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How to Maintain Healthy Hair and Skin at the Pool

Summertime is all about being carefree and enjoying barbeques with loved ones, baseball games, and splashing around in the pool. However, being too relaxed when you’re swimming can lead to sunburns, brittle hair, and foot infections. As you’re slowing down and enjoying the summer, we recommend taking a few precautions to maintain healthy hair and skin at the pool so that your summer stays carefree and healthy.

Read on for our best healthy skin and hair tips for the pool.


Prevent chlorine damage to hair and skin

Chlorine is essential for keeping pool water clean and safe for swimming. It kills harmful bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli that can cause diarrhea, swimmer’s ear, and skin infections. However, swimming in chlorinated water strips the natural oils out of hair and skin, which causes dryness and irritation.

On top of that, you can end up with an itchy scalp, brittle fingernails, and even a rash or flare-up of chronic skin conditions, like eczema or rosacea. However, the damage from chlorine is only temporary, and you can reduce the effects by taking a few precautions before and after swimming.


Tips for before you swim

Hair is porous, meaning that it absorbs water like a sponge. A simple step that you can take before diving into the pool is to soak your hair thoroughly in fresh water. If your hair is saturated in non-chlorinated water, it won’t absorb quite as much of the chemical.

Another easy trick is to wear a swim cap, especially if you have a pool at home or visit your local pool multiple days each week. Swim caps don’t completely prevent water absorption, but they do slow it down quite a bit. For the best seal, soak your hair in fresh water or apply a moisturizing oil or leave-in conditioner before putting on the cap.

People with sensitive skin may benefit from applying a thick moisturizer to their skin before hitting the water. The lotion can help keep your natural moisture locked in and keep some of the chlorine off your skin. Not all people with chronic skin conditions, such as eczema, react to chlorine the same. Some find it soothing, while others find it excessively drying. If you love swimming but struggle to manage your chronic skin condition, schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists to develop an individualized management plan.


Tips for after you swim

The longer you let chlorine sit on your skin after you get out of the pool, the more it’ll dry you out. Whenever possible, shower with fresh water as soon as you’re done swimming. Use a gentle shampoo and spend a few extra minutes letting the water flow through your hair to rinse out any chemicals thoroughly.

Once you’re clean, make sure you apply a good layer of lotion or moisturizing cream to your skin to replenish your natural moisture barrier. Look for formulas with ceramides, as they are a great natural moisturizing ingredient. Don’t forget to moisturize your hair as well with a nourishing conditioner or hair mask.

If you decide to detangle your hair while it’s wet, be sure that you take your time and work slowly with a wide-toothed comb. Hair is more likely to break when it’s wet, so be gentle, or you’ll end up damaging your hair and losing more strands than necessary. If you can, let your hair air dry fully before brushing.


Protect your skin from UV damage while swimming

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and the most preventable. Sunscreen is your best defense against UV damage that causes painful sunburns, premature wrinkling, and skin cancer. When you’re splashing around and enjoying the water, it’s easy to lose track of time and forget to reapply. Waterproof formulas usually last 40 – 80 minutes while swimming or sweating (refer to your bottle for specific timing information), so do your best to keep track of the time and reapply often.

If your skin is especially fair or burns quickly, consider wearing a long-sleeved swim shirt with a UPF rating. UPF clothing does a great job of blocking harmful UV rays, plus you don’t have to try to remember to reapply sunscreen!

It may be tempting to lay poolside and soak up the sun to get a tan, but don’t! Contrary to popular belief, a tan is not healthy. Tan skin can prevent a small amount of UV absorption, but your skin only darkens in response to UV damage it has already sustained. A tan = UV damage that increases your risk of skin cancer and causes premature aging, plain and simple. Instead of catching rays, relax in the shade.

UPF hats are another great way to protect your scalp and hair from UV damage. It’s easy to tell when your skin has gotten too much sun because you get a painful burn, but how can you tell if your hair has gotten too much sun? Often, it gets dry, brittle, and may even lighten in color. Using a nourishing conditioner is a great way to repair UV damage.


Keep your feet happy

Have you ever noticed that the pool deck is always wet and warm and that there are often water puddles? Bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms love warm, moist spots like the pool deck, so they often grow out of control there. Plus, there are many feet tracking across those surfaces, which means a lot of opportunities to spread the germs.

When your bare feet touch the pool deck, you expose them to germs that can cause athlete’s foot, warts, and nail fungus. Gross! Warts are especially easy to spread, but hard to get rid of.

Our advice is to wear swim shoes or flip flops to keep your feet healthy when you’re beside the pool, in the locker room, or using public showers. Plus, wearing shoes helps keep you steady on the slippery pool deck, which means fewer slips and falls.


Having healthy hair and skin at the pool is easy!

Swimming is great exercise and an excellent way to relax from a stressful day. With just a few precautions to protect yourself from chlorine, UV damage, and foot infections, you can continue to enjoy the water and be carefree. If you do realize that you’ve caught an infection or need help creating a healthy hair and skin plan, schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists today.


Cumberland SKIN is passionate about keeping your skin healthy all summer long. If you have questions about how to protect your hair, skin, or nails while you’re at the pool, call (615) 235-0325 to schedule your appointment. 

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