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Bodycare,  HEALTH

Skin care for swimmers: what does swimming do to your skin?

What are the effects of chlorine, sun and salt on your skin? And how can you take better care of your skin when swimming regularly in pools, lidos and open water? Gear Editor Jo Tinsley examines the reasons behind skin dryness and irritation and puts TRIHARD’s five-step skin care for swimmers to the test. Plus, readers share their top tips for keeping their skin protected and hydrated. 

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As regular swimmers we can feel like we are drying out when we are not in the water. Chlorine is an obvious irritant to skin if you are a pool swimmer but there are other factors to consider when swimming outdoors. Even if your skin isn’t particularly sensitive, prolonged exposure to salt water or chlorine can dry out even the most robust skin: it pays to shower straight away and always moisturise after. But what else can we do to protect our skin when we swim regularly?

“Treating my skin to a five-step care process felt like a real kindness to myself, and I felt confident knowing that the TRIHARD range uses natural ingredients offering specific benefits for swimmers’ skin.”

Jo Tinsley, Gear Editor

How does your skin feel after a swim?

I have to admit, before taking on the WaterAid Swim Marathon (attempting to swim 42km over 12 weeks), I didn’t follow much of a routine when it came to pre- and post-swim skin care. Most days I would simply shower at the pool, use regular face moisturiser (when I remembered to bring it), then go about my day. But now that I’m at the pool three or four times a week, the effects of chlorine is beginning to feel more apparent. My skin feels tight and dry, especially around my cheeks and eyes, my scalp itches, and my hands get so dry I can see cracks appearing between my fingers. 

It’s safe to say many of our readers are in a similar position. While many report dry and itchy skin, a lingering smell of chlorine and effects lasting days after their dips, only 35% of readers polled use skincare products after their swim. But what impact do pool chemicals, sun and salt have on our bodies and what can we do, as regular swimmers, to alleviate their effects? We looked to TRIHARD and their five-step skin care routine for swimmers for some answers.

The science part: what does swimming do to your skin?

While swimming is beneficial for your body, it can be harsh on your skin, especially when it’s regularly exposed to chlorine, salt and sun. 

Chlorine, commonly used in pools to kill bacteria and prevent the spread of diseases, strips away the natural oils (sebum) that protect and moisturise the skin. This disruption of the skin’s lipid barrier leads to increased dryness, flakiness and sometimes even cracking, that can make the skin more vulnerable to irritation and infections.

It also disrupts our skins natural pH balance, which at around 4.5 to 5.5 is naturally slightly acidic. Chlorine and other pool chemicals lead to a more alkaline skin surface, which further irritates the skin and disrupts its natural barrier function. 

Some parts of our bodies are more sensitive to reactions from these chemicals, such as the delicate skin around the eyes, which is often where regular swimmers notice dryness or tightness. 

STEP 1: Apply a shield with TRIHARD’s Pre-Swim Body Lotion.

How can swimmers take care of their skin?

This is where swimmer specific skin care comes in. Although the name might suggest its for triathletes, TRIHARD products are actually for anyone who spends time in pools or the sea whether that’s for training, recreational dipping or teaching kids to swim. TRIHARD has a five-step plan for complete skin protection:

STEP 1: Apply a shield. Apply TRIHARD’s Pre & Post-Swim Body Lotion to create an extra protective layer to the skin and reduce the chlorine absorption as well as other harsh chemicals found in the pool and sea.

STEP 2: Cleanse your skin. Immediately after your swim cleanse your skin with TRIHARD’s Gently Exfoliating Body Wash, which removes chlorine, salt and other impurities, ensuring your skin is clean without stripping moisture, while hydrating your skin and removing odours.

STEP 3: Soothe and Repair. Use the Swim & Sun Face Wash, which is formulated for swimmers, and people enjoying the outdoors. It helps relieve your skin from the effects of chlorine and sun while hydrating and soothing sun-exposed skin.

STEP 4: Refresh eyes and reduce goggle marks. Apply the specialised Eye Gel to help minimise goggle marks, reduce puffiness and inflammation while hydrating and refreshing the under-eye skin. It’s ideal for those who need extra care around the delicate eye region.

STEP 5: Hydrate and Restore. Reapply TRIHARD’s Pre & Post-Swim Body Lotion, which is designed to deeply moisturise, soothe any irritation and restore the texture of your skin, leaving it supple, hydrated, odor-free, and smooth.

STEP 2: Cleanse your skin after your swim with TRIHARD’s Gently Exfoliating Body Wash.

Putting the TRIHARD skin care range to the test

Treating my skin to a five-step care process felt like a real kindness to myself, and I felt confident knowing that the TRIHARD range uses natural ingredients offering specific benefits for swimmers’ skin. While red algae has an anti-oxidant effect, Dead Sea minerals such as magnesium and Maris sal nourish and revitalise the skin. Moisturising effects come from aloe vera, which soothes and hydrates, and nourishing Argan oil, while Vitamin E reduces inflammation and encourages skin healing. I was also reassured that TRIHARD products are dermatologically-tested and vegan.

I began the skin care routine before even setting off to the pool, applying the Pre-Swim Body Lotion to my hands, face and forearms to give it time to be absorbed and provide a second layer of protection against pool chemicals. It felt rich and moisturising without being greasy, and smelled wonderful too!

STEP 3: Soothe and Repair using the Swim & Sun Face Wash, which is formulated especially for swimmers in outdoor conditions.

After finishing my lengths, I showered with the Swim & Sun Face Wash, which was so fresh and invigorating, it’s got a really long lasting cooling feel. As well as eliminating chlorine, the face wash begins to rehydrate your skin and relieve feelings of skin sensitivity straight away. The face wash is also great for alleviating your skin post-sun exposure. I particularly loved the Gently Exfoliating Body Wash, which has gentle exfoliating kernels to softly relieve discomfort while neutralising chlorine and hydrating – this was my favourite product in the range!

I’ve never used an eye gel before, but was I keen to give the TRIHARD Pre- And Post-Swim Eye Gel a go as I often get tight, dry skin around my eyes and goggle marks that take a while to disappear. The eye gel has sea buckthorn oil to reduce inflammation, relieving redness and puffiness, and chamomile extracts to gently soothe and calm sensitive skin. Following the instructions, I gently applied a little of the gel around my eyes using the cool ceramic stone applicator to smooth it around. It felt instantly cooling, which was a relief after being in the warm pool, and the effect lasted for several hours and actually made me feel bright and awake. 

Finally, I used the Body Lotion again, which felt super soothing, with Shea butter to soften and hydrate the skin. I paid particularly attention to my elbows, knees and hands, which are especially prone to dry skin. And I reapplied the lotion to my hands a few times throughout as they really suffer from dryness, and my skin was left feeling soft and hydrated without even have a whiff of chlorine. A real result, which felt very indulgent while also feeling easy to fit into my routine.

STEP 4: Refresh eyes by applying the specialised Eye Gel to minimise goggle marks, reduce puffiness and refresh the eye area.
STEP 5: Hydrate and Restore by reapplying TRIHARD’s hydrating Body Lotion, which is designed to deeply moisturise, soothe any irritation and restore the natural balance of your skin.

Outdoor Swimmer readers share their skincare tips

We polled our readers to find out more about their skin care routines. Here are just a few of their tips for protecting their skin from the effects of pools chemicals:

  • Sea and pool swims hit differently, says @dani_shifting_tides. “My skin feels brilliant after a sea swim and doesn’t need anything extra. Pool water, on the other hand, is terrible for my skin. Even with body oil and moisturiser it takes a couple of days to recover.” 
  • Shower as soon as you can after a swim. “After swimming (always the sea) my skin feels immediately invigorated and alive. But soon after very dry” says @gremkoska. “A shower obviously removes the drying salt aspect, but my skin is definitely dehydrated. I have yet to find a genuinely good moisturiser that works!”
  • Use a moisturising body wash. “I use a moisturising body wash after a pool swim, pat myself dry (no vigorous rubbing!) then apply lots of moisturiser. I don’t moisturiser after a cold water dip but perhaps I should” says @abigail_whyte_writer
  • Reapply moisturiser throughout the day, says @ the_bath_cook who says the effects are worse if she hasn’t been swimming for a few weeks.
  • If you’re in the pool regularly try a combination of Epsom salt baths, foot soaks, vitamin C and magnesium, says swim teacher @ kingfisher_swim.
  • Fresh-water swimming can improve skin conditions, says Editor Ella. “Let the mud and silt soak in – bathe in it, it’s like a free spa day.”

Want to try our TRIHARD skin care for yourself? Get 23% OFF sitewide with code: SKINCARE
*During sales, the code will give you an extra 5% OFF on top of the already discounted price.

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Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.