10 Ways to Care for Your Skin Before & After a Swim


Whether it’s the ocean, a pool, a lake or a river, getting in the water is one of the highlights of summer. Unfortunately, all that water exposure can make your skin dry and itchy and your hair a brittle mess. Here are 10 ways to care for your skin and hair before and after a swim to help you stay looking and feeling good.

Rinse off before getting in the pool

You’ve probably heard that you should rinse off before getting in the pool or ocean. Not only does this reduce the contaminants that you might inadvertently bring into the water, but it also helps your skin and hair stay healthy. Because they will already be saturated with fresh water, they won’t be able to absorb as much of the salt water or chlorinated pool water, which can be very drying and irritating. So don’t hesitate to take a quick rinse before heading to the beach or pool!

Put a barrier cream on your skin

Once you’ve washed off all that debris and sweat, it’s time to give your skin a little extra help. Water is very drying to the skin, so you will want to apply a thick moisturizer that is rich in petrolatum (petroleum jelly) and oils to your face. This will help protect it from the pool or ocean water and help to prevent moisture loss as well. You don’t have to confine the barrier cream to your face, either; apply to any area of skin that gets dry. Put together a little skincare travel kit so that you will always have some cream ready to go in your beach bag.


Use water-resistant SPF

When swimming, you are still at risk of getting sunburned, especially on your neck, shoulders and upper back. Before getting into the water, apply a liberal amount of water-resistant sunscreen to all exposed skin and give it at least 15 minutes to dry down. If you get in the water right away, the sunscreen won’t have time to set down properly, and the water might wash some of it away. Pay attention to the water-resistant rating which is usually 40-80 minutes, and reapply sunscreen as often as necessary.

Wear a swim cap

Chlorine can make your hair dry, brittle and prone to breakage. If you swim in a pool often, we recommend getting a well-fitting swim cap and wearing it each time you get in the pool. Not only will it protect your hair, but it will also help cut down on drag and help you swim faster. Pro tip: Make sure to get your hair wet with fresh water beforehand when you rinse off, which will make it much easier and less painful to get the swim cap on and off.

Wash off right after getting out of the water

Once you are done in the water, immediately wash off in lukewarm fresh water to rid your skin of the salt and chemicals. Even if you can’t do a full shower, a quick rinse off in a public shower will help to get most potential irritants off your skin right away. If you swim laps in a pool often, we recommend packing skincare products with you so you can go ahead and shower right away. Letting all that chlorine sit on your skin will quickly become irritating.

Choose a mild cleanser and body wash

Cleansers are necessary to clean your face and body — which is why they’re the first step of any 3-step skincare routine — but they can also be drying, stripping and irritating to your skin. To prevent this kind of irritation, choose gentle cleansers for your face and body that are free of harsh ingredients such as surfactants and fragrances. Your skin should feel fresh and clean after you get out of the shower, not dry, tight and/or itchy.

Try nourishing masks

While masks are an optional part of any personal care routine, they can go a long way toward restoring your skin and hair to their hydrated glory. Masks are typically applied after washing your hair or face, left on for a certain period of time and then rinsed off. Look for thick, nourishing masks that are full of calming and soothing ingredients (as opposed to exfoliating or oil control ingredients) to hydrated dried-out skin and hair.


Be cautious with actives

Active ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C and exfoliants are by far the largest contributing factor to the effectiveness of your skincare routine. However, these powerhouse ingredients can also be very drying and irritating, which means that it’s best to avoid them before or after a long day in the water. Instead, save them for your indoor days when your skin will be protected from sun and water exposure. You’ll still get the amazing effects, but with much less irritation.

Moisturize all of your skin

You know that you should moisturize your face every time you wash it, but when you’re spending a lot of the time in the water, your lotion shouldn’t stop at the neck: You need a full body moisturizer routine. Every time you get out of the shower, apply a lightweight, fragrance-free lotion to all areas of your body except the skin folds, which are already moist. This will help to prevent moisture loss and soothe dry skin after a long day in the water.

Inspect your skin frequently

During swimming season, keep a close eye on your skin for signs of irritation. This can take many forms, including redness, itchiness, rashes, inflammation, bumps, spots, blisters, cracks, scaly patches and increased sensitivity. If you start to notice these signs, try taking a break from getting in the water to see if that soothes your skin. If symptoms persist, you might need to visit your dermatologist to get a diagnosis and treatment.

Do you swim a lot during the summer? Do you notice that the water changes your skin and hair? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Katarina Van Derham
Katarina Van Derham has worked in Hollywood for over a decade, gaining experience in every aspect of media and show business. Knowing the science behind beauty has made her one of the most sought after beauty specialists in the entertainment industry. She is often a judge for model searches and beauty pageants around the world. With a philanthropic heart and passion for leading an ethical lifestyle, Katarina is quickly becoming one of the leading influencers in the vegan and cruelty-free community.