair

Woman in a pool with chlorine
Photo: Fotosparrow/Shutterstock
Q: My current hair color has been dyed to a medium red - darker than strawberry blonde, lighter than auburn. I moved from Colorado to Arizona and now have a swimming pool. Frequent swimming is causing the red color to fade VERY quickly, and it just does not look good at all, despite using color protective shampoos and conditioners, washing my hair every other day, etc. I would like to change my hair color, but am not sure of the best way to go about this.
1. My natural color is a honey blonde, medium I guess. I would like to return to some kind of blonde. Is it better to go to a lighter blonde under these circumstances, since darker colors tend to fade? Or is it better to go to a darker hair color due to chlorine?
2. Do I have to bleach or remove color from my hair before dying? As far as, if I was to go to a darker blonde, can I just put the dark blonde color over the red? When my natural hair color grows in, when I dye the roots, will they be the same as the red part that was dyed over? I really hate it when you color your hair, and the roots don't match the rest.
3. I want to have a professional complete this process. What should I ask them about or check on to make sure they are performing the process correctly?
Your advice is greatly appreciated!

A: Most of the questions you have here are matters primarily of personal taste and can be accommodated in most any lifestyle (such as frequent swimming in chlorinated pools) with the proper hair care.
With regard to question (1): Whether you go with a lighter blonde color or something darker, you must take into account the effect chlorine will have on your hair. You should look for shampoo and conditioner products designed for hair exposed to swimming pools, such as Redken's Sun Shape Swim Cream. Personally, I would favor a return to something perhaps a shade lighter than your natural color (or slightly lighter than your current color) so that you can remove the current tones of red, without a too-severe process.
Question (2): This is a question best determined by your hair colorist. Since I cannot physically see the current color you have and must work only from your description, I cannot make any reasonable judgement as to whether your hair color can be suitably modified from its current color to a dark blonde without removing the current color, or lightening it significantly.
As a general rule, if the color you wish to go to is lighter than the current color, you may need to lighten the hair or strip away the color that has been applied before attempting to create the new color. This depends on how much lighter you desire to go with the color.
If your hair is already lighter than the color you want to achieve, then you should simply be able to apply the darker shade of color to the hair and cover or neutralize the red by using the appropriate color formula.
Question (3): This is a matter of trust and reputation. A good hair colorist will be willing to sit down with you and discuss what you want to have done and what you can reasonably expect from the color service you are contemplating. Often, a colorist will have available a portfolio of his or her clients' color services, for you to examine and see a sample of his or her work. If there is anything about the colorist that makes you uncomfortable, address the issues with him or her. If you don't feel comfortable with the colorist's skill for any reason, don't hesitate to look for another colorist.
If you haven't found a colorist yet to perform this service for you, start by asking around among friends and acquaintances for recommendations of reputable and skilled stylists and colorists, or for the names of reputable hair salons. In spite of the modern age, the best recommendation of a stylist/colorist's work is still his or her clients.