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Life Hacks For Water Sport Athletes

Laszlo Balogh / Stringer

Whether it be swimming, water polo, synchronized swimming, surfing, or anything else involving you and a sizeable body of water, we all know the struggle.

You are constantly in and out of the water meaning, sun burns, multiple showers, dry skin, damaged hair, chlorine cough, and the list goes on and on. I have spent over a dozen years dealing with these issues. As such, I think I have learned a few pretty good tricks to help your body stay fresh and healthy even with all the water and sun damage. You can skip around to whatever you may need help in maintaining.

 

Skin

1. Sunscreen (very important)

Sun protection is extremely vital because most of the aging process is sped up by sun damage to the skin. I’ll just dish out the basics for sunscreen. It is preferable that you apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or over, repeatedly. Though it is noteworthy to mention that sunscreens with crazy SPF numbers like 99+ probably aren’t that much more effective. I am assuming y’all are working up a sweat, so if possible, try to do so every 30 minutes. It is also important to take note of the expiration on the bottle, and if there is none, a sunscreen that you’ve owned for over two years has probably lost its effectiveness.

Applying zinc oxide is another great option, because it blocks UV rays even better than the regular sunscreen.

One last thing to mention is that spray sunscreens have been seen to have spotty coverage, so it might be better to just stick to regular old lotion sunscreen.

 

2. Post-practice skin remedies

Classic lotions are important after your practice too. Your skin is most likely going to be stripped of its natural oils that moisturize and protect your skin after your chlorine bath and shower. Most lotions that have aloe or coconut oil are great options. I like Cerave and Aveeno, personally, those have always been pretty great at rejuvenating my skin.  Additionally, some lotions leave me super oily in the water when I get back in, and those ones don’t really do that which I prefer.

If you have the misfortune to get chlorine rash from the continuous subjugation to that chemical, then there are lotions for that like DermaSwim or UltraSwim.

Additionally, if you are doing water exercises in an indoor pool, your cough and skin may be getting worse by peeing in the pool. Peeing in the pool releases more toxins into the air, which do not make it easy to breathe. I know "everyone" does it, and it is more convenient, but maybe refrain and spread the word so that you all get healthier lungs and skin.

 

Hair

Hair is different for everybody, some people’s hair turns green (mostly if you are blonde), some gets lighter, some experience major breakage. Obviously, a cap is a very good choice to help protect your hair, but these are a few additional tips I have learned that hopefully work for you guys. For context, my hair is very thick and dark, it usually becomes really dry and crispy from swimming.

 

3. Coconut oil

There is coconut oil you can buy for your hair that I find really softens up my hair and makes it smell so much nicer than chlorine. Pretty easy to apply, I just put it on after I swim, mostly to the ends, because it makes my roots kind of oily if I apply it there. A little goes a long way for this one. You can also try leave in conditioner and I think it’ll replicate the result. I think it is also a thing to apply coconut oil or leave-in conditioner over hair to create a barrier and protect it from the chlorine. I believe leave-in conditioner would be a better option because it's not as thick and lighter. I personally not do this because when my hair is too soft my cap slips off, so this one is up to you.

 

4. Dry Shampoo

So you are actually not supposed to wash your hair everyday, which is actually pretty bad news for us because we tend to do that all the time. Another con I have found is that if I don’t wash my hair on my day off (typically Sunday) it’ll start to get oily right away. That’s because your scalp is continuously stripped of its moisture everyday from shampooing your hair. Shampoo washes your hair by stripping the oils, grime, and dirt from it, but this means that the healthy oils that keep your hair smooth and soft are gone with it. That is why you need to add it back with conditioner. I went on this tangent to make a point, I promise. As a result of all this, that means your scalp will release more oils to combat all the times you wash your head. Thus if you’ve ever taken an extended leave from the sport where you don’t wash your hair as often, you’ll see your scalp doesn’t get that oily as quick. This is why adding dry shampoo on your Sundays or just to replace some days could be good so that you don’t have to take yet another shower. It is also great if you have to get to class, but your hair is oily or sweaty from weights.

 

5. Purple Shampoo

So this mostly partains to blondes, and I know this one because I am someone who bleaches their ends to blonde. Anywhoo, purple shampoo is a thing and it combats brassiness in hair which could occur with extended periods in the water or honestly just from growing up. Purple opposes orange on the color wheel, and so it can help neutralize orange tones in hair. It is similar to adding green color correcting makeup over your red spots to neutralize it.

 

6. Eyebrow Tinting

Okay, I am putting this one under hair, because that counts, right? I am someone who gets to watch their eyebrows just completely disappear over extended time in the pool. I know this one is pretty cosmetic and doesn’t consider the health of your body, but I thought it would be helpful. I have tried a great deal of eyebrow pomades and products that claim to be waterproof. However, I personally have found that when I tint my eyebrows with eyebrow tint (I use Godefroy Eyebrow Tint from Amazon), I can achieve a “normal human who has eyebrows” look. It last typically around a week and is super easy to apply, just follow all the directions on the manual.

 

Ears

7. Combatting Ear Infections

I don't know if I am the one who always gets swimmers ear, but there was a time where I would get it literally every week. There is a distinction between swimmers ear and ear infections. Swimmers ear is the infection of the outer ear, and an ear infection is the infection of the middle ear. If it gets really bad, you might get an ear infection of your inner ear, which you should most definitely see a doctor about. I would say that if it enters ear infection territory in general, you should go to a doctor. They will usually prescribe you some antibiotics, but back to business.

I used to use cotton swabs for my ear, and while that feels so nice, it is definitely not great for your ear because you can damage the inside. It's best to kick that habit. What I do instead is, after swimming, I create a vacuum in my ear. Where I cover the ear with my finger, push inward, and release, this usually pulls out water. This is how mechanisms like straws draw out liquid from your drink. I used to do that thing where you jump on what leg, but that never worked. If I ever start to feel itchy in my ear or light pain, I immediately take that as my body notifying me that my ear is getting irritated. I use basic Hyland Ear Drops from Target. These are great because you can use them as often as needed, so I just keep on applying them around 4 times a day. These usually are enough. If it gets worse or does not help, I would advise your physician.

I will add that there are little things you can do to try and prevent swimmer’s ear and ultimately an infection. First off, I find that ear buds trap water in my ear, and I am someone who likes to jam so I made the switch to headphones right after practice until I am sure there’s no water in my ear. Another trick is the placement of your cap, I feel like it is best when it is halfway over your ear, not all the way, and not completely uncovered. However, I am sure this is different for everyone, so I would play around with this one. My last tip is to try and get water out during practice. If I feel water has gone my ear, I will immediately do the vacuum trick to get that water out.

 

Lungs

8. Chlorine Cough

This one is tough to try and prevent, at least for me. Different people hold different susceptibility to chlorine cough. For me, I get it pretty easily. But I find there are a couple things that help me.

Like I said above, try not to pee in the pool, not doing that is a good start. Another trick is to sleep with a humidifier during the duration of the meet. The steam helps clear your lungs and helps your breathe better. A simple hack is just to spend as much time possible outside of the pool so you are not subjected to prolonged periods in the pool. I also like to take really hot baths too where I get the chlorine out of my body and I get steam that I can breathe in. True story, sometimes my bath water turns blue from all the chlorine that has been in my body. It is crazy.

Some things are pretty hard to combat like goggle tans (I have never figured out this one), but I hope these help you out in the pool! Happy swimming/synchronized swimming/water polo-ing/surfing/whatever it is you crazy kids do!