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Can You Swim With Box Braids? Is It Ok To Go Swimming

African American woman that's an avid swimmer wearing braids

You may love space buns, wash n’ gos, and twist-outs, but when you’re on the hunt for a style that you can wear in the swimming pool, your styling options suddenly become limited.

When some styles get wet, they may get frizzy, unravel, or lose their shape. The result? A real hair disaster. 

Box braids are touted as the ultimate vacation style for Black women, perfect for travel, beach outings, and pool parties. But can you swim with them? That’s the million-dollar question.

In this article, we’ll answer that question in detail. We’ll also give you some tips for maintaining your box braids after they come in contact with water. 

Can You Swim with Box Braids?

One of the greatest things about box braids is that you can swim with them. When installed correctly, they encase your natural hair within and won’t slip out. What’s more, box braids won’t likely get frizzy after coming in contact with the water (again, if they were installed correctly). 

So, you can usually wear box braids and swim without any issues. This is one of the primary reasons women choose swim season to wear braids, especially if they’re not fond of wearing a swim cap.

Young black girl sitting outside during swim season with her hair braided

Box Braid Installation Concerns

Before you swim with box braids, make sure that they were installed with sufficient tension. This does not mean that they should be tight at the roots – that could pull your hair out.

But as they are braided down, the hair should be pulled taut. If they are not braided with enough tension, you could notice frizz after they come in contact with water.

Another factor that affects how box braids behave when wet is whether they were properly sealed. There are several ways to seal box braids, but one of the best ways to do it is with hot water.

Stylists should be sure to dip the box braids in boiling water to seal them permanently. Once this is done, you don’t have to worry about them unraveling when you get in the water. 

Knotless box braids are more likely to get frizzy when wet, and that’s because more of your natural hair is exposed near the roots with this method. The difference may not be very noticeable, but an increased risk of frizziness is there. 

Wet Box Braids Concerns

Cute black girl wearing a blue and white shirt during the summer with braided twists

Even if your box braids were installed perfectly and you’re not worried about them getting frizzy or unraveling, there are some other things you should be aware of.

Below, we’ll get into some common issues that come along with box braids: 

  • Heavy braids. Water weighs down braids immediately and it can be a real problem. We’ve got to warn you that the weight difference between dry box braids and wet box braids can be significant, and some people may not be able to tolerate that extra weight. 
  • Chlorinated pool water. Chlorine is detrimental to the health of your hair, even when it’s in a protective style. The chemical can take your hair from moisturized and supple to dry and crunchy. And if you regularly swim in chlorinated water, your hair may eventually become weak and begin to break. Some notice a difference in their hair after swimming in such pools just one time. 
  • Mold and mildew. Wet braids are a breeding ground for mold and mildew. If you get your hair wet and don’t dry it thoroughly, you may notice an unpleasant smell or see mold growth after a short time. Once mold and mildew begin growing in your hair, it can be difficult to get rid of, so prevention is key. 

How To Swim With Box Braids

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Though you can swim with box braids, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. In this section, we’ll tell you how to do it right. That way, you can preserve the sleekness of your braids and keep your hair healthy as well. 

Recommend Rinsing Hair to Wash Chlorine Away

When swimming in chlorinated water, you should take a few steps to counteract the effects of the chemical. Rinse your hair with clean water after you get out of the pool.

This step is necessary whether you’ve just been splashed a few times or you took a deep dive.

Once the chlorine penetrates your braids, it can cause a few issues: hair dryness, a change in your hair color, brittleness, and increased split ends. 

If you have time, you could also wet your hair before getting into the pool. If your natural hair is soaked in clean water, it won’t be able to absorb as much chlorine from the pool. You’ll still need to rinse your hair afterward, though. 

Pretty black lady wearing box braids preparing to play water sports

Washing Braids After Swimming

If you’ll be swimming multiple times over the course of a week or so, we recommend rinsing your hair may be more convenient and less drying.

But if you will only be swimming once or twice during your trip or party, washing your braids is the best thing to do after getting out of the pool. The shampoo is better able to rid your hair of contaminants than plain water. 

Scrub and Moisturize Your Scalp

We’ve focused a lot on your hair thus far, but your scalp also needs TLC after a swim. That’s because swimming in a chlorinated pool can cause your scalp to feel a little itchy or irritated.

Thoroughly rinsing and lightly scrubbing your scalp will eliminate the chlorine. We’d like to emphasize “lightly” because if you scrub your scalp too hard, you can disturb your roots and create frizz or even superficial cuts on your scalp. 

After your scalp is clean, you can moisturize it with your favorite soothing oil, whether it be vitamin E oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil. The oil you use is up to you. 

Dry Your Braids Thoroughly

A cheerful black lady after using leave-in conditioner on her braided curls

No one wants moldy, mildewy braids, but that doesn’t stop unsuspecting women from experiencing fungi growth after getting their braids wet.

It takes just one to two days for mold and mildew to set in. Luckily, it doesn’t take much to prevent it from happening. 

Here are the steps you need to take to dry your braids after swimming: 

  • Let them air dry freely. After you get out of the pool, gently squeeze out the excess water and let your braids dry the rest of the way in the open air. Don’t put on any hats or pull your hair into a ponytail. Doing so can cause some of the moisture to get trapped. 
  • Use a hooded dryer. The quickest and best way to dry your box braids is with a hooded dryer. After getting out of the pool, pile your braids on top of your head and sit under the dryer until your braids are completely dry. On average, it takes about 30 minutes to dry braids this way, but if your braids are super thick or long, it could take much longer. 
  • Don’t style your braids until they’re totally dry. The mistake many women make is styling their braids while they’re drying (putting them in space buns, a high ponytail, a low ponytail, etc.). These styles all trap moisture in your braids and jumpstart mold and mildew growth. 

It’s best to follow all of these rules to keep your braids and scalp healthy as you have fun in the pool. Skipping any of these steps could result in hair damage or mold growth. 

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Conclusion

We hope that the information in this article enables you to wear braids (micro braids, box braids, braid extensions, etc.) and swim to your heart’s content knowing exactly what to do to preserve your hairstyle and your hair’s health.

Now you can enjoy your vacation, pool party, or aquatic exercise without worrying about what it’ll do to your braids. Swim on!