The Effects of Pool Chlorine on Skin

By Brynne Chandler

Summertime is famed for its long, full days of sunshine and barbeques, but it's also the time for sunburns, bug bites and other hazards of being outdoors. If you're lucky enough to have access to a swimming pool, you are probably being exposed to some form of the chemical chlorine every time you take a dip. The good news is that pool chlorine, when used properly, is perfectly safe. So, come on in--the water's fine.

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The Effects of Pool Chlorine on Skin

What is Pool Chlorine?

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Chlorine is used in swimming pools and water treatment plants.

Chlorine is a naturally-occurring element, and one of the most effective weapons against the E. coli bacteria. It is used in public swimming pools and water treatment plants.

The white powder or cakes we use to clean and disinfect private swimming pools is actually sodium hypochlorite.

Both work by breaking down the fats in the cell walls of bacteria and microorganisms, making the enzymes inside harmless.

How Does Pool Chlorine Affect Your Skin?

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Most people don't react to chlorine in swimming pools.

Aside from the harsh chemical smell you can get by over-chlorinating a pool, chlorine has very little effect on the skin in the amounts that are present in a swimming pool. People with very sensitive skin might react to even the smallest presence of chlorine, but most people will not.

According to Dr. Norman Levine, your dry, itchy skin is caused by being in the water for extended periods of time. This washes away the natural oils that coat the outer layer of the skin, allowing the moisture inside to dry very quickly. Tiny fissures can form, which leads to itchy skin.

Should I Be Worried About This?

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Check your pH levels regularly if you're worried about your chlorine levels.

Once the chlorine, or sodium hypochlorite, in the pool has done its work, it breaks down into harmless chemicals. If your pool is properly chlorinated, its pH level--how acidic or alkaline it is--should be about the same as the pH level of human tears. So, there is no reason to worry.

If everyone swimming in the pool is afflicted with overly dry and itchy skin, you should check that the pH levels are properly balanced between 7 and 8.

Pool chlorine is caustic, so if any comes into contact with your skin in its undiluted form, rinse it thoroughly. If swallowed it can be fatal, so call your local poison control center or get the person who ingested it to the nearest emergency room.

Correcting Pool Chlorine Skin Damage

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Rinse off after getting out of the pool if you think it is over-chlorinated.

Many websites suggest exfoliating the skin to "scrub off" the chlorine, but if the pool is properly chlorinated this isn't necessary.

if you think that the pool you swim in is over-chlorinated, then definitely rinse off carefully every time you come out of the pool. If your skin is irritated and itchy, treat it gently.

Throughout the summer, it's a good idea to increase the use of your daily moisturizer (or start using one) after you bathe and before you go to bed.

If you take baths in the summer, use a good bath oil to replenish your skin while you soak. If you prefer to shower, use a moisturizing body wash.

Preventing Future Pool Chlorine Skin Damage

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Wearing a thick sunblock can help prevent moisture loss.

Wearing a thick sunblock when swimming will protect against excess moisture loss as well as the harmful rays of the sun. As soon as you leave the pool, rinse off with clear water, dry thoroughly with a moisture-absorbing towel and then re-apply your sunblock.