Stepping into a swimming pool to beat the summer heat is pretty exciting. Isn't it? But do you know chlorinated water in the pool can wreak havoc on your skin and hair?
While taking a dip in the pool, your skin gets exposed to chlorine-treated water that gives a sticky tan to the skin and causes other damages. So how do you protect it?
Keep reading to find out!
What Expert Says
"Chlorine water damages the skin barrier and results in inflammation. However, the damages can be reversed with the usage of good moisturizers and sunscreens."
Dr. Harish Koutam, Chief Dermatologist, SkinKraft
Why Is Chlorine Water Bad For Your Skin?
Chlorine is a very strong chemical that can break down your skin’s protective barrier. (1).This may cause your skin to lose its essential oils, leading to inflammation and other skin issues.
Dr. Harish Koutam, Chief Dermatologist at SkinKraft, says, “Chlorine water damages the skin barrier and results in inflammation. It can make the skin darker too. However, the damages can be reversed with the usage of good moisturizers and sunscreens.”
Chlorinated water can harm your skin in the following ways:
1. Causes Sun Damage And Darkening
When your skin is directly exposed to the sun, it triggers the production rate of melanin. Melanin is already there in skin. But, sun exposure increases its rate of synthesis, which causes skin darkening. As chlorine water breaks your skin barrier, there is nothing that can protect it from UV damage. This leads to sun burns and extreme tanning.
2. Causes Dryness
Chlorine is a natural irritant, it opens up pores and strips the skin of its natural oils that keep it moisturized and healthy. Overexposure to chlorine can dry out your skin and cause irritation and itchiness. Continuous exposure to chlorine over several years can result in premature aging and can affect the skin’s health tremendously.
3. Causes Premature Aging
Have you ever noticed wrinkles on the tip of your fingers after you wash your hands? Spending long hours in a pool full of chlorinated water can be worse for your skin.
As chlorine water eradicates your skin’s protective barrier, its deeper layers are exposed to environmental aggressors. This can break down the protein in your skin responsible for keeping it firm and elastic, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles.
4. Causes Itching And Rashes
If you have sensitive skin, chlorinated water can aggravate its symptoms leading to itching, rashes or inflammation.
5. Causes Overproduction Of Sebum Leading To Break-Outs
A lack of moisture due to a broken barrier can cause your skin to overproduce sebum. Your skin does this to compensate for the lack of essential oils required by it. An overproduction of sebum can cause acne.
6. Chlorine Can Kill Good Bacteria
Chlorine helps to get rid of the harmful bacteria that make us sick. At the same time, it also kills the good bacteria and beneficial microflora on which our healthy skin relies. Some studies imply that chlorinated water can also destroy vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
7. Exacerbated conditions
If you're someone with hypersensitive skin from any pre-existing condition such as eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis, exposure to chlorine can worsen it further. Chlorine when dissolved in water forms hypochlorous acid that causes further inflammation of the skin. This leads to an increase of dryness, scaling, itching, or rashes already present in the skin.
Too much chlorine in the water than necessary can cause chlorine burns. Your exposure to a high concentration of the chemical can lead to blisters and painful burns.
Tips To Prevent Skin Damage Caused By Chlorinated Water
1. Wet Yourself Before Getting Into The Pool
Irrespective of whether you have taken a shower or not that morning, wet yourself just before getting into a chlorine-treated pool. Wondering why? That's because dry skin absorbs the chlorinated water quickly. This water sinks deeper into the skin layers and causes further damage.
Also, your perfumes, sweat, soaps, shampoos and other cosmetics are organic compounds. These can interact with chlorine-treated water to form harmful by-products and toxic gases. The by-products (chloramines) can be harmful to your skin and body. (2)
A quick shower will inhibit your skin from absorbing chlorine-treated water and prevent other damages.
2. Cover Your Hair And Eyes
Just like your skin’s protective barrier, your eyes contain a tear-film that keeps them moist and clear. Chlorinated water can rip off this thin film and dry-up your eyes, leading to discomfort and burning. So wear goggles before making a splash into the pool. (3)
Besides your skin and eyes, your hair is also directly exposed to chlorinated water in the pool. This can cause excessive dryness. Thus, putting on a swimming cap would be ideal in order to protect your hair.
3. Add Vitamin C To Your Regimen
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects the skin against UV damage. Topical Vitamin C can help reduce sun tan by inhibiting tyrosinase (melanin-producing enzyme in skin). (4) (5)
Did You Know?
Petroleum jelly is an effective remedy to protect your skin from chlorine. It forms an effective barrier against chlorinated water besides preventing your skin from dehydration.
4. Wear A Broad-Spectrum Water-Proof Sunscreen
Sun damage while swimming is a common phenomena. You can prevent this by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen as they protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Not just that, sunscreen also forms a protective barrier and prevents the chlorine-treated water from the pool from coming in direct contact with your skin.
Make sure your sunscreen is water-resistant so it doesn’t get washed off. Apply the sunscreen at least 15-20 minutes before taking a dip into the pool. Re-apply every two hours.
5. Moisturize Well
Exposure to chlorine and other chemicals can leave your skin feeling extremely dry. You need to moisturize your skin soon after taking a shower post your swimming session to seal the moisture back in. Use a mild cleanser for your face to maintain your skin’s pH.
6. Use Lip Balm
Spending long hours in chlorine-treated water can contribute to cracked lips. Wear lip balm to prevent them from bleeding after you’re out of the pool.
7. Keep Your Timings In Check
Unless you’re competing for a tournament, limit your time in the pool to an hour. In India, the sun is at its peak between 10 am and 2 pm. Avoid swimming during these hours. A good time to swim is early in the morning between 7 am and 9 am or post 4 pm.
8. Use Oil To Protect Your Skin Barrier
Oil and water don’t get along. Applying a layer of oil before getting into the pool can act as a barrier and prevent chlorinated water from penetrating through your skin.
9. Exfoliate Regularly
Exfoliating your skin once in a fortnight can help remove pigmented dead skin cells. This can reduce the appearance of dark and dull-looking skin.
Chemical exfoliators containing hydroxy acids are a good option if you are a regular swimmer as they work by dissolving dead skin cells. It can be found in natural sources like tomatoes as well. They also increase your cell-turnover ratio and help strengthen your skin barrier. (6)
10. Rinse Your Skin
Flushing the chemicals out of your skin immediately after a swimming session is important. If you use an after-swim body wash within minutes of getting out of the pool or take a shower post swimming, you can get rid of chlorine deposits and prevent any skin damage.
You may follow your shower by slathering a thick coat of coconut oil or waterproof sunscreen. This will ensure an additional layer of protection from sun rays and shield your skin against chlorine sensitivities.
11. Swim Outdoor
Avoid indoor swimming pools if possible. Indoor swimming pools lack proper ventilation and trap the gases from the chemicals. This leads to more skin problems. Choose a place that has an outdoor swimming pool.
12. Keep Yourself Hydrated
Dehydrated skin is likely to feel dry and rough. Hydrated skin stays supple on the other hand. Sip on some water to ensure that your skin is necessarily hydrated while swimming. This also helps in purifying your skin, replenishing lost moisture, and flushing out chlorine or other toxins.
While swimming is a necessary life skill and a great physical activity, the chlorine used to disinfect swimming pools is a cause of concern for many. By now, you must have learnt enough about the damaging effects of chlorine on the skin. So if you are a regular swimmer, make it a point to follow these tips to prevent your skin from getting dull, dark and dry. Once you have your regimen in place, you’re good to go!
Was this Article helpful?
- Least helpful
- Most helpful
How can we make this page better?
What did you like about this page?
Thank you for your feedback on this article.