01/27/2012 04:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Natalie Coughlin, Olympic Swimmer, On A Hair Dye Job Gone Wrong

My knowledge of Olympians are limited to black female athletes like the late Florence Griffith Joyner, Dominique Dawes and Dawn Staley, who inspired me to get active in spite of sweating out my curly hair or breaking fingernails. But when I had the opportunity to meet American swimmer and new Pantene ambassador Natalie Coughlin on Thursday, she surprised me with how much we had in common. From curly hair issues to dark spots to a Gilt Groupe shopping addiction, the gorgeous redhead kept it real like one of my closest friends.

Scroll down as Coughlin dishes on her worst hair color experience, why she doesn't use anti-chlorine shampoos and the beauty product she can't stop hoarding.

Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin. Photo: Charles Eshelman/Getty Images

On her natural hair texture:
My hair is wavy bordering on curly. I have a lot of hair...I always have. The healthier it is, the more curl it tends to have. When it does get damaged, it becomes frizzy. For a swimmer, I don't think it's dry.

On her favorite ways to style her hair:
Loose waves are definitely one of my favorite looks as with my texture. Stick-straight hair isn't what's in. I do a blow-out and then bump a couple pieces with the curling iron. It'll hold all weekend, but if I have to return to the pool, I'll let it air-dry.

On a major hair disaster:
Back in 2005, my hair was dark -- almost black -- like very dark brunette. I decided that I wanted to go back to blond, so my hairstylist at the time decided to highlight it. The roots were white, then it turned orange and black was in there. It looked ridiculous! A punk look that I wasn't going for. The following week, I had an interview for MSNBC for the 2006 Olympics as an analyst. So I called all around the Bay Area asking for a stylist. I found my current hairstylist and she fixed it strand by strand.

On hair care tips for swimmers:
The biggest thing is not to use those anti-chlorine shampoos. Those are the worst for your hair because it creates a vicious cycle. They strip your hair of moisture, further damage and when you go in the pool, it'll soak up more chlorine. It's important every time you get out of the water to use a gentle shampoo and then a thick conditioner. I use a wide-tooth comb to start detangling at the bottom and work my way up. And of course, always use a leave-in conditioner.

On her makeup must-haves:
I have curly eyebrows, so I love eyebrow gel. I think Anastasia [of Beverly Hills] has a great one, but I'll try anything. Buxom Lash is one of my favorite [mascaras]. And this lip balm called Paw Paw from Australia that makeup artists are obsessed with. Every time I visit, I buy like 10 tubes and keep it in my purse. I use it for my cuticles, lips and any areas that need moisture.

On what beauty product is always on her vanity:
Jo Malone perfume. I love the clean packaging. It's so pretty. I like the Lemongrass because it's clean, crisp and bright. I have to cover the chlorine smell.

On the one thing she always splurges on:
A good face serum. I was born and raised in California, so I've been in the sun every day of my life. Pevonia makes a really nice vitamin C serum. I have hyperpigmentation issues and it really helps with that.

On the latest shopping purchase she absolutely loves:
I bought a great leather jacket from Vince last fall that I love and wear every chance I get.

Check out Natalie Coughlin's Pantene campaign and style outside of the swimming pool in the slideshow below.

Olympic Swimmer Natalie Coughlin's Style


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