Swimming is generally considered to be a healthy sports activity for both children and adults. However, if you are an avid swimmer, you probably notice that indoor swimming cause more than just wrinkle fingers. For competitive swimmers or even recreational swimmers, training in chlorinated indoor pools may cause skin irritation.
The indoor swimming pool is often time treated with chlorine to prevent illnesses caused by germs and bacteria found in water. Your tap water systems are also treated with chlorine. Chlorine protects you from the harmful bacteria that can grow in swimming pools, but the chemical strips your hair and skin of the natural oils. This causes your skin to be dry, itchy, flaky, and sensitive, while your hair and nails become dry and brittle.
In addition to its direct risks, chlorine reacts with the organic or inorganic matter brought by swimmers (sweat, urine, hair, skin and personal care products) to form chemicals known as disinfection byproducts. Chlorine by-products may irritate the eyes, nose, skin and airways of swimmers, causing chronic airway inflammation. Competitive swimmers can have airway inflammation similar to that seen in the airways of asthma patients. In fact, children swimmers have an increased risk of developing asthma and infections of the respiratory tract and ear.
Given that most swimming pools employ chlorine as a disinfection method, know some protective measures to reduce potential adverse health risk when you swim:
Before You Swim
You are probably used to see the sign that tells you to shower first before getting in the pool. Turns out, there is an actual benefit to doing just that. Try wetting your hair down completely before diving in. This will help to slow down the absorption of chlorine as your skin and hair will take on less water when it’s wet.
Do not forget to apply water-resistant sunscreen 15 minutes before you swim to give your skin plenty of time to absorb the sunscreen, forming a strong barrier. Besides ultraviolet ray protection, sunscreen forms a protective barrier on top of your skin, keeping the chlorine from drying it out excessively. It will also prevent sun damage and premature ageing if you are a regular swimmer.
You can also apply a thin layer of natural oil to create a light barrier that further prevents the amount of chlorinated water your skin and hair can absorb. Smooth the oil on while your skin is still damp to prevent excess grease. As for your lip, use a natural balm as a protective cover. A fitting swim cap and a pair of goggles can further prevent the chlorinated water from reaching the hair and eye area.
After You Swim
Once you’re out of the water, take the time to rinse your entire body with fresh water. Lather up with a mild cleanser, and clean your hair with a gentle shampoo. Apply a deep, moisturizing conditioner to replenish the hair’s moisture.
Because even tap water is chlorinated to some degree, it’s very important to moisturize immediately after showering. Moisturize every inch of your skin, taking extra care to massage the formula at the cuticles around the nails, as well as where the skin is thinnest and therefore most susceptible to chlorine damage. This includes the elbows, chest, shoulder and backs of your hands. Gently put some moisturizer under your eyes as well.
Having a regular pre and post swim routine can give your skin its much-needed protection from chlorine. Make sure you shower, moisturize and put on sunscreen before going into the pool. Once you are out of the water, shower right away and moisturize again. With regular skin care, you shouldn’t be bothered with the chlorine effect anymore.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: March 6, 2019 | Last Modified: November 29, 2019
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