Skincare for swimmers

No-breakout tips for before and after swimming

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Curology Team
Jun 12, 2020 · 4 min read

Women with swim caps. Leaning head on shoulder
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Whether you’re in a pool or open water, swimming can be great for your physical and mental health. But if you’re in the water a lot, your skin may need some help handling the life aquatic. And while it’s not uncommon to experience a little dryness or itchiness after swimming, more intense skin woes can happen, too — especially if you’re acne-prone or have sensitive skin. Thankfully, being a little proactive about your skincare routine can help you avoid unwanted side-effects of time in the water:

  1. Rinse off. A quick shower after your swim helps to clean your skin. Rinsing in lukewarm or room temperature water is the most soothing for your skin — so no hot, steamy post-workout showers or jacuzzi soaks.

  2. Change out of your suit. Bring a clean change of clothes to your swim. A wet, tight-fitting bathing suit rubs against your skin, and this damp friction may lead to irritation and skin inflammation (like acne).

  3. Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach! Consistent sun protection is the key to your skin’s overall health. If you’re in the water, your sunscreen will rinse off, so reapply early and often 😎

These simple tips work for all swimmers, whether you’re hitting the lap pool or the beach. Hungry for more? We scoured our dermatology sources for answers to these FAQs about skincare for swimmers.

What does chlorine do to skin?

We wanted to know: what does chlorine actually do to our skin? So we took a look at what the research says. We learned that chlorine can dilute your skin’s sebum — which is a fancy way of saying that it can strip your skin of its natural protective oils. This can lead to moisture loss, which can cause dry, itchy skin. So if you’ve ever felt dry skin after swimming in a pool, you can thank chlorine.

As we mentioned earlier, you can protect your skin from chlorine with a little before-swimming skincare. All you need is a good moisturizer. We like pure petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) because it’s safe for sensitive, acne-prone skin. Plus, it’s an occlusive moisturizer, which means it protects your skin while reinforcing its natural moisture barrier.

Curology bottles in pool

How can you remove chlorine from skin after swimming?

If you want to avoid dry, itchy skin after swimming in a chlorinated pool, we recommend washing with gentle soap that’s free of pore-clogging or irritating ingredients, like the Curology acne body wash. Some lotions and soaps claim to neutralize chlorine, which is great — in theory. In pool filtration systems, two forms of vitamin C (ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbate) are used to neutralize chlorine. There’s no medical evidence that using skincare products with these ingredients will neutralize chlorine, but we’re looking forward to future research! For now, the best thing to do is to rinse until you can’t smell chlorine on your skin.

Is salt water good for skin?

Yes and no. Seawater doesn’t have magic healing properties. In fact, the ocean is home to many living things, and it’s not all narwhals and mermaids. Unfortunately, some sea creatures like to mess with our skin. (We’re looking at you, thimble jellyfish.) If you come into contact with a skin-sabotaging microorganism while swimming in the water, you could get a rash. Freshwater swimmers aren’t off the hook, either. Lakes can be home to microscopic water babies (larvae) that can cause swimmer’s itch. Thankfully, peaceful coexistence is possible. Just rinse off as soon as you can and change out of that wet swimsuit.

That said, some salt water (store-bought or made at home) can have skin benefits. Saline solution can help clean wounds and speed healing. If you’ve ever gotten a piercing, chances are your piercer recommended using a saline solution to help keep your new hole clean. While taking a dip in the ocean might feel soothing, it’s not quite the same thing!

I got a rash after swimming — what do I do?

If you do get a rash after swimming, it’s recommended that you a) take antihistamines and b) apply a cold compress to the affected area. Calamine lotion might also provide relief. And it’s definitely a good idea to see your in-person doctor if you’re experiencing anything more than mild discomfort — you might need antibiotics.

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We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.

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