Swimming is an excellent form of exercise. It can help you achieve a toned body even if you suffer from chronic pain conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. It also helps alleviate the pain of chronic conditions, increases lubrication to the joints and helps keep minds young and healthy. However, extended time in water–especially chlorinated water–can result in dry, scaly, irritated “swimmer’s skin.”
The good news is that you can minimize the effects of swimmer’s skin with proper pre- and post- swimming skincare. Returning your skin to a moist, supple state requires little more than modifying a few habits.
Here are 7 simple, holistic tips to care for swimmer’s skin:
1. Protect yourself from the sun
If you swim outdoors, the combination of water and sun can give you a golden glow — but it can also dry and prematurely age your skin. Prevent damage before it starts by investing in a high quality broad spectrum mineral sunscreen. Be sure to apply it generously, and reapply it frequently, at least every time you exit the water.
Be aware some commercial sunscreen brands contain endocrine disrupting chemicals such as oxybenzone and parabens, both of which have been shown to adversely impact health. Instead, invest in organic sunscreen products free of harsh chemicals and hormonal agents.
2. Exfoliate regularly
Dry, flaky swimmer’s skin looks old even when you’re in your 20’s, so be certain to encourage gentle, natural exfoliation on a regular basis. For the body, opt for dry brushing or natural scrubs such as coffee grounds and sugar scrubs. Avoid commercial products containing plastic microbeads, which have been found in the stomachs of aquatic organisms. Microbeads have been banned in many countries, but are still in circulation.
3. Switch to a creamy cleanser
If you insist on using soap to shave your legs, don’t act shocked if your skin looks a bit ashy, especially after hitting the pool. The chlorine in commercial swimming pools seriously dries skin, and most soaps strip it of even more vital moisture. If you do choose soap, make sure it’s a natural soap that’s intended for dry skin.
Instead of soap, we recommend switching to a creamy cleanser which contains natural oils like sesame oil to moisturize and protect.
4. Or try oil cleansing
If too much water on your skin from swimming and bathing leaves you parched and taut, cleanse with oil instead. All you need is a quality plant oil such as sunflower, hemp, or argan. Spread a small bit on a washcloth and remove makeup the way you do with a traditional cleanser. If you have oily skin, look for lighter, polyunsaturated oils like hemp seed oil. You can also tone after cleansing with mild (but not drying) astringent like rose hydrosol or witch hazel.
5. Rinse off after swimming
Although water can dry skin out, swimmers who are concerned about their skin needn’t change their workout of choice. Water actually compresses and massages the skin while you’re immersed, which is an unexpected benefit!
However, leaving chlorine and salt to air dry on skin is the part that dehydrates it the most. Make use of freshwater showers to rinse off chemicals after emerging from the pool rather than simply patting yourself off with a towel. The less time drying agents remain on your skin, the better. We also recommend showering in filtered water (either with a shower filter or whole-house filtration system) to reduce the amount of daily chlorine exposure.
6. Choose saltwater if available
While salt water pools aren’t entirely free of problematic chemicals as many expect, they still leave hair and skin feeling less dry than chlorinated pools. This is because the sun breaks down the salt into usable chlorine for disinfecting rather than adding it all at once through a chemical treatment.
If you find you suffer from red eyes and irritated skin after emerging from a swim, see if you can locate a saltwater pool nearby. If you’re lucky enough to live within proximity to the ocean, you can swim there (just be careful!).
7. Up your hydration game
Finally, no amount of lotion will repair your skin when it is seriously dehydrated due to consuming too much alcohol and/or not enough water. Keep a water bottle with you at all times, especially during the warmer months. Watch your alcohol intake. While you still need to hydrate the skin on the outside, drinking enough water helps keep skin soft and supple from the inside out.
Swimmer’s skin can be healthy skin
Just because you prefer to work out in a cool pool rather than a sultry aerobics studio doesn’t mean you must resign yourself to dry, damaged swimmer’s skin. By following our tips, you can keep getting your backstroke on while enjoying a lovely glow and soft, supple skin.
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