Protect Your Skin From Chlorine Damage When Swimming

Swimming is a sport and a relaxation activity, but it brings with it the necessary evil of exposing our skin to chlorine. This common pool chemical causes skin damage and creates skin issues such as dryness, rashes, allergic reactions, acne, and premature ageing.

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Protecting the skin with simple lotions and sunscreen before swimming can minimise the damage. A thorough cleanse and treating the skin with moisturisers and antioxidant-containing products after the swim can help reduce the damage caused by chlorine.

Be it an outdoor swimming pool or an indoor one, the joys of swimming and relaxing in the water are wonderful. Especially the case during the hot, summer months! Along with being a relaxing activity, swimming is also a great workout that exercises various muscles groups and tones the body. However, with all these positives comes a negative – Pools contain chlorine that can have harmful effects on the skin.

What is Chlorine?

To enjoy the most benefits of swimming without having to worry about harmful micro-organisms in the pool water, the water is given specific treatments to decontaminate it. This is done by using chemical element ‘Chlorine’. It’s a common pool chemical that is added in a solution form in order to decontaminate the water. In the pool, the chlorine forms various chemicals with the hydrogen and oxygen molecules that efficiently kill microorganisms. Since chlorine breaks down into different chemicals, the chlorine solution needs to be added from time to time. Doing this is essential in order to keep the swimming pool water clean and safe. However, unfortunately, exposing the skin to chlorine has harsh effects on the skin cells and can cause long-term damage as well. Protecting the skin is essential to avoid these negative effects.

woman relaxing by outside pool.

How Does Chlorine Affect The Skin?

Adding chlorine to the pool water is a simple way to protect the skin and the body from the infection-causing and harmful microorganisms and germs.

These are often found in pools.

While being a necessary measure to take, swimming in chlorine-treated water is not healthy for the skin.

Dehydration

The most noticeable effect of chlorine on the skin is dehydration. Chlorine absorbs the natural oils from the skin which develop by the sebaceous glands. Sebum (or natural oils) ensure that the skin is moisturised, nourished, and overall helps the skin to maintain hydrated. When exposed to chlorine, these oils are sucked up by the chlorine molecules, leaving the skin dry and flaky. The skin develops dry patches and can also become itchy because of the lack of natural moisture. Also, Chlorine destroys important proteins in the skin cells causing additional dryness and itchiness.

Dullness and Premature Ageing

The skin can appear dull and even hyper-pigmented as Chlorine increases the effects of UV damage on the skin. This can then result in the skin becoming tanned and dark. By stripping away the natural oils, chlorine can also result in premature skin ageing. Fine lines and wrinkles develop easily when you have dry and dehydrated skin.

woman stepping backwards into a chlorine-swimming-pool..

Another effect of chlorine on the skin, that aggravates signs of ageing, is the generation of free radicals in the skin cells. These accumulate in the cells and cause long-term damage. The skin loses its elasticity and can start to sag on repeated chlorine exposure.

Acne and rashes are also a common effect of Chlorine exposure. If you have sensitive skin, then exposure to the chemical when swimming can easily cause allergic reactions in the form of rashes and skin inflammation. If you suffer from eczema or psoriasis, it is best to avoid swimming in the pool as these conditions can easily be exacerbated by chlorinated water.

When the necessary measures are not taken to keep the skin protected, when swimming in chlorinated water, the increased toxicity in the cells can even lead to skin cancer.

Prepping Your Skin before Swimming in Chlorinated Pools.

It’s best to avoid directly jumping into the pool, although fun, according to skin experts. Prepping the skin with a simple skincare routine before you dive in is recommended to keep the skin protected as much as possible.

Here is the skin prep you need to do before swimming:

Wet your Skin and Hair before Getting Into the Pool

This will minimise the amount of water absorbed by the skin from the pool. Wet skin has a higher resistance to the chlorine.

the back of someones back and head in the shower, washing their hair, with a tiled white background.

Use Waterproof Sunscreen

Invest in a good waterproof sunscreen for your swimming sessions. Apply it about 20 minutes before entering the pool. The sun damage that increases in the presence of the chlorinated water can be minimised by applying the sunscreen.

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Apply Lotion

In the case of indoor pools, use an oil (coconut oil or olive oil) or a regular lotion to create the barrier between the skin cells and the pool water. Pre-swim lotions are available at drugstores and on prescription from a dermatologist. These lotions have a special formula that acts to protect the skin from the pool chemicals.

Keep Hydrated

Ensure that your skin continues to hydrate at all times by drinking a good amount of water on a regular basis.

How to Minimise Chlorine Damage to the Skin

The steps discussed in the previous section that involves the skin prep required before you go swimming help to reduce chlorine absorption by the skin

As well as carrying out the mentioned steps above, we have also got a few more steps and preventative measures which you should do!

Take a Break from Swimming in Chlorine

Take a day-break every few days, if you are a regular at the swimming pool. This is an easy technique to minimise chlorine damage to the skin.

person swimming outside, within a loch.

Opt for an Outdoor Pool

If you have the option then it’s best to choose outdoor pools over indoor ones. This is because the pool chemicals have lesser ventilation in the latter type to escape and become trapped in the water. Thus, this increases the chances of chlorine damage to the skin.

Avoid Chlorine if You Have Skin Problems

Stay away from the pool if you have eczema or psoriasis flare-up. In the case of rashes due to other reasons, skin experts recommend protecting the skin by avoiding chlorine exposure altogether.

Suggested Article: Skin Redness – 7 Reasons Your Skin Is Red And Sensitive And How To Fix It.

Choose Pools with Lower Levels of Chlorine

Check to see if there are different options of pools available that contain different levels of chlorine in them.  There may even be a pool with a lower concentration of chlorine in it. Alternatively, swimming in saltwater lakes or in the ocean is a great alternative.

If you are experiencing an increase in skin dryness, skip going to the pool and moisturise your skin properly instead to help it recover quickly. Lastly, limit your swim sessions to two hours. Continuous exposure to chlorinated water and the aftermath damage can be minimised easily this way.

How to Treat your Skin after You Finish Swimming

We have discussed the many measures you can take before you go for a swim to help keep the chlorine damage to a minimum. Here we got through steps to take after your swim. Doing so will help to get rid of the chlorine from your skin and treat the negative effects it might have brought about.

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Shower Immediately After

Do not let the pool water dry up on your skin. You can avoid this by taking a shower immediately afterwards. Start off with hot water as this opens up the pores and helps to wash away the chemicals that are within them.

woman standing under outside shower avoiding chlorine.

Cleanse thoroughly with a skin-kind face and body cleanser. Follow this up with a rinse with cool water to close the pores and lock the moisture in. For an even better cleanse, add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a tub of water. Then, gently rinse your body with it. Doing so will remove any chemical build-up that is present on the skin. Do not forget to rinse the body with plain water after the vinegar wash!

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Moisturise

Apply a moisturiser all over the body. This is a very important step after swimming that you need to make sure you follow. Be sure to use a hydrating and nourishing moisturiser, preferably with ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Moisturiser application also helps to restore the skin’s pH balance. Use anti-ageing products in your skincare that contain antioxidants. Doing so can help fight the free radical damage caused by chlorine.

Exfoliate

Use a face and body scrub to remove all the dead skin cells that may be holding onto the pool chemicals. Scrub away the residual build up with a good homemade exfoliator, or one of your favourite scrubs from the store. Try and do this two or three times a week.

woman exfoliating her leg with an exfoliating brush

Drink Plenty of Water

Treating the skin internally is as important as taking care of it externally. So, drink plenty of water to ensure hydration levels are maintained. More so, try to avoid diuretic products, such as caffeine, as doing so can help the skin to keep hydrated, as well as prevent dryness.

Include food items and drinks rich in antioxidants in your diet, such as green tea, berries, citrus fruits, etc. Doing so will supply the skin cells with vital nutrients that, in turn, counter the damage brought about by the chlorine water.

If you make these steps part of your swim routine you should be able to maintain healthy, happy skin and hair no matter how often you hit the pool.

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