Woman designs waterproof headscarf to encourage more black people to go swimming

95% of black adults and 80% of black children do not go swimming, according to recent figures from Sport England – and a lot of that comes down to haircare.

But now, a British inventor has created a unique waterproof headscarf designed to protect Afro hair, in a bid to encourage more black people to go swimming.

Danielle Obe, 38 from London, came up with the idea for the headscarves – called Nemes – after her daughter Kayla, now six, began to dread going in the pool. She herself had previously given up swimming for two decades because she did not want to risk damage to her hair.

Afro hair can be damaged by the chemicals in swimming pools because it is often naturally drier and more brittle – and the time it can take to moisturise and style hair after swimming can be really offputting.

‘Natural Afro hair grows up and out, not down in length like Caucasian hair,’ says Danielle.

‘The chlorine dries out the hair, causing it to be frizzy, brittle and “thirsty”, which is what causes breakage, hair thinning and – in some cases for women with processed, delicate hair – it falls off if the hair is not thoroughly washed out, conditioned and rehydrated.’

Danielle herself gave up swimming because of how long it would take to style her hair after a dip.

‘Getting into any type of aquatic activity then was a huge no-no. I couldn’t go swimming in the evening after work. If I did, how would I turn up for client meetings the next morning?’ she says.

‘Kayla hates getting soap in and around her face, so when it came time to wash her hair after swimming, she would scream and scream.

‘So one day I promised her we would find a solution, we would work together to create something that protected her hair.’

The pair experimented with different caps when swimming – doubling them up and trying out different brands – until Danielle realised she would need to create something herself.

‘I discovered that swimming caps were originally designed not to protect hair, or keep it from getting wet, but instead to streamline,’ she explains.

‘So I couldn’t find something to keep Kayla’s hair dry because the product was flawed to begin with.’

The headscarves Danielle invented are based on ancient Egyptian designs and will protect all hair types in the water. They are used by her entire family, including three-year-old Eliora and nine-year-old Zachary.

Danielle has also launched the Black Swimming Association, alongside Team GB swimmer Alice Dearing, journalist Seren Jones, and musician and filmmaker Ed Accura, to run in partnership with Swim England.

The charity, the first of its kind in the UK, aims to encourage more BAME people to go swimming, after figures from Sport England revealed 95% of black adults and 80% of black children do not go swimming, according to a survey taken over two years.

‘After I created the design, I began sharing it with people. My aim was to encourage more people to go swimming, but we have also found many people use them in the shower, or to rehydrate their hair.

‘The Nemes can be used by everyone, not just BAME people, to swim, steam, spa or shower and protect colour-treated hair in chlorine water so hair colour lasts longer, and most especially designed for afro-Caribbean hair and hairstyles.’

The scarves are available for pre-order and will go on sale in the spring.

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