Whether you swim competitively, for exercise or just for fun, the itchy, uncomfortable dry skin that results from time spent in chlorinated pools can make swimming less enjoyable. Treating the dry skin you have and preventing your skin from drying out in the future will have you back in the water in no time.
Swimmer's xerosis, as dry skin resulting from swimming is called, is caused by a combination of factors. Extended periods in the water results in evaporation of moisture from the skin after leaving the water. The heated water of the pool, followed by a hot shower, compounds matters, as hot water draws moisture from the skin as well. Finally, chemicals in the water, whether it is salt in the ocean or chlorine in swimming pools, also have a drying effect on the skin.
Fortunately, treating dry skin resulting from swimming rarely means changing your swimming habits.
Making sure that skin is getting supplemental moisture is key to treating dry skin. Body lotions, creams, and oils can be used to add additional moisture to the skin to relieve dryness. Moisturisers are best applied after bathing in order to seal in moisture.
For skin that is acne or irritation prone, using moisturisers that are non-comedogenic ensures that skin is moisturised but not irritated.
If a rash or severe skin irritation has developed, seek medical attention. Eczema and other skin conditions can sometimes be caused or aggravated by swimming.
The best treatment for dry skin caused by swimming is prevention. The first, best place to prevent swimmer's xerosis is in the shower, after swimming. Taking a quick, lukewarm shower rather than a long, hot shower removes less moisture from the skin. Likewise, just rinsing off, or bathing with a moisturising soap or body wash rather than harsher cleansers will help to prevent dry skin.
After each shower or bath, apply a moisturising lotion, cream or oil to the skin while it is still damp, using richer formulations where skin is driest, and taking care to use non-comedogenic products on areas that are prone to breakouts. Applying moisturiser after every shower or bath is important, but especially important after swimming.
Before swimming, take care to apply more moisturiser to the skin. Two excellent, inexpensive options are petroleum jelly and mineral oil, both of which lock moisture into the skin while blocking water and chemicals.