Chlorine Sensitivity - Swimmers Sensitive to Chlorine

September 14, 2013

Chlorine SensitivityChlorine Sensitivity

Chlorine sensitivity refers to a person's unusually adverse reaction to chlorine.  (Throughout this article, everything discussed for chlorine also applies to bromine).  Some swimmers find that their skin becomes irritated or itchy more easily than other swimmers.  For example, some swimmers report having an itchy, runny nose, that causes sneezing. Those who report having a "chlorine sensitivity" may also be more prone to rashes after swimming in chlorinated pools.  The term "chlorine sensitivity" is often used interchangeably with the term "chlorine allergy."

My relationship with chlorine was a bit strange.  I swam competitively all through high school and Princeton.  During high school, I swam in an old Boys' Club pool which always smelled like chlorine.  My hair turned clear/white, I smelled like chlorine all the time, and my skin became dry and irritated.  At the time, I just accepted it.  My parents bought me UltraSwim shampoo.  But it didn't work.  I would use lotion, which only seemed to smear the chlorine around.  Eventually, I gave up and viewed these symptoms as part of being a "real" swimmer.  It took me about 20 years of swimming and two doctoral degrees to figure out the simple answer to my chlorine problems.  Chlorine sensitivity is caused by exposure to chlorine.  If you wash the chlorine off of your body after swimming, it helps quite a bit.

Chlorine Sensitivity - Caused by Chlorine

A swimmer's adverse reactions to chlorine can be dramatically reduced by lessening the swimmer's exposure to chlorine.  This may sound simple because it is simple. Chlorine is rather hash to a swimmer's hair and skin.  (It is the exact same chemical found in household bleach).  Chlorine is excellent at sanitizing pools (killing bacteria, etc).  But that sanitizing power comes with some unwanted side-effects.  In particular, the pool chlorine also reacts with the swimmer's hair and skin.  See Chlorine Reacts with Skin.  Upon reacting with the hair and skin, it chemically bonds to the hair and skin.  Chemically speaking, this reaction leaves the skin covered in a layer of chloramines.

After chlorine reacts with a swimmer's skin, it becomes very difficult to wash away, leaving behind a film of lingering chlorine.  That residual lingering chlorine continues to eat away at hair and skin for hours or days after the swimmer leaves the pool.  Showering and/or regular shampooing does not eliminated those lingering pool chemicals.  This prolonged exposure to lingering chlorine creates significant problems for swimmers having a particular sensitivity to chlorine.  

In my view, this is good news because swimmers can reduce their exposure to chlorine without reducing their time in the pool.  Swimmers can do this by simply doing a better job washing the chlorine off of their bodies after swimming.

Chlorine Sensitivity - Treatment

For swimmers having a particular sensitivity to chlorine, the best "treatment" is minimizing exposure to chlorine.  Again, this sounds simple because it is simple:  If chlorine makes your skin itchy and irritated, try to reduce your exposure to chlorine.

Of course many swimmers with chlorine sensitivity may not want to reduce the amount of time that they spend in the pool.  Swimming is wonderful.  It is incredible exercise and also insanely fun.  Moreover, competitive swimmers often require 2-4 hours of swim training each day.  For a serious swimmer, reducing time spent in the pool is often undesirable or simply not an option.

With SwimSpray's new vitamin C technology, swimmers can reduce exposure to chlorine without decreasing time spent in the pool.  By eliminating the lingering chlorine immediately after leaving the pool, a swimmer can limit chlorine exposure to the time spent in the pool.  For many, this provides a significant benefit to hair and skin health.  For those reporting a chlorine sensitivity, eliminating the lingering chlorine can reduce the undesirable itching, rashes, and dryness.

I invented SwimSpray almost ten years after graduating from college.  At the time, I was working at a law firm and swimming before work.  Unlike my college classes, the law firm required buttoned-up collared shirts, which fit pretty snug at my neck.  The combination of business casual attire and lingering chlorine really bothered my skin on account of the rubbing.  Since I didn't want to give up swimming in the morning, I knew that I needed to find a better way to wash the chlorine off my my hair and skin.  Fortunately, by that time I had the benefit of a PhD in chemistry, so I was able to devise a chemical solution to the lingering chlorine problem.  That solution evolved into SwimSpray.

Rinsing with Vitamin C after Swimming

A swimmer can eliminate lingering chlorine by rinsing with vitamin C after swimming.  Chemically this makes perfect sense.  Chlorine reacts with the hair and skin, oxidizing it.  Vitamin C is a powerful and biologically safe antioxidant.  The antioxidant neutralizes the lingering chlorine so that it can be washed away.  

When I first started using SwimSpray, I felt better at work immediately.  Before I even stepped into my office, I noticed that I didn't smell like chlorine.  I didn't feel like I had a chemical film on my body.  And my hair felt lighter and less crunchy.  Chemically this makes sense—I had washed the chlorine away, so I didn't feel like I was covered in chlorine.  Here is a link explaining how to eliminate lingering chlorine by rinsing with vitamin C.

About the author: Dr. Andrew Chadeayne is a life-long swimmer. He created SwimSpray in 2010 to help fight chlorine’s side-effects on swimmers’ hair and skin. He holds degrees from Princeton (B.A.), George Washington (J.D.), and Cornell (Ph.D chemistry).  He is an inventor on numerous patents, including surface science, pharmaceuticals, and dechlorination.  Dr. Chadeayne lives in Bellevue, Washington where he works as a chemical patent consultant at Chadeayne LLC.

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