Between summer sun, drying AC, and layers of sunscreen, your skin can take a beating during warmer months. Another skin threat to add to that list? Your summer swim. If you’re heading to the beach or pool to cool down, there are some things you should do to protect your skin from that refreshing dip.
Chlorine is a chemical used in pools to keep the water free of harmful bacteria and algae.Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, kind of. In addition to its bacteria-busting properties,chlorine also breaks down your natural skin oils, eroding the precious lipid barrier that prevents moisture from evaporating out of your skin. This can be especially bothersome for people who have dry skin or inflammatory conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Some studies have even shown that chlorine produces free radicals that cause signs of skin aging like dark spots and fine lines. Generally, the natural oils on your skin can help prevent free radical damage, but because chlorine disintegrates this protection, your skin is especially susceptible to damage.
If you have severe eczema or psoriasis, it’s probably better to skip pool time altogether. While some sites suggest slathering yourself in moisturizer before you take a dip, I wouldn’t recommend anything other than sunscreen as certain ingredients can react with chlorine and create more free radicals. Instead, shower immediately after you get out of the pool to rinse all the chemical residue off your skin. Then, immediately apply a serum and moisturizer. Look for products high in antioxidants like vitamin E and C to counteract aging free radicals. If your skin is especially dry, apply oil on top of your moisturizer for extra protection.
Saltwater is nowhere near as damaging as chlorine, so if you have the choice, take a dip in the ocean or a saltwater pool instead of a chlorinated pool. In fact, seawater in particular contains skin-beneficial minerals like magnesium, potassium, and amino acids.These natural minerals,plus the anti-bacterial benefits of salt, can be especially helpful to people with breakouts.Seawater also often contains trace levels of sulfur,which can help dry out existing blemishes.
While seawater is not as drying as chlorinated water, salt does tend to dehydrate the skin, so if you have very dry skin, a dip in the ocean may make things worse. Be sure to rinse off and apply moisturizer after swimming. A layer of sunscreen and body moisturizer before swimming can also be helpful.
Surprisingly, seawater can actually help soothe eczema and psoriasis. While common sense would tell you that the drying effects of salt aren’t great for eczema, the minerals and anti-inflammatory benefits of seawater can actually help. A word of warning: saltwater can sting if you have open flare-ups so keep that in mind.
Have a question about how to protect your skin this summer? Let me know in the comments!