SAving your HAIR from the sea

Ok, my salty sea people! Over the many years of surfing and being a surf instructor, I was asked many, many times... "How do you take care of your hair, being in the sun and salt everyday?!"

Well, it's been a major challenge. The sun bleaches it out in the summer, and then in the winter I'm left with dark auburn roots that make me look like I took a bottle of peroxide to my head, and I'm left trying to find ways to blend the two, and by the time they look normal, it's summer again and it's all blonde and scorched.

Something I only recently realized is that the sun isn't bleaching my hair platinum blonde. It's the fact that it's totally dry! As soon as I do a heavy conditioning, my hair is gold again. Hence the reason that even the blondest of blonde turns a little darker in the water. Once I realized this, it wasn't about the sun anymore. It was about the salt.

Here are a few things I do to help keep my hair somewhat manageable.


Wearing your hair down while surfing can be a total nightmare, especially if the waves are big. You go to stand up on your board and your hair ends up under your hands and you rip out large chunks of hair. You get tossed in the surf and come up to a face full of hair when a big set is coming at you. When you get out of the water, you practically have dreadlocks. It's just not good.

Wearing your hair in a pony-tail (like I'm doing in the photo) is also a BAD IDEA. Getting tossed around with a pony tail means that hair is breaking at the hair tie, little by little. You don't want your hair breaking off that high up, and while your hair seems "out of the way", it's still flailing around back there, getting tangled, which means more brushing, which means more breakage.

THE SOLUTION: French braid. This contains the hair in a way that doesn't allow it to tangle or get tossed. Braid it as far down as you can and then use a small band to tie the end. Tieing at the end means that damage is only really happening at the end, if at all, and it's nothing that a trim can't handle. It's better to have damage at your ends that at the top of your head. When you're done surfing, take your braid out and rinse throughly.

I actually taught myself how to french braid my own hair, but I don't prefer to do it so I also taught my husband to french braid my hair! Now I have someone who can help me keep my hair a little more manageable, not only in the surf, but also at night.

Braids also help keep that conditioner stay put (you did put conditioner in your hair before braiding, right?), and protects some of the hair from the sun.


I worked as a runway model for a beauty show last year and I had this amazing hair stylist who taught me a few things over the course of the time we worked together. One thing he taught me was to use quality products on my hair. Somewhere in my mind, I thought that was probably a good idea, but there were so many excuses. "I can't afford it", was a big one. I didn't understand the difference anyway.

I started working with Paul Mitchell and noticed a difference right away. My hair was being treated to something that was actually designed to be good for your hair, as opposed to those lesser brands that I'd been using that I really thought was making my hair feel good. Granted, some of those worked alright on my hair, but just aren't suited for long-term use.

TeaTree by Paul Mitchell is awesome, but tea tree is drying if you use it daily, so always consider your ingredients when deciding how often to use a product. Steer away from using certain products long-term that contain things that might dry your hair out, and opt for something that contains coconut, argan oil, or anything else that will put moisture back into the hair.

A clarifying shampoo is great to use once every couple of weeks, but never use them daily!

Something else I figured out was that it helps to change things up. I use a different shampoo and conditioner every time. Always a quality product, though!

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Yeah, Shampoo does help get all of that salt out, but too much is too much. Shampoo can be just as damaging as the salt itself. When you wash too much, the hair gets dry, so try shampooing every few days (at the most) and just condition the hair really good instead. As long as you give your hair a good (but gentle on the scalp) cleaning, you should be getting that salt out. Don't be afraid to skip the shampoo. If you have to touch up with a dry shampoo in the day, do that on your roots, but not the ends.

I know some people who have given up on shampoo alltogether. I did for a while too, but then noticed a bit of build-up in the scalp after a few months, so I used a clarifying shampoo to get that out and then kept going!

And remember that "clarifying shampoo" isn't meant for daily use. Think of it as a deep clean. Only use the clarifying shampoo if you really feel like your hair needs it. I only use it a couple of times a month now because my hair has a problem being too dry as opposed to getting oily. Pay attention to those labels!



Dry hair is pourus, so saturate your hair with clean, fresh water before you go into the ocean so your hair is already full to its' max capacity.

When you get out of the water, rinse all of that salt out of your hair right away. Don't let it bake into your hair in the sun. I've been using the Rinse Kit to help with that. I keep it right in the back of my car and I don't even have to take it out of the car to rinse off. It holds enough water to get me through several surf sessions so it's really a convenient little tool!

When you get home, take a shower and get the rest of that salt out of your hair as quickly as possible.


You can also add a little bit of an organic or all natural conditioner before you go into the water. This will help keep your hair from tangling as much when you're surfing, and will also help keep moisture in the hair so it soaks up less salt water.

But please, avoid putting chemicals in the ocean as much as you can. Parabens, oxybenzone (benzophenone derivatives), and propylene glycol are a few that we know are harmful to corals. Using organic coconut milk (not coconut water) is a good alternative for this.

If you're having trouble finding a conditioner that is safe to go into the ocean, try THIS one from Living Libations. It's such a nice treat for your locks too.


They say brushing your hair while it's wet is really bad, but honestly, I can't brush it any other way. My hair is so long and tangled, that when I brush it dry, I can literally watch the little pieces of hair break and fall right out of it. It's hard to watch.

I use a big, wide tooth comb in the shower and that's the only way to get the job done. I've tried wet brushes and wasn't impressed. I believe that if you're patient and gentle, you can use a comb in the shower.

Always start at the ends and work your way up. Brush the ends, move up about an inch and get those tangles out, move up an inch, get those tangles out, move up and up and up and so on. It takes me about 20 minutes or more to fully get the tangles out of my hair in the shower, but I'm patient with it and I never force through the knots.

For the girls with normal length hair, this is going to be a different story. Just stick to brushing your hair while it's dry, since that's what "scientists have proven" to be best.


Protecting your hair from the sun can help keep your hair healthier too. With a good UV protectant, your hair will stop soaking up all of those UV rays that cause it to bleach out and dry out. For girls who dye their hair, it will also help maintain your color.

My favorite is the Sun Bum 3 In 1 Leave In Beach Formula. It contains a UV protectant which blocks out 90% of the UV rays, and it's made with coconut oil, banana pulp and peel, banana leaf, quinoa protein and sunflower seed oil. It's paraben free, color safe, dye free, cruelty free and made in USA. It's great to put in your hair before a day at the beach.

Not only does it protect your hair from the sun, but it also detangles and conditions, so feel free to use this type of product at home too. It controls frizz, prevents split ends, slows color fading and will leave your hair silky-smooth and shiny.


Deep Conditioning Treatments

Many salons offer a deep conditioning treatment for less than $15. They'll give your hair a good cleaning, and then apply a concoction of treatment, then (if they feel like it) they'll put you under heat for anywhere from 10-45 minutes (I was forgotten about one time and sat for over an hour. My hair actually loved it.). These are simple, and my ideal goal, for as damaged as my hair is, would be to go at least twice a month, if not every week. I say that because my hair is a lot more damaged than photos would let on, and it's extremely long. It can be very difficult to manage, so these treatments are important.