Swimming comfort has come a long way since the days before goggles and before we had advanced filtration and water quality control. A lot of times chlorine and bleach were measured and dumped into pools by hand, a recipe for bloodshot eyes, scratchy skin and discolored hair.
Foss Swim School has invested in modern filtration and water quality equipment, like computerized controls that precisely monitor, measure and mix, so that our pools have precise (and much lower) levels of sanitizing and oxidizing agents than the water of yesteryear.
Even with pool advances, there are some people who swim a lot or who are sensitive to pool water. A quick understanding of what is in a pool and how it works can help swimmers take steps to reduce its effects on skin and hair.
A quick overview of pool chemistry
First, it’s worth appreciating why chlorine is used. Chlorine is an enormously useful tool for managing pool cleanliness and safety because of its makeup. It both sanitizes (kills germs) and oxidizes (binds to and neutralizes stuff you don’t want into the water).
That binding, which is good when it comes to stuff in the pool, also takes place when the chlorine comes into contact with your skin or hair. It can’t be removed via soap or scrubbing – the chemical bond is too strong for soap and has to be broken.
Complicating matters, there are actually four types of chlorine – free chlorine, and three compounds formed when the molecules stick together a certain way. This chlorine can cause itchiness in some people or with lots of exposure, and some of the compounds can have a strong smell (free chlorine is actually odorless).
What can you do about the effects of chlorine after a swim?
First, it’s worth remembering that a little chlorine is harmless. It’s used to sanitize our drinking and bathing water too, so we are exposed every day, and in modern pools it only exists at a proportion of about three parts per million (PPM). (In regular water from a city system, it’s about 1 PPM.) If it doesn’t bother you, there’s nothing to worry about, as it will naturally release from you over time.
But if you’re sensitive to chlorine, or it affects your hair in ways you don’t like, here are some dos and don’ts:
- DON’T just try more normal soap and scrubbing – a shower gets rid of excess chlorinated water from you, but won’t break the chemical bond between chlorine and skin or hair.
- DON’T add moisturizer to itchy skin – again, it won’t break the bond.
- DO consider a swim cap if the main issue is with your hair. Wet your hair first and put on the cap – it may be enough to protect your hair from chlorine effects.
- DO consider using a Vitamin C spray. Vitamin C is a natural way to break the bonds of chlorine. Use it before a shower, and the water of the shower will rinse everything away.
- DO use dechlorinating shampoos. These are specially designed to break the chlorine bond.
Introducing VitaC Shampoo and Conditioner from Jon Foss
Our co-founder Jon Foss experienced the worst of skin and hair sensitivity, especially as a frequent swimmer in the 1970s when pool chemistry was harsher. Over the past several years, he has personally experimented with, developed and patented a form of vitamin C strong enough to break chlorine bonds – since chlorine oxidizes, a natural antioxidant like vitamin C is a powerful counter – but gentle enough to put into your hair.
VitaC shampoo and leave-in conditioner are in FOSS school stores and will be available through other channels soon. We believe it’s the best on the market, and encourage you to try and compare it with other products if you are sensitive to chlorine!
At FOSS, we’re always looking out for your health and comfort. We’re continuing to look at ways to make your swim experience better, including continual optimization of our pool water and developing new products that we hope we are able to release in the near future.
We hope you’ve found this information helpful, and we’ll see you at the pool!