The Effects of Swimming on Swimmers' Hair & Skin

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Frequent swimming in pools has noticeable effects on your skin and hair. Most swimming pools contain chlorine, a gaseous element that helps keep the pool free of bacteria and debris. Undiluted chlorine is highly toxic and caustic. Although the chlorine in a well-maintained pool may sting and irritate your eyes, there isn't enough to seriously harm you. Before and after swimming, take some steps to protect your skin and hair, especially if you swim regularly.

Dry Hair

Chlorine is very drying for your hair. When the hair becomes wet with chlorinated water, the hair shafts absorb the chlorine, which strips the hair of its natural lubricant, called sebum. If you swim frequently, the repeated drying can cause your hair's protective cuticles to crack, which leads to split ends and frequent breaking of strands.

Protect your hair before swimming by getting it wet with clean water first, which impregnates the hair shafts and keeps them from absorbing chlorine. You can also coat your hair and scalp with conditioner or oil. A swimming cap offers some protection from chlorinated water, plus it keeps longer hair out of your way while swimming. Wash your hair immediately after swimming to remove as much chlorine as possible.

Dry Skin

Swimming in a chlorinated pool can dry out your skin and make it feel tight and itchy because the chlorine strips your skin of its natural oils. People with sensitive skin might even get irritation or a rash from the pool's drying effects. Chlorine also can exacerbate skin conditions like eczema. Protect your skin by applying oil or lotion before swimming. Many types of sunscreen contain oils that protect your skin from water, especially waterproof sunscreen formulated for swimming or heavy physical activity. After swimming, rinse or wash the chlorine from your skin as soon as possible, and use lotion or oil to rehydrate it. Keeping hydrated by drinking water before and after swimming also may help protect your skin.

Green Hair

Hair that takes on a greenish tint from swimming in chlorinated pools is a common phenomenon, especially in blonde and light-haired people. The color isn't caused by the chlorine itself, but by the chlorine's interaction with copper pipes and other metals. The chlorine causes small amounts of metal to enter the water and tint the hair. Once your hair has turned green from swimming, a shampoo designed for swimmers can help remove the color. Protecting your hair before swimming also will help prevent it from turning green.