You’re hanging out poolside, cold beverage in hand and the scent of sunscreen in the air. Sweating under the sun, you decide to take a dip to cool off. After diving in, you might be tempted to just lie out in the sun and air dry, saving the shower for later. But that’s actually a really bad idea.
There are a number of reasons why you want to wash off the pool’s residue: Chemicals in the pool can dry out your hair or make your skin itchy, and bacteria from the water may linger after you climb out. But there’s one major reason you should never skip the post-swim shower. And it has to do with chlorine.
“Pools are chlorinated,” Dr. Tania Elliott, allergist and internist who specializes in certain skin diseases and immunology, says. “And while chlorine (the main ingredient in bleach) kills off bugs and bacteria, it can irritate and dry out your skin, and can also lead to redness, itching, eczema, and rashes.”
There’s a reason your skin feels itchy after you take a dive. The chlorine could have all kinds of effects on your skin, some of which could later become visible.
But, according to Morgan Statt, health and safety investigator for ConsumerSafety.org, the risks don’t stop there.
“Chlorine is also a known irritant that can cause worse reactions if you have an existing hypersensitivity,” Statt says. “Prolonged exposure has also been linked to bladder cancer and asthma.”
Statt referenced a study that found some alarming conclusions about the effects of chlorine. While ingesting chlorine has been associated with bladder cancer risk in previous research, this study looked into the effects of skin contact with chlorine. The results were similar — the more chlorine exposure, the higher the risk of bladder cancer.
Of course, there are a number of factors that influence your risk of cancer. But do yourself a favor and hop in the shower directly after swimming in the pool. The chlorine lingering on your skin could be one of the biggest health hazards you’re facing this summer.