Swimming is a fun activity and a great sport that builds stamina and confidence. The problem is, exposure to chlorine, salt, and chemicals can do serious damage to skin and hair. If you are an avid swimmer, we have the scoop on some problems to watch out for and how to protect your body in the pool.
Swimmers run into plenty of hair and skin problems, including:
Discolored hair. Whether your hair turns green or not, you may notice color changes because of the copper sulfate in the water.
- Breakage/”fiberglass” hair. Breaking, thin, or brittle hair occurs when your hair is too exposed to the oxidized minerals in pool water.
- Dry, itchy skin. Common sense dictates water hydrates skin, but overexposure actually dries it out – particularly if the water is warm. Swimmers can also develop skin disorders like eczema. Don’t go inside the pool if you have a pre-existing condition like psoriasis; the minerals and chlorine will irritate it.
- Dry scalp. Swimmers usually mistake this for dandruff because, like dandruff, it flakes and itches. It’s actually dry skin particles resulting from chemicals and minerals.
- Dry hair. Chlorine strips your hair of its natural oils and lubricants, making it dry and easily broken.
- Hair loss. Overexposure to minerals and chlorine will cause your hair to bond to the chemicals at the roots of your follicles. This causes breakage and prevents new growth.
If you have experienced any of these problems, know that most are fixable. To keep their hair and skin healthy, swimmers should keep these tips in mind:
- Clean your hair first. Swimmers don’t have dirtier hair than the rest of us, but all those chemicals can make you feel dirty. Before and after each swim, rinse your hair with clean, lukewarm or cool water.
- Use a swim cap. Silicone swim caps are best. Make sure to tuck all your strands in if you have long hair, or pull your hair back first.
- Use specialty shampoos. Most shampoos are not tailored to swimmers’ hair and will not eliminate the smell of chlorine. Ask your doctor or swim coach about specialty shampoos, such as Triswim.
- Wash well. Plenty of gentle soap and water can help with dry skin.
- Don’t sit in your swimwear. Take your suit off immediately after swimming and put it in the wash. Always wash sensitive areas thoroughly.