Q: How do you protect against chlorine damage to your hair, skin and swimsuit?
Amy Marsh answers:
A: I’ve been a swimmer most of my life and cannot begin to calculate the number of hours I’ve spent in a pool or ocean. I can, however, attest to the mess chlorine and salt make of your hair, skin and swimsuits. Bleached, straw-like strands and alligator skin aren’t the best beauty accessories, so I’m offering my best advice for deterring the damage.
Put a cap on it – Wearing a swim cap is the ultimate protection in the pool. There are a few different types of swim caps to choose from: nylon, latex or silicon. The latex and silicon caps are a bit more snug-fitting, which helps prevent the chlorine from soaking into your hair. The nylon, or Lycra®, caps are usually very lightweight due to the porous material. They are made to keep you cool in hot weather, though they do come on and off easily without snagging hair. Of the three, I prefer silicon, because it doesn’t pull like the latex caps and provides the best coverage.
Regardless of which cap you choose, your hair will need a thorough rinse. Immediately after swimming, hit the showers and wash your hair with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner to help prevent the dreaded drying or bleaching effect.
Lather up – Dry, itchy skin, pruned fingertips – it’s nearly impossible to avoid these undesirable effects of chlorine. Fortunately, you can at least soothe your skin post-swim by rinsing off as soon as you get out of the water. If you have time, take a shower for a full cleanse. Lather up a loofah with moisturizing body gel (soap bars can be drying) to wash and exfoliate skin. Next, pat your skin dry and apply a nourishing lotion to lock in moisture right away.
Handle with care – It can be frustrating to shell out money every few months for a new suit. But the reality is that constant exposure to chlorine and salt water can fade colors and make fabric less elastic. To lengthen the life of my suits, I buy in bulk. I have about three suits that I rotate through, so no one suit gets worn down.
It’s also important to rinse your swimsuits in cold water after every swim session – the sooner, the better. Every month or so, I recommend washing swimsuits by hand using a gentle, all-natural detergent and cold water. Lay them out to air dry, so as not to worsen or cause any further damage.
Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at email@example.com. ‘Like’ them on Facebook or follow on Twitter: Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and Amy @AmyCMarsh.