Going Green? How to minimize the effects of chlorine on your hair, skin and bathing suit

By Lucy Parker Watkins

The dog days of summer are fast approaching and with them come the adventures of cooling off in local and private swimming pools. While many pool owners are beginning to make the transition to salt water and other chlorine-free pools, the vast majority of pools are still kept clean and sanitized by harsh chemical mixes. These chemicals, especially chlorine, can wreak havoc on skin, hair and swimming apparel. The more time you and your children spend in the pool, the more important it is to follow some basic preventative measures to combat the negative effects of chlorine such as skin rashes and green, unmanageable hair.


The Importance of Showering

One of the immediate signs of chlorine damage is crisp, hard-to-comb hair. The greening affect usually comes after swimming regularly without utilizing proper preventative measures. Greening primarily affects people with lighter-colored hair. Darker hair doesn’t show the green tinge as obviously. However, by taking the following precautions, you and your children can avoid these problems.


First and foremost, make sure to use some form of water-proof sunscreen. Apply the sun screen at least 20 minutes prior to getting wet. Take a shower just before getting into the pool, but make sure not to scrub off the sunscreen. The goal is to get soaking wet in the shower. By drenching your hair, you limit the amount of chlorine-saturated pool water than would otherwise completely penetrate dry hair.


Remember: Each time you get out of the pool and dry, then re-enter the water, you are making your hair vulnerable to chlorine again. So try to re-wet your hair in the shower if it dries between dips in the pool.


After your final exit from the pool, use a dry towel to squeeze the water from your hair. Avoid wringing your hair. Pool hair is particularly vulnerable to the breakage that twisting your hair can cause. At the very least, rinse your hair in the shower afterwards. If possible, wash and condition your hair as well. There are many swimmers’ hair care products available on the market; however a good moisturizing shampoo and conditioner will also work.  Leave-in conditioners are especially good to use if you plan on swimming again before the next time you wash your hair.


Use a clarifying shampoo about once a week to ensure all the extra product and chlorine residue are removed from your hair. This will give it a fresh, clean appearance rather than the dull, “there’s lots of junk in my hair” look that can happen with chlorine exposure and additional leave-in products.



Avid swimmers are often prone to what some call “chlorine rash.” These are clusters of little bumps which appear similar to pimples. Of course, a regular skin care regime that promotes healthy skin will lessen the chance of chlorine damage. However, if the pool you visit has high chlorine content, you may find the rash occurs despite your regular skin care regime.


Using a sunscreen that remains on the surface of your skin then exfoliating while in the post-swimming shower will help reduce the occurrence of chlorine rash. This will help remove the chlorine residue from the surface of you skin and lessen the appearance of the annoying bumps. Just remember to follow up with a good skin moisturizer or moisturizing serum that is absorbed into the skin.



Since chlorine dries out hair and skin, hydrating regularly, whether you’re at the pool or not, is vital. This should be done year-round, but really work on hydrating your body during the hot summer months. Plain old water is your best bet rather than sodas and juices. Add healthy oils such as olive oil, coconut oil and avocado, to your diet for even more moisturizing effects on your skin and hair. The healthier your skin and hair, the fewer problems chlorine will cause.


Chlorine Eyes

There’s really only one effective solution to the burn of chlorine eyes: goggles. Goggles are available in children and adult sizes. And there’s really no need to be frustrated by the fogging that used to be so prevalent among goggle users of the past. Many companies manufacture fogless goggles and highly effective anti-fog sprays which are readily available for use in swimming goggles and diving masks. If goggles aren’t for you, rinsing out your eyes with fresh water or your eyes’ natural tearing response is all that will clear the chlorine.


Bathing Suits

Avid swimmers easily go through a couple of bathing suits each summer if they don’t understand how to take care of the apparel properly. First of all, quality is important. It may seem more affordable to purchase inexpensive swim wear, but ultimately you will probably end up having to buy at least one more bathing suit during the swimming season.


Showers work with bathing suits much like they do the hair. However, in-pool behavior and post-swimming techniques can lengthen the life of your suit. For instance, sitting in the wading area of the local pool threatens the coverage of your backside. The semi-smooth plaster lining the bottom of the pool can snag the area of your suit which bears the most weight, tearing the fibers and thinning the bathing suit material.


The golden rule of bathing suit care is to be gentle. Gently roll your suit in a dry towel and press it so the towel soaks up the water. Then, lay it flat to dry.  Avoid twisting or wringing the water out of your suit.  This will tear the fibers of your swim suit creating a see-through affect and sagging. Hanging a wet bathing suit can also cause sagging in the material as the water drains down the suit. This will cause a droopy seat and stretch the straps. Gently rinsing your bathing suit with a very mild detergent and laying it flat to dry will prolong its life.