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Effets du chlore sur la peau.

What are the effects of chlorine on the skin?

Chlorine is used to treat swimming pool water to prevent the growth of microorganisms. However, it is not without consequences for the skin. Discover the effects of chlorine on the skin and how to remedy them.

Summary
Published February 19, 2024, by Sandrine, Scientific Editor — 3 min read
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The use of chlorinated substances in the swimming pool.

In order to prevent the risk of bacteria, algae, and fungi development in water, treating products such as the chlorine or even calcium hypochlorite are added to swimming pools. Indeed, these substances are the most commonly used because they have excellent disinfectant properties, and are also appreciated for their low cost and ease of use.

However, when chlorinated water comes into contact with organic matter brought in by swimmers (sweat, urine, hair, dead skin, saliva, cosmetics, etc...), chloramines form in the pool, these are chemical compounds resulting from the reaction between chlorine and ammonia and can cause irritations to the eyes, respiratory tract, as well as the skin. They are also the cause of the strong bleach-like smell so characteristic of swimming pools that permeates the skin, hair and fabrics. Other factors can also lead to a higher production of chloramines, such as the high temperature of the water or even theagitation (whirlpool baths, waterfalls).

The effects of chlorine on the skin.

At the skin level, both water itself and the formed chloramines have detrimental effects. Indeed, they alter the composition of the stratum corneum, which dries out the skin. The effects vary depending on the duration of exposure:

  • For recreational swimming : Dry skin, itching, erythema, allergic contact dermatitis, and contact urticaria have been identified.

  • In the case of repeated swimming or water sports : A broad spectrum of dermatoses have been identified. The xerosis is one of the conditions that most affects swimmers, especially those with sensitive and atopic skin (eczema) as their skin barrier is already sensitised. Furthermore, among lifeguards and coaches, more warts and fungal infections have been identified due to the damp environment.

Note : Xerosis is a skin condition that refers to dry skin. It occurs when the water content in the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin) is below normal. As a result, the hydrolipidic film can no longer fulfil its protective role, and water loss intensifies. The skin thus becomes dry and rough, accompanied by feelings of discomfort (tightness, redness, itching).

Source:

  • QUIRCE S. & al. Health effects of exposure to chlorination by-products in swimming pools. Allergy (2021).

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