What does swimming in the summer do to my skin?
As temperatures rise in the Northern Hemisphere, we head out with swimsuits (and hopefully sunscreen) in hand to the nearest beach, pool or lake we can find. A quick dip can't hurt, right? Well, not quite!
Swimming in the sea
Rich in trace elements and minerals, and with a composition not unlike human blood plasma, seawater arguably has many unique healing properties for the skin. Many skin health benefits are specifically attributed to the Dead Sea, such as treating eczema, psoriasis, and other extreme dry skin conditions. However, it is important to note that these benefits do not come from the "salt" or sodium chloride, but from the high magnesium content found in this body of water.
Still, it's not all good news. Salt in large quantities can be the scourge of drying out the skin of the carnivorous masses in summer. Diluted salt is nearly impossible to remove from the skin with alkaline soap or non-foaming detergents, so even after showering, traces of salt deposits can remain on the skin, stripping it of important moisture. Combined with excessive sun exposure, this leads to dehydrated skin with impaired barrier function - not a good combination!
A day at the pool
Chlorine is a toxic chemical that has been used in water systems for over 100 years to combat disease. Because of its disinfecting properties, it is a necessary component of swimming pools and hot tubs. The harsh composition of chlorine strips the skin of its natural lipids, increasing moisture loss from the skin, leading to dehydration. Showering immediately after exposure can help reduce moisture loss by ensuring that the skin is not exposed to prolonged contact.
Another potential risk of chlorine exposure is skin irritation. Although our skin is technically waterproof, it can absorb chemicals from water sources. This means that low-level exposure to chlorine, such as occurs in swimming pools, can cause skin irritation in the form of contact dermatitis. Moisturizing the skin with chlorine-free water before exposure can reduce the amount that can be absorbed and reduce the risk of irritation.
Post-dive proactive tips
One last tip for swimming this summer: don't swallow the water!