During summer, nothing can be quite as refreshing as the cool waters of swimming pools. Swimming is not just for fun, but also a great way to stay fit, but if your pool lacks saline, ozone, or a structured water filter, you’re going to have to treat it with chlorine. If you’re a frequent swimmer, chlorine can turn your skin itchy red and your hair dry and brittle. That’s why it’s crucial to learn about the effects of chlorine in pools on your body.
What Is Chlorine?
Chlorine is a combination of several chemicals that form a yellow-green gas with a strong odor. It has many applications, including killing bacteria and microorganisms in water. When put to water, chlorine oxidizes the cells, making them less harmful to the people exposed to them in pool water.
Chlorine is also used in tap water to prevent you from getting sick from E. coli and other nasty bacteria. Despite its usefulness, chlorine can damage your skin, hair, and teeth.
Effects of Chlorine on Your Teeth
Generally, the chlorine added to tap water is not enough to cause any dental issues. However, staying too long in the pool or soaking in the backyard jacuzzi can negatively affect your tooth enamel.
The reason behind this is that the chlorine levels in pools and hot tubs are too high and can cause enamel erosion. While it’s unlikely that you swim with your mouth open, water can seep into your mouth occasionally.
Swimming frequently can lead to symptoms like:
- Discolored teeth
- The edges of your teeth may start to look transparent
- Over time, you may start experiencing dental sensitivity
How to Prevent Chlorine from Damaging Your Teeth
The CDC recommends treated water be between 7.2 to 7.8 pH. However, since pH levels are not visible to the naked eye, it’s hard to tell how concentrated the chlorinated pool water is.
Here are things to take note of before taking that dip:
- Purchase a few pH strips from your local recreation supply stores to be testing the water before diving in.
- Check out the pool railings, linings, and ladders. If the pool water is too acidic, it will eat away at these surfaces. Avoid swimming pools with visible spots of corrosion. It means the water can do the same to your teeth, especially if you swim there a lot. Consider another swimming pool or a natural water body.
- If you installed a swimming pool in your backyard, be sure to check its pH balance at least once a week.
Effects of Chlorine on Your Hair
When your hair absorbs chlorinated water, the natural lubricant (sebum) in your hair is stripped, causing damage. Repeated exposure to chlorine can cause your hair’s protective cuticles to crack, leading to split ends and frequent breaking of hair strands.
Chlorine in pool water is also said to bond with the protein in your hair, giving it a harsh chemical odor. This affects all hair types, but blondes will notice the effects sooner due to their generally thin hair shaft.
Green hair is also a common phenomenon among some swimmers. This is a result of copper that has been oxidized by chlorine. When the chlorine with oxidized copper gets absorbed in your hair, it can leave it looking slightly green.
How to Prevent Chlorine from Damaging Your Hair
You may not know this, but you can protect your hair from chlorine damage before swimming. Here are some ways to protect your hair from drying and breaking:
- Wet your hair first. With your hair soaked in water, it will take on less water, slowing down the absorption of chlorine.
- Coat your hair with a leave-in conditioner or oil to slow down the absorption of chlorinated water. An oil like coconut oil helps to repel water, preventing your hair from absorbing chlorine.
- Use a swimming cap. The cap offers protection from the chlorine water, while also keeping long hair out of the way when swimming. Combining a leave-in conditioner with a swimming cap offers extra protection.
Use these tips to repair hair damage from chlorine water:
- Rinse your hair immediately after wading in water. Allowing chlorine, salt, and other contaminants to sit in your hair after a swim can cause your hair to become dry and frizzy. You can find special shampoos formulated to remove chlorine from your hair.
- Use a hair clarifier. Clarifying your hair after swimming helps to remove harsh chemicals and protecting it from damage. You can find clarifying shampoos, or you can use apple cider vinegar to rinse your hair to remove any unwanted chlorine.
- Wet hair is usually tangled, and brushing it using a brush can damage it. Opt for a soft wide-toothed comb to detangle and smooth your wet hair.
Effects of Chlorine on Your Skin
Is chlorine in pools bad for your skin? It certainly is, especially if you stay in pool water long and frequently. Some of the common skin problems due to too much chlorine exposure include:
- Rashes. You may notice patches of red and inflamed skin, which can turn into blisters after continuous exposure to chlorine.
- Dry skin. Chlorine strips your skin of natural oils that help to keep it moisturized and healthy. Continuous exposure to chlorinated water will dry out the skin and cause irritation and itchiness. It can even lead to premature aging and overall deterioration of your skin health.
- Burns. Continuous exposure to a high concentration of chlorine in pool water can cause chlorine burns.
How to Prevent Chlorine Damage to Skin
To enjoy swimming and keep your skin healthy, here are some tips to consider:
- Use a moisturizer after swimming to replace the moisture lost due to the chlorine. This will prevent your skin from drying.
- Shower immediately after swimming to remove all the chlorine and other contaminants from your skin. This will limit the effects of chlorine on your body.
- Drink plenty of water before hitting the pool to stay hydrated.
Apply plenty of water-resistant SPF before swimming to lock in moisture and protect your skin from the sun.
All images by Shutterstock