People who frequently swim in chlorine pools experience various side effects ranging from dry hair and skin, itchiness, red eyes, and even difficulty breathing.
The downsides of chlorine pools are often used as a major selling point for saltwater swimming pools which are purported to avoid these side effects.
Many people ask the question: is a saltwater pool good for one’s hair, skin, and eyes? After all, swimming in saltwater from sources like the ocean can also cause irritated skin, hair, and eyes.
It’s better to think of saltwater pools as not necessarily “good” for you, but rather less likely to cause the kinds of side effects that chlorine pools can cause. In theory, they are better for your hair, skin, and eye health than a chlorine pool, but there are some gotchas you need to be wary of.
Keep reading on to learn how exactly a saltwater pool affects your health, both good and bad, and how you can experience most of the good and avoid the bad.
How a saltwater pool benefits your hair, skin, and eyes
Lower chlorine levels
If you aren’t aware of how saltwater systems work, they technically also use chlorine to disinfect the water. Through a process called electrolysis, a salt chlorine generator will turn salt in the pool into hypochlorous acid, which is the same disinfecting acid that forms when chlorine dissolves in water.
The generator only converts as much salt as needed to keep the chlorine levels at a minimum level, and this ends up being less than the amount of chlorine in a chlorine system. Therefore, there will be lower chlorine levels overall and fewer or no chlorine side effects.
Lower salinity than ocean water
A question that I brought up earlier and am answering now is how a saltwater pool compares to saltwater from the ocean.
If you’ve ever swam at the beach, you’ll know that the saltwater can also dry out your hair and skin and cause red eyes, among other problems. So won’t saltwater pools have the same problem?
Not likely, because a saltwater pool contains approximately 10 times less salt than the ocean. The salinity of the saltwater in the pool is 3,000 ppm, whereas it is 35,000 ppm in the ocean.
Therefore, you are 10 times less likely to experience any side effects related to how salty the water is, in the same way that you are less likely to experience chlorine side effects because there’s just less chlorine as well. However, the risk is still not zero.
Gentle on hair and skin
Chlorine is notorious for drying out skin and hair. Swimmers often have dried out, brittle, frizzy hair and they have to use a lot of products to keep their hair nice and moisturized. Chlorine can also cause itchy skin and even rashes on people who are sensitive to it.
If you are tired of how harsh chlorine is on your hair and skin, then a saltwater pool may be the alternative option you need. People who are more sensitive to chlorine find that they get little to no side effects swimming in a saltwater pool.
The saltwater even feels softer to the touch, and it feels satisfying to have it glide over your body.
Gentle on the eyes
Unlike getting sea water in your eyes, if you get saltwater pool water in your eyes it surprisingly doesn’t sting. The reason for this is that the salinity is comparable to that of human tears. That’s no reason to forgo swimming goggles, however.
Chlorine can also cause a similar irritation whether you get chlorinated water in your eyes or not. Chlorine pools give off fumes when it evaporates which can irritate the eyes and lungs, causing a burning sensation.
Saltwater pools do not emit chemical fumes and they are less likely to irritate your eyes and lungs like chlorine can.
Saltwater pool health concerns
The fact that a saltwater pool uses less chlorine than a chlorine pool is a double-edged sword. Sure, you may not experience as much hair, skin, and eye irritation.
But also consider that if it has less chlorine, then it is less effective at sterilizing the water against harmful contaminants.
In the same way that you would monitor a traditional chlorine pool, you must also carefully monitor your saltwater pool with a water testing kit, especially if it rained recently or a lot of people swam in it.
If something goes wrong with the system or it gets overwhelmed, then there is less of a buffer of chlorine to continue to fight against bacteria and harmful pathogens.
Pay close attention to the water quality – is it starting to get cloudy or turning green – and add chemicals as needed to remedy the problem.
Take steps to protect your hair, skin, and eyes
Just because a saltwater pool is gentler on your hair, skin, and eyes does not mean you can throw caution into the wind. Prolonged exposure to chlorine and salt can still cause damage to your hair and skin.
If you have a hair and skin care routine to protect and moisturize your skin and hair from when you used to swim in a chlorine pool, I suggest you keep it up.
If you don’t have a routine, then consider doing the following:
- Shower before you enter the pool. This not only reduces the amount of bacteria that you can introduce to your pool, but it also saturates your hair and skin. Now they will absorb far less pool water. Remember to rinse the bubbles off thoroughly, otherwise it could foam up your pool over time.
- Wear a swimming cap. If your hair health is very important to you, then wear a swim cap. A swim cap will not keep your hair completely dry, but it can limit how much pool water will reach your hair.
- Leave some conditioner in your hair. At the end of shower, put some of the conditioner in your hair as a leave-in, and wear a swim cap over it. It will act as an extra layer of defense against the pool water.
- Shower after exiting the pool. Don’t leave these chemicals in your hair; immediately go to the shower and rinse it off afterwards so they don’t have any lingering negative effects.
- Wear swimming goggles. You need eye protection even if the saltwater doesn’t irritate your eyes. There could still be bacteria or debris in the water that can cause harm.
- Limit length and frequency of swimming. If you have extremely sensitive hair and skin, then there is not much option other than to limit the amount of time you spend in the pool. Following the other steps listed above can limit the damage and make things bearable.