Posted on June 26 2017
Now that the hot summer months are upon us, there are few things more inviting than the thought of going for a relaxing swim in the pool. Your body loves the exercise, your spirit rejoices in the relaxation that comes from being buoyant and free. But what about your skin? Unfortunately, the same chlorine that is sanitizing your pool against bacteria and oxidizing it to remove organic matter may also be causing your skin to dry out and even age prematurely.
If you want to wrap your mind around both the very real benefits and the risks of chlorine, it helps to understand how it works. As soon as you put chlorine into your pool in the form of liquid, tablets or powder, it immediately reacts with the water to make hypochlorous acid. This acid goes to work breaking down the cells of the many pathogens that you definitely do not want in your pool water. That’s all well and good, but something else also happens during this chlorination process: Hypochlorous acid also gets together with some of the various compounds it has destroyed, most notably ammonia. These undesirable marriages result in nasty chemicals called chloramines. Without a doubt, chloramines are the disruptive, bad outlaws in your pool that wreak havoc. Among other things, they reduce the bacteria-fighting effectiveness of the free chlorine in your pool, and they can cause discomfort and damage to the largest organ in your body, your skin.
When your bare skin hits chlorinated water, your pores open, allowing the hypochlorous acid to begin stripping your skin of the natural oils that keep it moist and supple. Long after you have finished your swim and have flopped down on your chaise lounge for a nap, the acid continues its drying deeds. To make matters worse, the process is exacerbated if you are exposed to the sun’s drying ultraviolet rays.
People with pre-existing skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis can often fare even worse when they come into contact with chlorinated water. This is because their skin is already vulnerable and hypersensitive to damage. Highly uncomfortable symptoms can include redness, itchiness, rashes, dry skin and psoriasis scaling. If a person’s reaction is particularly severe, the skin can be damaged at the cellular level, making the healing process more difficult and protracted.
If all of this talk of desiccation, itching and rashes makes you want to become a landlubber once and for all, take heart. You can still enjoy the pleasures of swimming in chlorinated water in spite of chlorine’s mixed blessing. Moderation and some common-sense precautions can ensure that you can continue to enjoy splashing in your pool throughout the summer.
Take stock of your skin before swimming. Avoid taking a dip if you are recovering from a sunburn or if you are having a psoriasis or eczema flare-up. Once the irritation calms down, you can resume your regular routine.
Neutralize the chloramines that are still on your body after you leave the pool by applying Vitamin C directly to your face, your body and even your hair. Make a spray that combines pure water with a Vitamin C source such as Sodium Ascorbate, L-Ascorbic Acid or rosehips. Take a shower as soon as you can after leaving the pool, and use soap to wash off the clinging chemicals.
Don’t forget to moisturize. Use a rich moisturizer on your entire body as well as a separate one designed specifically for your face. If you have sensitive skin, choose products that are fragrance free.
Keep your pool balanced. Prevent an over-supply of chlorine in your pool water by monitoring calcium hardness, pH, free chlorine and alkalinity. If you don’t have the time to take this task on, hire a pool service to keep your water in optimal balance.
- Consider updating your pool. Many people are switching to more healthy, modern sanitizing solutions. These include an ultraviolet sanitization system that uses UV light to kill pathogens and minimizes chlorine use, or an ozone system that has all of the benefits of chlorine without the side effects. Even converting your pool to salt water, while still involving the formation of irritating chloramines, leads to a much gentler experience for your skin and hair.