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How to Keep Your Hair and Skin Healthy at the Pool

Is there anything better than jumping into the pool or lake on a hot summer day? Not only does swimming cool our bodies down and provide great relaxation, but it’s also a safe exercise option for people with joint discomfort. However, keeping your hair and skin healthy at the pool can be challenging, especially if you swim often.

Chlorine, the sun, and germs on the ground are the three main culprits that put your hair and skin at risk. Read on for our best tips and tricks to keep your skin and hair healthy before, during, and after swimming.


Protecting your hair and skin from chlorine

Most pools use chlorine to kill bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli, that can make swimmers sick. Without it, you could end up getting swimmer’s ear, diarrhea, or skin infections. While chlorine is essential for purifying the water, it’s also hard on hair and skin.

Chlorine draws the natural moisture out of your hair and skin, making hair brittle and skin dry and flaky. It can also cause a chemical reaction in your hair that causes a greenish tint. Why? Because chlorine can oxidize copper and turn it green like the Statue of Liberty. When you swim in a chlorinated pool, your hair can absorb some copper and develop a greenish hue.

The water can also make your nails brittle and dry out your cuticles. People with sensitive skin or chronic conditions such as eczema and rosacea may need to take extra precautions when swimming to avoid flare ups.

While it sounds like chlorine can do a lot of damage, don’t worry because it’s temporary! Plus, with a few precautions, you can limit the damage.


How to prevent hair damage

One of the best things you can do to keep your hair healthy is to soak it thoroughly with fresh water before you get in the pool. Your hair is very absorptive like a sponge, so when you soak it with fresh water before diving into the pool, it won’t be able to slurp up as much drying chlorine.

Another great step is to wear a swim cap. While caps won’t completely stop your hair from absorbing pool water, they do slow it down dramatically. For the best seal, soak your hair in fresh water and then put on the cap. You can also try applying moisturizing oils, such as coconut oil, or a leave-in conditioner, to create a moisture barrier between your hair and the pool water.

People with eczema may benefit from applying a thick moisturizer to their skin before they get in the water. Like a leave-in conditioner, it creates a barrier between your skin and the irritating chemicals, which can minimize skin dryness.


How to repair damage after you get out of the pool

When you’re done swimming, take a shower in fresh water right away. The longer you leave the chlorine sitting on your hair and skin, the more it can dry you out. For most people, gentle shampoos and body washes are sufficient, but you can also find specialized washes that are designed to remove chlorine.

Give yourself a good soak and then use a moisturizing conditioner and body cream to replenish the moisture you lost in the pool. Lotions with ceramides are gentle and great at repairing your skin’s natural moisture barrier.

If you have sensitive skin, wash in lukewarm water rather than hot. If your skin is still irritated after a shower, you may want to take an oatmeal or baking soda bath to soothe it. If you love to swim but struggle to find a routine that limits rosacea or eczema flare ups, schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists to talk about your management options.

If you usually detangle your hair while it’s wet, go slowly and be gentle. Wet hair tangles and breaks easily, so use a wide-toothed comb and take your time to reduce hair breakage and loss. Alternatively, you could let your hair air dry before brushing it out. To minimize the overall damage to your hair in the summertime, you may also want to take a break from heat styling.


Protect your skin and hair from UV damage

Skin cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the United States, with more new cases each year than all other types of cancer combined. However, skin cancer is also very preventable. By taking just a few extra steps, you can drastically reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.

Step number one? Wear a waterproof sunscreen every time you swim and reapply often. Refer to your bottle for specific instructions, but most need to be reapplied every 40 – 60 minutes. If you’re especially fair-skinned and burn easily, consider wearing a long-sleeved swim shirt while you’re in the water for better protection. BONUS: Daily sunscreen use helps prevent premature aging, which means fewer fine lines and wrinkles!

When you’re lounging poolside, choose a shady spot and wear a hat with a UPF rating to protect your scalp and hair. Yes, your hair can get UV damage too! While damage to your hair doesn’t cause pain like a sunburn, you may notice that your hair becomes drier and more brittle and, in some cases, lighter in color after spending time outside. Using a conditioning mask helps bring moisture back to your hair and repair the damage.


Keep your feet healthy at the pool

Most people walk barefoot on the pool platform, but you may want to think twice before you kick off your shoes. The ground at pools is usually wet and warm, which bacteria and viruses love! Plus, a ton of people walk in the same areas, which means plenty of opportunities for germs to spread.

If you don’t take precautions, you risk exposure to microorganisms that cause athlete’s foot, warts, and nail fungus. While all of these conditions are treatable, it’s best to prevent them because some, like warts, can take quite a bit of time to resolve fully.

If you swim often, you may want to have a dedicated pair of pool sandals that you only wear on the pool deck, in the locker room, and in the public showers. We recommend that you do not wear them inside your home or you risk spreading the bacteria there too. BONUS: Wearing shoes at the pool gives you a better grip on the slippery surfaces, which reduces your chances of slipping or falling.


Keeping your hair and skin healthy at the pool is easy!

With just a few extra steps before, during, and after swimming, you can keep your hair and skin healthy and protected from harsh chlorine, damaging UV rays, and nasty fungus and viruses. If you do end up struggling with hair and skin health after swimming, schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists. We’ll get your feet and skin healthy again in no time!


Brentwood Dermatology is a leader in preventing and treating hair and skin disorders. If you still have questions about keeping your hair and skin healthy at the pool, give us a call at (615) 455-0046 to schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists. 

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