More than a Cap - Banning Natural Hair Protection Alienates BIPOC Swimmers
Ahead of the long-anticipated 2021 Toyko Olympics, FINA, the international water-sports governing board, denied the use of hair caps specifically designed to protect and accommodate afro and natural hair textures and styles. Soul Cap, a British-based company, aims to create swim headwear that fits comfortably over long, voluminous hair, especially afros and protective styles that slip out of standard-sized swim caps. Soul Cap was designed to fit the same standards and functions fulfilled by other FINA-approved gear while helping natural textured swimmers optimally perform on the world stage. The denial was not only a massive blow to Black Olympians, but a huge step backward in terms of inclusivity for aspiring competitive swimmers, divers, and water polo players worldwide.
FINA’s decision definitely makes a splash...and not in a good way.
The Olympics should be about celebrating and representing the diversity of talent and athleticism united on the world stage. FINA’s announcement blatantly discriminates against Black athletes and undermines the core message and significance of the Games. Promoting diversity in global water sports is more important than ever, as African-American swimmers make up only 1% of professional swimmers (USA Swimming Foundation). Massive disparities in water sports are further exacerbated by the sport’s failure to accommodate the specific needs of Black athletes. Many athletes are discouraged by competitive water sports because they cannot find approved caps that protect their natural hair from breaking in the harsh, tight rubber headwear. Others face difficulty preserving their natural styles from water and chlorine within standard-sized caps that are too small to stay securely attached to their hair during competition. This is hugely important, as actions that exclude, discourage, or decrease the participation and visibility of Black swimmers further alienate aspiring young athletes from entering water sports.
Here at CURLe, we believe that promoting diverse communities wholeheartedly includes the visibility and acceptance of natural hair textures in all environments, from the lap lanes of the Tokyo Olympics to elementary school classrooms and executive boardrooms. Our products are formulated with a love for natural hair and a passion for supporting all curls in all places. As we reach the height of summer, we wanted to share some CURLē advice for keeping your curls hydrated and healthy in the pool and water, so that you can confidently enjoy and embrace your natural hair everywhere.
Pre-wet and Condition Before Diving In
Because curls are more porous than other hair types, they are more likely to absorb the chemicals found in chlorine and saltwater pools. A great way to protect your curl pattern is to wet your hair - either with a quick shower or spray bottle - before diving in. Additionally, comb in a generous amount of conditioner or leave-in for extra tangle prevention. Giving your curls a much-needed drink pre-swim allows the strand to saturate with pure water, leaving less room for harmful chlorine absorption.
Prevent Tangles with a Protective Hairstyle
Braids and twists are a great option for long natural hair to prevent breakage and tangling when hair is wet. Prep the hair by wetting it and add a light leave-in conditioner or oil to make detangling even easier. Try french braids, braided ponytails, or twisted buns for a fashionable and fun look.
Don’t Leave Chlorine In Overnight
If you’ve gotten your hair wet in the pool, it’s important to rinse, wash, and deep condition your hair before going to bed. During the night, it can become easy for wet, chlorine-saturated hair to break or tangle against your bedding or pillowcase. Additionally, the longer chlorine is allowed to sit on your strands, the more drying chemicals are absorbed into moisture-deprived curls. Ideally, dry your hair as well before turning off the lights and swap your cotton pillowcases for silk ones!