It’s a perennial problem for water-babies with sensitive skin: how to enjoy swimming when you're prone to the dreaded chlorine rash?
Chlorine is a very useful chemical, in that it effectively neutralises the microbes that would otherwise proliferate in public swimming pools, and which you very definitely do not want on your skin or in your body! It’s cheap, readily available and easy to add to water.
However, chlorine is also a skin irritant. It damages the skin’s natural oily barrier, leaving your skin vulnerable to inflammatory reactions and losing essential moisture to the air. If you have eczema or psoriasis, chlorine can exacerbate a flare-up, leaving you itchy and sore. The dreaded chlorine itch is definitely worth avoiding if possible!
The conventional strategy is to slather your skin in a barrier cream, oil or ointment to block the chlorine from reaching the skin.
Petroleum jelly is a popular choice of barrier; it's cheap, water-resistant, and forms an effective barrier against the chlorinated water wherever it is applied. It also prevents the skin from getting dehydrated, because while it's keeping the chlorine OUT, it’s also keeping your skin’s natural moisture IN. And as an additional bonus, it prevents chafing! That’s why professional swimmers use it before a long race.
Of course, petroleum jelly comes with its own downsides. The clue is in the name, for starters: it’s a by-product of the petrochemical industry, which not everyone would want to endorse.
And although the product itself is generally well-tolerated by skin, even sensitive skin, It’s also not suited to everyone: some people react to petroleum jelly and paraffin in skincare and avoid it like the plague.
So what else could you use? Well, there’s always goose fat or lard, which hardy cross-channel swimmers have been using through the ages! And if you baulk at that, then we’d suggest trying our own barrier balm, Skin Salvation.
The advantage Skin Salvation has over petroleum jelly - other than its origins in sustainable agriculture - is that it nourishes and conditions the skin as well as protecting it. Beeswax is an amazing substance: it’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, so it’s already doing its bit to combat any nasties in the pool water. Add hemp seed oil to the mix, with its amazing skin-boosting properties, and you’ve got a protective ointment that is actively doing your skin a great deal of good, as well as passively blocking the chlorine.
If you want a quicker, easier applied barrier, you could try an oil, like our Bath & Body Oil! It will cover a great deal of area in a short time, though it can be a bit trickier to manage!
Six steps to manage chlorine rash
- Wash well before getting into the pool; damp skin and hair don’t absorb so much chlorine.
- Apply a thin layer of Skin Salvation barrier balm all over your body, paying particular attention to any especially dry patches (elbows, knees, hands etc.) and the delicate skin around the eyes.
- Wear a swim cap and goggles to minimise exposure to eyes and scalp.
- Wash off pool water very thoroughly afterwards.
- Apply more Skin Salvation or Balmonds Bath & Body Oil straight after showering (within three minutes), to towel-dried but still slightly damp skin.
- Wash your swimming costume or trunks thoroughly to get rid of any lingering chlorinated water.
Recommended products for managing chlorine rash:
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax
Bath & Body Oil
with lavender, hemp and olive
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.