Is the ocean or the pool better for my skin?

Some people's skin may be sensitive to salt water or chlorinated water.
Some people's skin may be sensitive to salt water or chlorinated water.
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Chlorine or salt? That is the question. Both the chlorinated water of swimming pools and the salt water of the ocean can be damaging to your skin. But is one of them the lesser of two evils?

When asking if the pool or the ocean is "better" for your skin, the only person who can truly answer that question is you. One person's skin may react to the grating salt and sand of ocean water, which can dry out the skin. However, that same person may be unaffected by a pool's chlorine. Another person may develop dry, itchy skin -- or even a rash -- from a pool, but that same person may find ocean water soothing [source: Healthy Skin Care]. Because skin varies so much, what works for one person may not work for another. In addition, you may learn that both chlorine and salt aggravate your skin -- or even that neither one does.

If you notice dry, flaky skin after taking a dip in the pool, chlorine may be the culprit. Chlorine can even cause an itchy rash or sinus problems from inhaling chlorine [source: WebMD]. While salt water may cause dry, itchy skin in some people, for others, salt-water baths are a luxury, which is why they're offered at many spas. Salt water may even ease the discomfort caused by skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema [source: Salt Works].

If both salt water and chlorinated water cause your skin discomfort, a saline pool may be the answer. These pools contain both chlorine and salt; however, the concentrations of both are far lesser than their ocean and pool counterparts, which may reduce many of the aggravating effects of chlorine and salt [source: Deardorff]. These pools are the best of both worlds for some people, but others may still experience skin problems. To learn more about the effects of salt and chlorine on the skin, look over the links on the following page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Deardorff, Julie. "Chlorine versus saline pools." Chicago Tribune. February 5, 2009. (Accessed 8/19/09)
  • Healthy Skincare. "Swimming Pool Rash or Chlorine Rash." (Accessed 8/19/09)
  • Salt Works. "Salt Information: Bath Salt Water Therapy." (Accessed 8/19/09)
  • WebMD. "Summer Sinus Problems" (Accessed 9/3/09)