Hot Topic: Hair deters black women from partaking in swimming

Swimming

Alice Dearing says she understands why black women would be deterred from swimming because of their hair.

22-year-old Alice Dearing is a student at Loughborough University, one of the only black girls on the swimming Team GB squad and the second black woman to represent them following Achieng Ajulu-Bushell the first black woman to swim for Team GB.

Afro hair can be damaged by the chemical Sodium hypochlorite which is found in swimming pools. Alice says that the impact the water has on black girls can affect their confidence especially amongst girls with thicker hair textures, this may be due to factors like shrinkage which can cause a black girl's hair to get shorter when contact is made with water. 

Being half English and Ghanaian, she doesn't see many black athletes in the sport. This can influence other black girls, perhaps interested in swimming because they see it as a place which is not for them.

Other facts such as the cost of swimming and the stigmas the black community have of swimming may also influence their decision to partake in the sport.

Shirley McDonald a consultant trichologist at The Institute of Trichologists in London reports that "Sodium hypochlorite can cause excess dryness leading to damage if the hair is not washed and conditioned after swimming - and so afro hair is likely to suffer more quickly because of its structure." 

It could be suggested in order to tackle this problem swimming caps can be worn. However Noelle Singleton founder and CEO of Afroswimmers Aquatics LLC. argues the swimming caps created are not adequate enough to ensure your hair doesn't get wet and therefore getting your hair wet despite wearing a shower cap is inevitable.

Swimming caps are not designed for the bigger hairstyles often worn by, the afro Caribbean community such as braids, dreadlocks, and afros, which require bigger swimming caps in order to be covered.

Despite some swimming caps existing in order to cater to those hairstyles such as the Soul caps which can be found on Amazon, this perhaps is not desirably worn by black girls as it may cause discomfort as the hat draws attention since it doesn't conform to typical beauty standards. 

Soul Cap

It may, as a result, impact their confidence as Alice mentions especially in major tournaments such as the Olympics were you are not only exposed to national criticism but global criticism also.

With Alice Dearing looking to represent Team GB in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this would perhaps encourage and inspire black women to engage with the sport.

However more needs to be done to help tackle the impact Sodium hypochlorite has on afro hair and improving the representation in the sport, which may come from visibly seeing more women of colour competing. 

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