Does Chlorine Help Acne Heal or Can It Cause Crazy Breakouts?

There’s one common skincare myth that people still disagree about: Does chlorine help acne, or does chlorine cause acne?

You’ll hear some people tell them that being a swimmer has always kept their acne at bay in the summer; others will tell you they break out anytime they touch a chlorine pool. Or, from showering at a house where there’s chlorine in the water.

The truth is that neither of them are wrong. For some people, chlorine is a miracle worker on acne. For others, it makes an already frustrating problem even worse without doing anything more than taking a dip in the pool.

How does chlorine cause such different reactions, and what can you do to take care that your skin has a good reaction? Keep reading to find out.

What’s the Deal with Chlorine and Acne?

At the beginning of summer, some people take their first dip in the pool. They swim around, go home, shower off, and get on with their day. Within a few days, they realize their acne is clearing up.They start swimming every day, hoping to clear up any remaining acne. Good idea, right? Wrong!

It’s complicated, but chlorine has a range of effects on acne and skin, and it all depends on how much exposure you have to chlorine.

Chlorine is used to treat water in pools to keep infections or diseases at bay, but its presence can actually be both a detriment and a godsend for your skin.In some cases, chlorine gets rid of breakouts. In others, it causes them. Where is the line drawn?

When does chlorine kill acne?

There are times when chlorine can, in fact, get rid of your acne. Because chlorine has antibacterial properties, it can “kill” acne by clearing out some of the particles that are causing your breakout to continue. It can also dry out some acne enough that it stops growing and goes away.

When does chlorine cause acne?

Chlorine causes acne when your skin is exposed to chlorine for too long. While the antibacterial properties of chlorine are great at killing breakouts, chlorine causes your skin and acne to dry out.

When acne is already dry, or your skin is already dry, the chlorine can cause your skin to dry out so much that it produces more oil to moisturize itself. It actually strips natural oils from your skin. When this happens, new breakouts often occur.

So, chlorine breakouts are caused by too much exposure to chlorine without doing anything to counteract the drying effects.

Why is Chlorine Good for Acne in Only Some People?

The difference in whether or not chlorine is good for someone does not lie as much as in their genetics as it does in their practices!

A swimmer who swims every day is going to see more of the negative effects of chlorine if they do not take care of their skin. Someone who swims one time per month is more likely to see the positive effects.

Of course, our natural skin conditions can play into this, but chlorine will not alter that natural skin condition. If you have oily skin, it might be caused by dry skin, and the chlorine will only make it worse with too much exposure. If you have normal, healthy skin, too much chlorine may dry it out causing uncharacteristic breakouts with no obvious cause.

Chlorine in and of itself is not “good” for some people and “bad” for others. The key to preventing the bad side effects of swimming in chlorine is taking a few important precautions.

Keep Chlorine from Ruining My Skin When Swimming

7 Tips to Protect Your Skin

If you often swim or want to swim more often to try to get rid of some of your acne, you can try to prevent the negative effects that can be caused by chlorine in a few simple steps.

1. Limit how often you swim: If you swim too long at one time, the chlorine will already be hurting your skin before you have a chance to do anything about it.

2. Apply lotion before swimming: If you put lotion on your body before swimming, this will act as a bit of a shield. Do this and then rinse after swimming to avoid the negative effects of chlorine.

3. Moisturize: If you swim often or just go swimming occasionally, you’ll want to moisturize your skin after swimming. Do you know how your skin sometimes feels tight after swimming? That’s because it was dried out by the chlorine. You should moisturize before you get to this point.

4. Shower after swimming: You should always rinse off or shower after swimming in a chlorine pool. Not only is this good for your hair, but it’s good for your skin. Chlorine can keep drying out your skin post-swim, so showering gets it off your body.

5. Consider using a pool-specific product: If you have very sensitive skin and are really affected by chlorine, try getting a specific body wash that is made for use after swimming. This kind of body wash will nourish your body while removing chlorine residue.

6. Don’t swim in a pool: Oceans and lakes don’t have chlorine in them and are largely safer for you than pools. If you must swim, swim there to avoid chlorine all together!

How Can I Better Moisturize My Skin (and Hair) After Swimming

Sometimes, you just want to swim! And that’s totally fine. Just make sure you take the time to moisturize your skin after being in a chlorinated pool!

  • For Your Face: Choose a gentle, face moisturizing lotion or oil. This can be the lotion you use daily, or you can buy a special lotion to use after swimming. Rub the lotion or oil into your face after a post-swim shower for best effects.
  • For Your Body: The best way to moisturize your skin after swimming is to first use a great body wash that will strip away any remaining chlorine during your post-swim shower. If you don’t, it will continue to dry out your skin. After showering, use a moisturizing, unscented body lotion.
  • For Your Hair: While we’re focused on skin today, we should mention that your hair is also dried out when you swim. When showering after a dip in the pool, make sure to use a conditioner in your hair to help counteract the loss of moisture in your hair.

Should I Swim Every Day to Keep My Acne Away?

No; swimming every day as a treatment for acne is probably not a good idea. If you’re swimming every day for another reason, fine, but you shouldn’t choose this as the way to get rid of acne.

The side effects of chlorine on the skin on your entire body, on your hair, and on your acne long-term probably won’t be worth it in the end. Chlorine can actually cause your skin to age prematurely, among other things, so swimming more than you need to just clear up acne is not a great solution.

A dip now and again or when you have a new breakout might help treat it, but this method is not guaranteed enough to be recommended.

Is There Really Chlorine in My Water at Home?

While looking up the effects of chlorine, you may have found many people talking about the high levels of chlorine in some homes. 

This goes for drinking and washing water. It’s true that some homes have a problem with chlorine levels, and many people don’t realize it. Washing your clothes, your body, and your face with chlorine-heavy water every day could be one of the reasons you suffer from rashes, acne, or other breakouts. Really! Chlorine that is on clothes after washing them, swimming, or showering in chlorinated water is more dangerous to you than if you drank the water directly due to the way that chlorine can be absorbed by your body.

If you’re worried about this, buy a pH testing kit and record your chlorine level. Call up your water company to discuss if it’s too high for what it’s meant to be. You can also buy a filter for your shower and sink heads that will filter our chlorine.

Can I Make My Own Chlorine Treatment at Home?

No; that’s not recommended. Bleach baths are a thing used for certain skin conditions, but I don’t recommend trying chlorine at home.

The chlorine that is used in pools is made up of a few different chemicals and is actually quite dangerous when not diluted to the right levels. That’s why home pool owners and lifeguards at public pools have to keep a clause eye on the chlorine levels. It needs to be strong enough to kill bacteria but not strong enough to hurt the swimmers.

The level of chlorine found in a pool would be nearly impossible to recreate at home, and it’s not worth the trouble.

The Difficult Answers

Does chlorine help acne for everyone? No.

Does chlorine cause acne for everyone? No.

There is no clear-cut answer about what chlorine does to your skin - it totally depends on your skin type, how much time you spend in a pool, and how much chlorine is in the water.

The important thing is to be aware of your skin type and what you can expect from chlorine! Too much exposure to chlorine will always be a bad thing, however, so remember to take care of your skin. Even if your acne improves, the overall condition of your skin might not.

Whether you have oily skin, sensitive skin, dry skin, or something else entirely, remember to use products to supplement or protect your skin from the effects of the chlorine if you’ll be swimming.

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