How does chlorine affect skin?

Beautiful woman floating in a swimming pool.
Chlorine can cause fine lines and wrinkles, and some people may develop a rash from chlorine exposure.
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When was the last time you were exposed to chlorine? If you haven't been to the pool recently, you may think it's been a while, but you're probably closer to chlorine than you think. Have you used any cleaners lately? Have you taken a shower recently? If so, you've come in contact with chlorine.

Chlorine is one of the 10 most-made chemicals in America because it's used to treat drinking water [source: New York Department of Health]. Your daily shower and occasional dip in the pool may not affect your skin much, but if you notice dry, flaky skin after taking a swim, chlorine may be the culprit. This may be more noticeable during the summer or when you're on vacation and spending more time in the pool because repeated exposure can exacerbate chlorine's affect on the skin. And if you have sensitive skin or allergies, you may develop an itchy rash -- or even sinus problems from inhaling chlorine [source: WebMD].


Chlorine can also damage the skin and cause premature signs of aging. Even small amounts of chlorine can be harmful over time. When you shower, heat opens your pores and allows the chlorine to seep into your skin. Chlorine strips the skin of its natural oils and causes it to dry and crack, which can lead to wrinkles [source: New York Department of Health].

To avoid chlorine's harmful effects, you can use a chlorine filter on your shower, bathtub or tap. And if you can't resist a dip in the pool, try using a pre-swimming lotion that's specially formulated to block chlorine and protect your skin. You can also treat dry skin caused by chlorine by applying a moisturizer or taking an oatmeal bath. For more information, visit the links on the next page.


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Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • New York Department of Health. "The Facts About Chlorine." (Accessed 8/19/09)
  • WebMD. "Summer Sinus Problems" (Accessed 9/3/09)