Salty Hair Don't Care...learn the different ways to tame your mermaid hair.
Unless you have very short hair or are completely bald, I’m sure you’ve had some issues dealing with your hair and your favorite water sports, like scuba diving. I have curly hair that easily tangles, so, I’ve had to try different ways to manage my hair both underwater and after my dives.
Before and after your dive:
When I first moved to Florida, my hair was much longer. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the water in Northern Virginia, so, I didn’t think much about my hair after I moved. And during my first year, I didn’t do anything different—shampoo, conditioner, hair gel. But, after my first year living down here, diving in the ocean and in the pool (as I was taking more advanced scuba classes) and hanging out in the sun, I ended up having to chop off a dramatic amount of hair because a lot of it had gotten very dry and unmanageable. Since then, I’ve made some changes to help keep my hair healthier!
I like to put on a generous amount of reef safe leave-in conditioner shortly before I go in the water. This has an immediate noticeable improvement in preventing tangles, and really helps keep my hair healthy. We have a couple of reef safe leave-in conditioners at Force-E Scuba, including Stream2Sea and Gnarly Head. I have also tried using coconut oil, which is natural and therefore not as harmful to the ocean environment as some leave-in conditioners might be, however, I have not found it to be quite as effective as leave-in conditioner.
If your dive boat has a shower, your hair will thank you for rinsing the salt out after your dive. Some of the dive boats in the area actually have shampoo and conditioner on the boat. If not, you can always bring some. Also, if the boat you’re going out on doesn’t have a shower, no problem, Force-E sells portable showers! A friend of mine brought one out on a recent dive and treated me to a nice warm shower and some of the finest conditioner I’ve ever used after our dives. My hair felt like silk! Of course, you’ll want to wash and condition your hair as soon as possible after either a dive in the ocean or a dip in the pool. Chlorine can be pretty bad for your hair too!
In addition, every couple of weeks, I like to use a deep conditioning treatment. These changes, along with using less shampoo (which is a tip I picked up from a female dive boat crewmember with amazing hair), has allowed me to prevent further damage despite the fact that I’ve been in the water more and more now that I’m an instructor.
In preparing to go in the water, the first thing you should do is fix your mask strap. Almost all masks come with a silicone strap that pulls and tangles up in hair very easily. I just got the chills thinking about how that old strap used to pull my hair, seriously!! You can either completely change the strap out for a neoprene strap, or, you can get a neoprene strap cover that just goes over your existing strap. Neoprene doesn’t pull and tangle your hair like silicone. Of course, we have these at Force-E! I typically end up bringing my students in to get this exact item after day one at the pool; taking the mask off and on can get a little frustrating when you keep pulling your hair!
Depending on your hair length, you may be able to put it all in a ponytail, or fancy braids, but, you obviously need to keep it out of your face when diving. Try to make sure the ponytail, bun or whatever is either up high or down low, so it doesn’t interfere with the placement of your mask strap. My hair is much shorter than it used to be (as I explained above), and, I can no longer pony it, so, I depend on the DiveBuddy, which is a headband made out of a bathing suit-like material, which has an elastic band through it so it stays in place. It is made to be in the water, so, unlike some other athletic headbands, this one you’re not likely to lose in the water, as long as you put it on the right way. Here is how I do it:
Step 1: put your hair in a ponytail (up very high or down very low so it doesn’t interfere with your mask strap), or in a braid, or however you wish to keep it out of your face.
Step 2: put on the DiveBuddy headband so that your hair is out of your face.
Step 3: put your mask on your face only, do not yet put the strap on your head.
Step 4: while holding the mask on your face with your palm, and, holding your headband in place with the fingers of the same hand, use your other hand to gently slide your strap onto your head over the headband. The strap will be lower on your head than the headband because the DiveBuddy headband is not a huge piece of fabric.
As an alternative, you could consider getting a hood to keep your hair out of your face. There are also beanies and neck gaiters (aka buffs) to consider. One of my students liked to braid her hair and put it all up in a swim cap, it seemed to work well for her, but, I haven’t tried that method myself. I attempted using a buff to manage my hair, but ended up losing it in the ocean, which is why I like the DiveBuddy, the elastic helps keep it in place. I still like buffs to keep the sun off my neck though!
Sometimes I still do fight with my hair underwater, but, I’m much more comfortable than I used to be! I remember a dive just last year (before I found the DiveBuddy headband), when I thought all of my hair was in a ponytail, but, it came out during the dive, and, I spent a lot of time fussing with it instead of looking at the beautiful reef!
Just pick the right gear (headband, hood, buff, neoprene mask strap, etc.), and, treat your hair right (lots of conditioner), and you’ll be able to forget about it and just dive, dive, dive!!!