Pools and Green Hair

Long wet hair in the pool
Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Q: I am doing a science project related to hair and the effects of the pool turning it green. I was wondering if you could please answer some questions for me to put in my research as an interview.
1. Why does the pool turn your hair green?
A: The water in swimming pools often contains significant levels of copper and/or may be treated with algaecide chemicals containing copper which can result in giving the hair a tinge of green color. In addition high pH levels can also contribute, allowing the metal content to penetrate more into the hair shaft.
2. What kind of product best takes the green tint out of your hair?
A: The standard treatment involves using shampoos containing chelating ingredients (which bind metals and enable them to be removed from the hair).
3. What is the name of the element that takes the tint out best?
A: EDTA (ethylenediamene tetracetic acid) is usually the most common chelating ingredient in swimmer’s shampoos to remove the “green” from the hair. If you’re referring to brand names, it isn’t possible for me to say, since I haven’t done comprehensive comparison testing on the subject.
4. Is there a special procedure to take the color out? Please explain.
A: In most cases shampooing with a chelating shampoo is sufficient to resolve the problem. However, in some cases where the hair is bleached and lightened to pale blonde shades, it may become necessary to do a “color correction” on the “green hair” using a red-based color to neutralize the green tone.
5. Do you see it more from public or private pools? Why do you think that is so?
A: I don’t know of any statistical records to support the claim that public pools or private pools are more likely to cause green hair. I will, however, make a logical supposition that because private pools are often smaller it is easier to adjust their chemical levels to prevent the “green hair” syndrome. Public pools may be harder to maintain balanced.
6. Does the color damage also affect other hair on your body (such as eyebrows and arm hair)?
A: Any and all hair is usually “tinted” green in pools that can cause the problem. It typically shows only on the hair of the head in blonder shades because the density of the hair makes it more visible.
7. Do you feel salon-removing products or over the counter products work best?
A: I have never been over-the-top in advocating salon products above over-the-counter product. Realistically, there are some OTC products that are just as good as some of their salon counterparts. It is more important for the individual to choose products formulated to meet the needs of their hair. There is no reason for anyone to feel that they cannot have the best possible hair just because they are more cost conscious.
See also:
The pH level of hair salon water
The effect of chlorine on hair
Will chlorine affect the dye in my hair?
Can hair coloring turn my hair green if I'm exposed to a lot of chlorine?