Why do I get dry skin after swimming? – Triathlete

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Coming to the office with goggle eyes isn’t the only way your morning swim session accompanies you to work. Itchy legs, flaky fingers and ashy skin can also be telltale signs of a swimmer — and no lotion seems to cure dry skin after a swim, especially in the winter months. What gives?

“On average, normal skin pH is around 4.7, and chlorinated pools are a little over 7,” said Dr. Anthony Rossi, assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. “This can disrupt the oily layer of skin known as sebum, which acts as a moisture barrier.”

Not only chlorine can damage the skin. Spending a lot of time in any body of water, whether chlorinated, salty, or even taking a hot shower, can also be dehydrating. But when it comes to your dry skin after a swim, chlorine and other pool chemicals are the main culprits.

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“It removes the layer of natural oils necessary to keep moisture in our skin,” said Dr. Chris Adigun of the Dermatology & Laser Center at Chapel Hill. “Excessive exposure to chlorine and water removes this oil barrier, causing our skin to lose water and become inflamed. This may be followed by rashes that are patches or skin that is red, scaly, and often itchy or painful. In severe cases, blisters can develop.”

This is exacerbated in the winter months when cold climates bring lower temperatures and drier air. “These conditions can leach moisture from the skin through transepidermal water loss, leading to increased dryness,” Rossi said.

Though there are many products on the market that claim to “pre-treat” skin and block chlorine before swimming, Adigun said they save your money — if your skin is submerged in chlorinated water, it’s exposing it to the chemical, too if you apply lotion before diving. The trick to preventing and treating dry skin after a swim is to remove any residual chlorine as soon as you get out of the pool.

“The best way to protect dry skin from pool chlorine exposure is to shower right after your swim,” Adigun said. “After an athlete leaves the pool, chlorine remains on the skin. The longer the chlorine is on the skin, the more irritating it will be. Showering immediately afterwards reduces the athlete’s irritation. A thorough cleansing, ideally with a moisturizing liquid body soap, effectively removes the chlorine.”

Rossi agrees, saying showering immediately after a swim and using a gentle body soap are key to preventing dry skin. Avoid scrubs, antibacterial soaps, and soaps that contain acids or enzymes that can further inflame the skin; The same goes for aggressive scrubbing with loofahs or washcloths. After showering, pat skin dry with a towel (do not rub as this can be irritating) and use a gentle moisturizing lotion to repair skin and combat the drying effects of chlorine.

If you suffer from recurring dry skin that doesn’t improve with moisturizing, or if dry skin is accompanied by itching, burning, a rash, or blisters, you should consult a dermatologist. “Not all dry skin is dry skin. There are many infections or even cancers that can mimic dry skin. Skin that’s irritated or inflamed and accompanied by itching, redness, pain, or cracking are all signs of more clinical dermatitis,” Rossi said. “If you have persistent or persistent problems, it is best to consult your board-certified dermatologist.”

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Mike Hunter

Mike is the owner of the local pool shop. He's been in the business for over 20 years and knows everything there is to know about pools. He's always happy to help his customers with whatever they need, whether it's advice on pool maintenance or choosing the right chemicals. He's also a bit of a pool expert, and is always happy to share his knowledge with anyone who's interested.

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