I saw your question here last month, but was surprised to see it still
sitting here unanswered today. Lets see if I can help you out.
I do understand your plight. I love to swim, but the resultant dry
skin drives me crazy. Like you, I decided there must be a way around
it. I just have to find out what it is.
So, heres what I found out
First, unless you suffer from eczema (atopic dermatitis), it really
isnt so much the chlorine in the pool thats drying out your skin,
its the water itself. You would suffer the same effects if you swam
in a freshwater lake for extended hours or if you soaked too long in a
hot tub or bathtub day after day.
The middle layer of your skin contains glands called sebaceous glands.
These glands secrete sebum, an oily substance that flows up through
tiny hair follicles and deposits on the surface of your skin. The
sebum forms a protective layer of oil that prevents us from losing too
much water from our skin.
Over the natural course of a lifetime our sebum production changes.
You might recall those adolescent days when hormones increased our
sebum production causing us to have an ongoing battle with acne. In
older people sebum production goes down and they are faced with the
problems of dry skin on an ongoing basis. You might notice that most
facial moisturizing cream advertising is targeted at middle aged
women. This is the reason.
So, whats swimming got to do with this?
When you spend time in water, any water, the protective layer of oil
is washed away from your skin. Normally, if you take a shower or bath
and are only in the water for, say 10 -20 minutes, the oils can be
replaced over the course of the day. But, if you spend an hour or two
hours in the pool and you do that every day, youll find that the oil
never gets a chance to move to the surface of your skin and form a
protective coating. Instead it is washed away almost as quickly as it
gets there. This is further exacerbated if you shower after your swim
and use soap or detergent on your hair and body.
Without their protective coating, the skin cells on the surface of
your skin begin to lose water and dry up and fall off. Cracks form
between the cells and then you start getting that flaky itchy feeling.
This is called Xerosis.
The key to treating Xerosis then is to replace that protective coating
with something as quickly as possible. Something that will effectively
take the place of the sebum until enough of it can reach the surface
of your skin and do the job naturally. The question is what?
Well, everyone seems to have a favorite moisturizer and doctors are
quick to tell you to try a variety to see what works best for you, so
there are no hard and fast brand recommendations. However, there are
some guidelines that will help you to choose the most effective
product and use it effectively.
1 Use a thick emollient cream, not a lotion or oil. Cream stays on
longer and provides a thicker coating of protection. Lotions tend to
contain water and actually make the problem worse and oils are rubbed
off easily. Avoid lotions or products containing alcohol.
Some recommended products include:
COMPLEX 15 CREAM
2 Apply cream immediately after showering, while your skin is still
warm and slightly damp.
3 - For severely dry skin, apply oil to the still moist skin then
apply a moisturizing cream and also apply the moisturizer at bedtime.
Recommended Oils include:
NEUTROGENA LIGHT SESAME OIL
HERMAL BODY OIL
4. Repeat the application of lotion throughout the day. One
application, especially in the dry winter air, is not enough.
5. Unless its to be your only shower of the day, do not use soap
after swimming. Just shower off with cool water. If you must use soap,
do not use harsh deodorant soaps or detergents on your either your
body or your hair.
Some gentle soap products that are recommended by doctors for people
suffering from dry skin are:
OIL OF OLAY
6. Do not exacerbate the problem by taking multiple showers or long
baths between swims. Even using bath oils doesnt prevent a long hot
bath from drying your skin.
Some people recommend using Aveeno oatmeal bath to relieve dry skin.
This however only serves to reduce the itch. It does not necessarily
replace oils in your skin.
7. Some people who are especially sensitive to dry skin or have a skin
reaction to chlorine, recommend applying petroleum jelly to the skin
and scalp BEFORE going into the pool. At least for short swims this
should provide a good level of protection against oil loss. You will
want to wash the jelly off after swimming as it tends to block pores.
And a final note As with any medical or health related question,
please see the disclaimer at the bottom of this page. I am answering
your question based on your description of dry skin. If, instead
you are having a skin reaction involving a rash, boils, pain, redness,
blisters, or anything worse than just mild flaking, you will need to
see a doctor.
Here are some additional resources -----------
DOES SWIMMING MAKE YOUR SKIN DRY AND ITCHY?
ECZEMA INFO - CAN I GO SWIMMING PLEASE?
SKIN CARE FOR DRY SKIN
DRY SKIN - XEROSIS
So that should help you with your itchy skin problem. I would
recommend trying a couple of different products until you find the
combination that works best for you.
If theres anything Ive said that you dont understand, or if any of
the links dont work, feel free ask for clarification using your
CLARIFY QUESTION button. Thanks for your question.
Enjoy your swimming!
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