How to Protect Your Skin from Chlorine and The Sun (Besides Sunscreen)

Across the country people are quite literally emerging into the sunlight after months of quarantining. While it’s certainly tempting to bask in the warm summer sun for hours, it’s important to be smart about it. Outdoor activities like swimming and enjoying the sun can wreak havoc on our skin. In my most recent appearance on Good Morning Washington, I share my best tips to help you protect your skin from chlorine, and enjoy the sun (aside from sunscreen)!

Learn how to protect your skin from chlorine and the sun in my Good Morning Washington segment (with Adrianna Hopkins) below:

How to protect your skin from chlorine

So many people experience dry or irritated skin during the summer from swimming in chlorinated pools. Chlorine is irritant to the skin, and is toxic to the entire body. While swimming in a chlorinated pool might not seem like a big deal, the problem is that chlorine is a chemical that we are actually exposed to on a daily basis. Many of us already carry too much accumulated chlorine and other toxic chemicals in our bodies. For that reason, swimming in chlorinated pools can push that body burden over the edge, and cause chlorine poisoning and other health problems. That’s why it’s so important to protect your skin from chlorine when you swim!

Switch to salt water

First of all, if you have a chlorinated pool, I recommend changing it to a salt water pool if at all possible. Salt water is actually really soothing for the skin. While salt water pools still contain slightly chlorinated water, it is far less drying and irritating to the skin and hair than fully chlorinated pools. Many public swimming pools have already made the switch to salt water, so actively seek those out as you consider your summer pool plans.

Shower before swimming in chlorinated water

Protect your skin from chlorine by showering before swimming in chlorinated pools.

If you have to swim in a chlorinated pool, be sure to shower thoroughly as much as possible BEFORE you get into the pool, and then again after. The skin–like a sponge–can only hold a certain amount of water. Showering beforehand saturates your skin with far less chlorinated water, so that when you go into the swimming pool, it is unable to absorb as much chlorinated water. 

After showering off after swimming, be sure to moisturize with an antioxidant-rich body oil or moisturizer that helps to hydrate, nourish, and protect the skin after.

Sunscreen is important, but it can feel sticky, and may contribute to clogged pores and breakouts.

We all know how important it is to wear sunscreen when outdoors to protect our skin from sun damage and skin cancer. For sunscreen to be effective, it’s important to apply it correctly, and reapply it often! It’s best to apply a full ounce (about the size of a shot glass) to all exposed areas of the body thoroughly–and reapply at least every two hours when outdoors. You have to reapply more often if you’re sweating a lot, and right after you towel off after the pool or ocean. Be sure to read the instructions on the sunscreen to see WHEN to apply–some have to be applied about 20 minutes before sun exposure, while others provide coverage instantly.

For anyone who is prone to skin breakouts or flare-ups, look for sunscreens that are intended for use on the face–even if you are prone to breakouts on the chest or back. These are made with lighter, less occlusive emollients that are less likely to suffocate the skin or clog pores. Avoid sunscreens that contain heavy oils and butters such as coconut oil or cocoa butter on areas of the skin that are prone to breakouts.

Make sure that the sunscreen is labeled as “fragrance-free,” as synthetic fragrances cause irritation and even allergic reactions for a lot of people. Also, look for either non-nano or micron-sized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient in your sunscreen. Many ingredients in sunscreen (especially conventional ones) are toxic chemicals that can be harmful both to people and the planet.

Shower off the sunscreen completely, after you’re done with UV exposure for the day. Afterwards, apply skincare and body care products that contain cooling and soothing ingredients such as aloe vera gel, witch hazel, green tea, and cucumber.

Check out my “Cool as A Cucumber DIY Facial Toner” Recipe HERE.

But sunscreen should be your LAST line of defense against the damaging rays of the sun.

Woman wearing a floppy hat and applying sunscreen.

It’s important to approach sun protection as a full sun-care regimen–not just applying sunscreen when you’re out in the sun. There are many herbs and oils that can help you boost your skin’s ability to handle sun exposure–and recover from it–when you use them in your daily summer skincare regimen.

Stock up on green tea!

Green tea has been studied extensively for its ability to help protect the skin from UV exposure, and help the skin heal from sun damage. Drinking green tea regularly (iced is fine!), as well as applying it topically both before sunscreen and after sun exposure is a great addition to your sun care routine.

One of my favorite tips shared by Dr. Heather Paulson in the Herbal Skincare Summit was taking green tea baths before and after sun exposure. You can also put green tea in a spray bottle and give yourself a thorough spritz before you apply your sunscreen, and after you shower off at the end of your time outdoors. I also recommend looking for daily skincare and bodycare products that contain green, white, or black tea extract. All of these teas come from the camellia sinensis plant, and have been studied for their photo-protective, and photo-restorative benefits.

Use oils with sun protective properties on a daily basis.

Certain carrier oils such as red raspberry seed oil, cranberry seed oil, avocado oil, and carrot seed oil are known to boost the skin’s own natural sun protective properties.

Rain4est Essentials Skin Care's Canopy Radiance Serum

It’s important to note that neither green tea, nor plant oils like these are meant to serve as sun protection on their own, as they are not FDA-tested or approved, broad spectrum sunscreens. However, they are wonderful ingredients to have in your daily summertime skincare regimen to help boost your skin’s resilience. Look for them also as ingredients in sunscreen.

In my Good Morning Washington segment, the oil that I applied was Rain4est Essentials Skin Care’s beautiful Canopy Radiance Serum, which was created by Create Your Skincare Pro graduate, Abby Mason.

Wear protective clothing and take shade breaks.

Sunscreen is not enough to protect your skin from UV exposure outdoors all day, no matter how often you reapply it–and that’s the truth! Protective clothing like big floppy hats, sunglasses, and caftans are great ways to add sun protection (that isn’t sticky and won’t rub or wash off).

I also recommend taking shade or indoor breaks from UV exposure often throughout the day. Be sure to bring an adjustable beach umbrella or tent to the beach or pool. Parasols have even begun to make a comeback, and can be a fashionable way to protect your skin from the sun while out and about on a sunny day.

Did you learn something new from this article about how to protect your skin from chlorine and the sun?

Please share your insights in the comments below!


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