Friday, March 27, 2015

Swimming & Your Skin

I swim a lot. Is there something special I should do for my skin? Is there anything I can put on my face before I swim to protect it? What about after I swim?

If you are a swimmer, you don’t need me to tell you how hard the chlorinated water in a pool is on your skin. I have lots of clients who are avid swimmers (several are on Masters swim teams), and at different times in my life I have been a regular swimmer too. So I know firsthand about how hard chlorine is on skin.

Chlorine, as defined in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is “a nonmetallic chemical element that is found alone as a strong-smelling greenish yellow irritating gas and is used as a bleach, oxidizing agent, and disinfectant.” It renders anything it is added to free from any type of antibodies and/or germs.

A client once asked me if she should put Vaseline® on her face before swimming in order to keep the chlorine off her skin. Well, that is an interesting idea, but unfortunately I think it will do more harm than good. Yes, the occlusiveness of pure petroleum jelly will keep just about everything off your skin. Whether or not it will keep the chlorine from going right past the petroleum and into your skin is hard to say; maybe the Vaseline is not a complete barrier.

One thing it will do is clog your pores and cause the potential for congestion. While you are swimming you may keep the chlorine out, but how would you get all that jelly off your face afterwards? The only option that has the potential to do the job is using a scrub. This might be OK for some people but not for everyone. And you would certainly want to get all of the petroleum off your face immediately after your swim.

I suppose those of you who are adamant about keeping chlorine off your face could take this extra step, but even for skin-conscious people like me, it’s too much trouble. Therefore, in conclusion, I do not recommend putting Vaseline or any other thick, petroleum product on your face for swimming.

I am going to give you some suggestions on how to take care of your skin after you swim. Some of these things can be done at the gym, or you can wait until you’re home. But whatever you choose to do, make sure to tend to your skin as soon as possible. It has just been immersed in a harsh chemical for however long you’ve been swimming. Give your skin a break and take care of it ASAP.

Your number one concern is to replenish the moisture that has just been stripped from your skin. But first, you want to thoroughly cleanse your face. Do not use the soap at the gym! If you forgot your cleanser, just rinse in the shower and remember to go through The Basics 1-2-3 as soon as you get home. Post-exercise is a good application for a waterless cleanser, something Yonka has recently come out with. (See link below.)

After cleansing and if you have the time, exfoliating would be beneficial. I would choose a light-textured scrub in a moisturizing base as opposed to a scrub that is thick and doesn’t have a lot of filler cream in it. Using Yonka’s Gommage would be great because it is gentle, with no abrasive particles, while at the same time it is hydrating. Either one of these exfoliators will help get rid of some of the dried out surface cells. If you swim every day, you may not want to scrub this often. If a scrub is all you have to use, use it as often as you can without causing irritation to your face.

Next, use your spray toner. Even if you are just getting dressed and planning on doing your skin routine at home, spray the toner on your face before leaving the gym. The moisture from this product will superficially hydrate your outer skin and help to replace the proper pH after being in the pool.

Try applying a hydrating booster underneath your moisturizer. A hydration booster can include a hydrating gel mask, glycerin, or even an oil mixture that you have either made or purchased. For those of you with normal to oily skin, I recommend using a gel-type hydrating mask or glycerin instead of an oil. True oils are tricky to use because you don’t want them to cause breakouts or clog your pores. For true-dry skin, using light-textured oils under your moisturizer after swimming can go a long way to rehydrating your skin. If you have one of these booster products to use, simply apply it to your face and neck, taking a few extra seconds to massage it in really well, and let your chlorine-drenched skin soak it up.

Last but not at all least, use your moisturizer. Finally your skin will get the needed hydration it has been looking for ever since you set foot in the swimming pool! Don’t forget to use eye cream as well. After applying both of these moisturizers, you are ready to go.

If you are swimming at a health club and plan on taking a whirlpool or steam bath after your swim, there are a few extras you may want to do in order to save your skin.

In previous articles I’ve talked about how you don’t ever want to go into a steam room with a bare face. It is damaging to the delicate capillaries, potentially causing couperose (broken capillaries). My solution is to put on a clay mask. This will keep your capillaries protected from the hot steam, and the steam will keep the clay moist, which is better than letting it dry on your face. If not clay, use a hydrating mask instead. You will be helping to get the moisture back into your skin and at the same time keeping your capillaries protected with the mask on your face.

In the past (younger years) I wouldn’t always use a mask when going into a whirlpool. Now, into menopause, I have a lot more heat in my body and I flush very easily. So even just getting into my hot bathtub at home, if I don’t apply a full mask I will at least put a thick layer of moisturizer on my cheeks where I tend to flush. Without this, I can feel my poor capillaries dilating, and over time this is not a good thing.

Although the heat of a whirlpool is not as intense as in the steam room, if you do a whirlpool more than occasionally, I would recommend protecting your face. Use either a clay or moisture mask, hop in the warm, bubbly water and relax after a hard workout in the swimming pool.

Swimming in a chlorinated pool can be hard on the skin, but if you take care afterwards, your skin should be OK. For more information, see: