It’s no secret that frequent exposure to chlorine can lead to dry and irritated skin, among other side effects. Yet, some people have noticed a strange phenomenon where the chlorinated water seems to have helped clear up some of their acne and give them a healthy glow.
So which is it? Does chlorine benefit one’s skin or harm it? It seems so contradictory, which is why in this article, I want to discuss the benefits and downsides of chlorine on skin.
The reason why chlorine can seem to help clear acne from your skin and give it a healthier glow is that it can open your clogged pores, exfoliate your skin, and remove some of the excess oil on your skin. This is only a short-term benefit because frequent exposure to chlorine can actually result in excess secretion from your pores resulting in clogged pores and acne. Furthermore, chlorine will dry your skin out unless you moisturize afterwards.
Keep reading on if you would like to learn the specific ways chlorine can benefit or harm your skin.
Downsides of chlorine on skin
To be clear, chlorine is more damaging to the skin than it is beneficial. Any benefits chlorine can provide to the skin are short-term, with no clear guide on how to reap these unreliable benefits. Thus, you should be prepared to deal with the downsides of chlorine rather than any upsides.
Chlorine is a harsh chemical that is used to sanitize pool water. It neutralizes the bacteria and pathogens in the water which drastically limits the spread of waterborne diseases. Thus, it has earned a permanent spot in all pools because any still body of water would become a cesspool without it.
Unfortunately, chlorine is a necessary evil because it can cause some uncomfortable side effects on our skin, the most common of which is dry skin.
Chlorine is a natural irritant that strips the natural oils on our skin and opens up our pores. Keep this fact in mind, because this phenomenon is what can both help our skin but also cause it to dry out and crack.
With the natural protective and natural oils on your skin stripped off and pores opened up, our skin is susceptible to drying out. Dry skin can feel very irritating, itchy, and eventually painful as it cracks.
Furthermore, it can cause our skin to secrete an excess of oil to try to moisturize our skin and make up for the oil that was stripped off it. The increased oil production leads to excessively greasy skin and has a high likelihood of clogging up pores, resulting in acne.
Dry skin is also prone to premature aging, wrinkling, and can affect your skin’s health and appearance.
People with sensitive skin as well as those who are exposed to chlorine for long periods of time can get rashes – patches of inflamed and red skin – that can become blisters if it continues to be exposed to chlorine.
Mentioned above, you can also get really bad acne due to the body ramping up production of oil (called sebum) to make up for all of the oil stripped away by chlorine.
Furthermore, swimming outdoors exposes you to the sun’s UV rays. If you are not wearing water-resistant sunscreen, or have forgotten to reapply it after about an hour, then you can develop rashes on your skin if you have a UV sensitivity.
Swimming in water that has too much chlorine in it can lead to a chemical burn called chlorine burn. Remember, chlorine is a chemical, and chemicals can have reactions to things they are exposed to including your skin as well as any swimwear, jewelry, or objects nearby.
The water chemistry is a delicate balance to maintain, so use a water testing kit to ensure your own pool has the right amount of chemicals in it to maintain a safe alkalinity.
A different type of burn you can get is sunburn, which is the result of spending too much time in the sun without adequate sun protection.
Benefits of chlorine on skin
Generally speaking, chlorine is bad for your skin. However, in moderation, you may be able to get some skin benefits from chlorine. That said, the effects differ from person-to-person and it is hard to replicate, so you do it at your own risk.
Acne occurs when your pores get blocked and the oil your skin naturally secretes (sebum) gets clogged. Chlorine is known for stripping away the oils on the surface of your skin, and can open your pores which clears any clogged pores. Thus, chlorine can seem to have an acne clearing effect at first.
Furthermore, chlorine kills bacteria and microorganisms that can potentially cause breakouts on your skin, reducing the likelihood of acne occurring. That said, chlorine does not seep into your pores to stop acne from developing, but opening the pores up is already a step in the right direction.
The main issue is with prolonged exposure to chlorine. As mentioned, if your skin keeps having its oils stripped away, it will actually secrete more oils in the long run to make up for the oils that have been stripped off. This can then lead to more clogged pores and worse acne down the line. Thus, any acne clearing benefits of chlorine on the skin can only be attained if used sparingly.
The oil on your skin contains more than just oil; it also carries with it dead skin cells and dirt. As you are swimming laps or treading water, you are washing off not just oil but the dead skin cells, essentially exfoliating dry patches that you might not even be aware of. Exfoliation is how your skin can achieve a radiant glow without additional skin care products.
It encourages better skin care
The side effects that frequent exposure can cause has a silver lining, which is that you are forced to take better care of your skin.
That includes showering before and after swimming, as well as applying sunscreen and moisturizer to protect your skin from the elements.
Daily application of lotions can restore the oils lost from swimming so that your body does not secrete an excessive amount. It also smooths calluses, reduces wrinkles, makes the skin more supple, and ultimately gives you a more youthful appearance.
Many people would simply not be aware of all the care they should be providing to their skin until they are exposed to chlorine’s side effects. After suffering from an itchy chlorine-induced rash, they look up skin care articles such as this one and learn about the various ways they can limit the downsides of chlorine, reap the benefits, and take overall better care of their skin. Sounds like a win overall to me.