Swimming is generally considered to be a healthy sports activity for both children and adults. If you are an avid swimmer, you will notice that indoor swimming causes more than just wrinkled fingers.
For both recreational and competitive swimmers, chlorinated indoor pools may cause skin irritation.
The indoor swimming pool is treated with chlorine to prevent illnesses caused by germs and bacteria in the water.
Your tap water is 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 its 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 organic and inorganic matter brought in by swimmers such as sweat, urine, hair, skin and personal care products to form chemicals known as disinfection by-products.
Chlorine by-products may irritate the eyes, nose, skin and airways of swimmers, causing chronic inflammation.
Competitive swimmers can have airway inflammation similar to that seen in the airways of asthma patients.
In fact, child swimmers have an increased risk of developing asthma and infection of the respiratory tract and ear.
Given that most swimming pools employ chlorine as a disinfection method, here are some protective measures to reduce adverse health risks when you swim:
Before you swim
You are probably used to the sign that tells you to shower first before getting into the pool. Turns out, there is an actual benefit to doing that.
Wet your hair completely before diving in. This will help to slow down the absorption of chlorine as your skin and hair 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 it and form a strong barrier.
Besides ultraviolet ray protection, sunscreen forms a protective barrier on top of your skin, keeping chlorine from drying it out. It will also prevent sun damage and premature ageing if you are a regular swimmer.
You can apply a thin layer of natural oil to create a light barrier that further prevents the amount of chlorinated water your skin and hair absorbs.
Smooth the oil on while your skin is still damp to prevent excess grease. As for your lips, use a natural balm as a protective layer.
A fitting swim cap and a pair of goggles will further prevent chlorinated water from reaching your 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 your 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 cuticles around your nails, as well as where the skin is thinnest and therefore most susceptible to chlorine damage.
This includes elbows, chest, shoulder and the back of your hands. Gently pat some moisturizer under your eyes as well.
Having a regular pre and post swim routine can give your skin 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 affected by the chlorine effect anymore.
This article first appeared in Hello Doktor. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.