Keep Your Boho Braids Fresh: Swimming Tips for Protective Styles

Boho braids are the perfect summer protective style. They keep your natural hair contained and free from damage while letting you rock gorgeous, carefree texture. However, water activities like swimming present a unique challenge. Chlorine, saltwater, and moisture can wreak havoc on neat, beautiful boho braids if you don't take proper precautions. But don't let fears of ruining your style keep you from enjoying the pool, beach, or lake this season. With some smart swimming tips and attentive aftercare, you can maintain fabulously fresh boho box braids and knotless braids all summer long, even with regular water exposure. Here's everything you need to know about protecting your boho braids while swimming.

How Water Can Damage Boho Braids

Before diving in, it's helpful to understand exactly how swimming can impact your boho knotless braids and box braids:


The chlorine used to sanitize swimming pools is powerful stuff. It's highly effective at killing bacteria and helps keep pool water safe for swimmers, but it can be very harsh and damaging to delicate hair fibers. Over time and with repeated exposure, chlorine can make braiding hair brittle, frizzy and prone to breakage. It also tends to strip hair of its natural moisture and oils, leading to dryness. Chlorine can even react with certain hair dyes, causing braids to become discolored or brassy in tone.


Similar to chlorine, the high salinity of seawater can take a serious toll on the health of bohemian braids. Seawater contains tons of mineral salts that are corrosive to the hair cuticle when absorbed over repeated exposure. This leads to extremely dry, straw-like hair texture that is more prone to tangling and breakage. The salts also cling to the surface of braids after swimming, creating a gritty buildup. When this salty residue is not properly rinsed out, it continues to dry out braids from the inside out.


Anytime boho braids become saturated with water, whether from chlorinated pools or salty oceans, the excess moisture causes the braiding hair fibers to swell up and expand. This is because the hair shafts are very porous and absorb water easily. As braids then start to air dry post-swimming, they can lose their original shape and structure. Damp braids tend to shrink up as they dry, leading to an uneven, fuzzy appearance. If styled or manipulated while still wet, braids are also more likely to become misshapen and frizzy.


The actual act of moving through water, from swimming strokes to wading, creates a lot of friction and tension against boho braids. With regular swimming, this resistance can gradually loosen up or unravel the neat, tight braids over time. Braids tend to become the most loose and undone around the nape of the neck and edges of the hairline, where they rub against the skin. This friction damage is compounded when braids are also being exposed to drying chlorine and saltwater at the same time.

boho knotless braids

Smart Swimming Habits For Protecting Your Braids

While swimming does pose some risks to the pristine appearance of freshly installed boho braids, you can absolutely still enjoy the water regularly throughout the summer without sacrificing your beautiful protective style. Maintaining the health and neat look of your braids simply requires following some smart protective measures before, during and after swimming.

Always Wear a Swim Cap

A snug-fitting swim cap is absolutely essential anytime your boho braids are going to be getting wet in chlorinated or salt water. This forms a physical barrier that keeps the vast majority of your braids from being in direct contact with the damaging water. Look for high quality caps made from durable silicone or latex materials that create a watertight seal when worn correctly. Avoid flimsy caps that water can easily leak through. It's worth investing in multiple caps that last over time.

Wet Hair Before Getting In

A simple but highly effective trick is to always wet your boho braids yourself using clean, fresh water before actually getting into the pool or ocean. Either holding your braids under a shower or lightly misting them down with a spray bottle until they're damp will help prevent the braiding hair from soaking up and absorbing as much of the chlorinated pool water or salty sea water once submerged. By "pre-filling" braids with fresh water, there is less room for them to retain the more damaging liquids.

Rinse Immediately Afterwards

As soon as you exit the pool or ocean after a swimming session, make a beeline to thoroughly rinse your boho braids off under fresh, running water. Whether it's a pool shower or a hose, you want to flush out any traces of absorbed chlorine or saltwater before it has a chance to really permeate and damage the braiding hair. Don't skip or delay this step. Even if you wore a swim cap, give your braids a thorough rinse from root to ends to be sure no chemicals linger on the hair.

Deep Condition Regularly

Frequent swimmers with boho braids should try to work deep conditioning treatments into their haircare regimen at least once a week. The added boost of rich moisture will help "reset" the hair from any drying effects of chlorine or salt water. Concentrate conditioners on the oldest, most fragile sections of braids, which tend to be the ends. Look for deep conditioners and masks formulated with penetrating ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil and proteins to really nourish braiding hair that's been in the water.

Let Braids Fully Air Dry

It's important to allow your boho braids to air dry completely before aggressively styling or touching them post-swimming. Drying naturally with minimal manipulation prevents braids from becoming frizzy or misshapen due to manual friction while they're in a vulnerable damp state. If you've followed the protective tips, braids should dry into their original smooth shape and structure. Never go to sleep at night with damp braids under a scarf, as this can cause mildew. Have patience and dry braids fully.

boho box braids

Give Extra Protection To Edges

Since the fine, fragile hairs along your hairline are more prone to damage, make sure to give your edges some extra protection. In addition to a swim cap, consider wearing a thick edge band or bandana in the water to minimize their direct exposure to drying chemicals. Be extra attentive about rinsing and conditioning these hairs post-swimming. To maintain sleekness, apply a light layer of moisturizing edge control gel and tie edges down smooth at night. Baby hairs need extra vigilance.

Avoid Salt Sprays & Texturizers

While it may be tempting to use salt sprays or beach wave sprays on boho braids for a fun, tousled effect, avoid any products that contain added salts or texturizing ingredients at all costs. These formulas can compound the drying, frizzing effects on braids that have already been exposed to salt water and chlorine while swimming. Embrace your braids' beautiful natural texture and movement, and focus on protecting and sealing the hair instead of using

Check for Damage Frequently

After each swimming session, take a few moments to really look closely at your boho braids and inspect for any visible signs of damage or wear. Check if you notice significant frizziness, loosening, or outright unraveling throughout the braids. At the first sight of chlorine or saltwater damage compromising your style, avoid further swimming and schedule an appointment for a salon touch up right away. Catching and repairing issues early, before they have a chance to worsen, can restore braids back to their original sleek, fresh state.

With some diligence and attentiveness to these protective measures, your passion for boho braids and love of swimming can absolutely coexist harmoniously all summer long! Don't let fear of damage prevent you from fully enjoying all your favorite water activities. Preparation is everything.

boho box braids

Post-Swim TLC For Boho Braids

Even if you follow the swimming protection tips to a tee, boho braids that have been exposed to water will still require some extra TLC and rehabilitation afterwards to restore them to peak condition. Build these aftercare techniques into your post-swimming haircare routine:

Thorough Cleansing

Once you've rinsed the chlorine or salt water fully out of your braids, it's critical to follow up with a complete cleansing using a gentle clarifying shampoo. Really take the time to work the shampoo thoroughly throughout all your braids, making sure to create a rich lather from roots to ends. This second sudsing up will help lift and remove any lingering chemicals, minerals or hard water deposits clinging to the surface of the braiding hair. To avoid stripping away too many natural oils in the process, opt for a sulfate-free shampoo with added moisturizing ingredients.

Target Leave-Out Hair

For boho knotless braids that utilize the feed-in method, it's important to give extra care and attention to that delicate section of your natural leave-out hair that isn't tucked away into the braid. This exposed hair tends to take the biggest beating from harsh pool and ocean water. After shampooing, take the time to gently cleanse just the natural hair with a creamy, hydrating co-wash. Then work a rich deep conditioner throughout, and finger detangle softly to ward off any matting or snarls. Consider applying a lightweight leave-in conditioner to help restore lost moisture.

Deep Treat The Ends

When applying deep conditioning treatments to revive boho braids after swimming, really focus the product on the ends of your braids for maximum restoration. The ends are composed of the oldest, most porous parts of the braiding hair, as they've been exposed to the elements the longest. Isolate your braids into 4-6 sections and coil the ends up to the mid-shaft tightly with a hair tie or clip. Then fully saturate just the isolated ends with a protein-rich deep conditioning masque, and allow to absorb under a plastic cap for up to an hour. Rinse with cool water.

Re-secure Loose Sections

After shampooing or wetting boho braids post-swimming, check throughout to identify any sections that may have loosened up around the scalp and roots. Exposure to water can compromise the tightness and durability of braids over time. Carefully remove the rubber bands from any loosening sections and gently re-plait those sections from the roots, securing tightly at the base to discourage further unraveling. While hair is still slightly damp, smooth the edges and kitchen with firm-hold gel and brush down with a boar-bristle toothbrush.

Reduce Styling Manipulation

Because wet braids are much more susceptible to frizz and mechanical damage, avoid heat styling or aggressive manipulation of your boho braids while they're damp after swimming. Allow braids to air dry about 90% of the way before attempting to re-style in any up-dos or high-manipulation styles. The more friction and handling braids endure while saturated with water, the more likely they are to become swollen, misshapen and fuzzy. Be extra gentle with damp braids. Never pull too tightly on hairline or nape while wet.

boho braids

Dust & Trim Split Ends

Part of post-swimming braid rehabilitation is dealing with any split ends or unraveling that water exposure can exacerbate over time. After cleansing and deep treating braids, take sharp haircutting shears and carefully search for and snip away any visible split ends along the braid lengths. Getting rid of those wispy, fraying ends can prevent further length from continuing to unravel. Aim to dust and trim your braids about a 1/4 inch every 3-4 weeks while wearing them for maintenance. Frequent micro-trims are key for keeping braids polished.

Some tender loving aftercare will go a long way towards fixing any signs of wear to help restore boho braids back to their original glory, even after a full day of being submerged in the ocean or pool. Be sure to consistently schedule in some post-swimming treatment time.

The Takeaway

There's no need to let fears and hesitation about ruining your fresh set of boho braids keep you stranded on the sidelines during swimming season. With the right arsenal of simple protective measures to use during swimming, coupled with attentive maintenance and conditioning afterwards, you can absolutely keep your braids looking flawless and water-safe for the full 4-8 weeks you're rocking them. The key is being proactive. Wear secure swim caps and pre-dampen braids in clean water before submerging. Rinse thoroughly immediately post-swimming to rid hair of chemicals and salt. Deep condition frequently, concentrating products on the ends. Allow braids to fully air dry before excessive manipulation. Re-secure any loose sections and gently trim away damage as it's noticed. With patience and consistency, your protective boho box braids and knotless braids can absolutely survive repeated encounters with chlorine and seawater without sacrificing their fresh beauty. So go ahead and dive in fearlessly - your braids will thank you!

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