What To Apply On Body Before Swimming

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Swimming is an excellent way to exercise for many people because it is easier on the joints and works more muscles than in other pastimes. But, unfortunately, swimming comes with unique problems for your body, like dry or aging skin and the consequences of both.

Before enjoying some time in the water, it’s important to prepare your body by applying some sunscreen or pre-swim lotion to help prevent the issues caused by the sun’s rays and any chlorine in the pool.

Read on to learn more about how to protect yourself from the negative effects of swimming and why they work.


What Do You Need to Apply to Your Body Before Swimming?

Many people simply change into their swimsuits and jump in the pool without a second thought, but if you want to care for your body, there are a couple more steps you should be taking.

You can think of a pre-swim shower as “applying” something to your body. A quick rinse will start acclimating your body to the cooler temperatures of the pool while cleaning any unsanitary microbes or particles. This keeps the pool cleaner and everyone healthier.

After your pre-swim shower, gently pat yourself dry before applying sunscreen, moisturizer, or both. You’ll be good to go soon after for a more enjoyable swim time.


How Long Before Swimming Do You Need to Apply Creams?

You should generally wait for at least 15 minutes after applying a cream-based sunscreen or moisturizer before jumping in the water. This gives your skin plenty of time to absorb the protection you went out of your way to apply.

Some products may claim to have a quick-absorbing formula, but it’s still a good idea to wait 15 minutes anyway. The same is true for sunscreens that come as an aerosolized spray can as opposed to a cream.

If you’ve applied sunscreen or moisturizer and failed to let it absorb, you may see a thin, oily film on top of the water when you get in the water. This is an indication that you didn’t wait long enough, and you may not be as protected as you think.


Why Is it Important to Apply Creams on Your Body Before You Go Swimming?

Even in a controlled environment like a pool, there are still some risks associated with swimming. For example, an outdoor pool exposes you to the sun, which can burn and age your skin, while some pools can dry out your skin.

A water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher is generally recommended when exposed to the sun during a swim. Remember to reapply every 1½ to 2 hours. This will help prevent the burning and aging of your skin by blocking the harmful UVA and UVB rays of sunlight.

Some research suggests that avobenzone – a common component of some sunscreens – reacts with chlorine in pool water and breaks down into toxic compounds, which can cause infertility, immune system damage, or even cancer.

The research is still incomplete, however, and dermatologists agree that you should still be wearing sunscreen. If you’re concerned about these effects, you might be able to find avobenzone-free sunscreens for peace of mind.

A moisturizer or pre-swim lotion helps to form a barrier between your skin and the pool water. This is especially important if the pool is chlorinated because it can cause dry, itchy skin that can then lead to eczema or other acne breakouts.


What Things Should You Avoid Applying to Your Skin Before Swimming?

If you’re swimming in bodies of water like lakes and oceans, try not to apply sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate. These are just two chemicals that have been studied and shown to cause coral bleaching – a harmful condition that can kill entire coral reefs.

Even if you wait 15 minutes to let sunscreens that contain these two compounds, they can still be leached into the water and end up damaging the fragile underwater ecosystems built around coral reefs.

If you know that you’ll be swimming on any given day, you should avoid applying deodorants and antiperspirants until after you’ve enjoyed your time in the water.

Anything you do apply will be washed off into the water, which can increase the amount of eye and other irritants as the chemicals reach places they were never intended for.


What Do Professional Swimmers Apply on Their Body Before Swimming?

Some professional swimmers, like U.S. women’s swim team member Haley Anderson, will coat themselves in moisturizers before swimming.

Professionals are still human like the rest of us, so they do this to prevent drying and damaging the skin from being water for so many hours regularly.

They may, however, use higher quality, more expensive lotions like ones that include ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, or intensely hydrating cocoa butter because they are that serious about maintaining their body.

Otherwise, there isn’t anything you can apply to your body to make yourself swim faster. If there were, it would surely be outlawed in competitive swimming.


Final Thoughts on What To Apply To Body Before Swimming

You certainly don’t have to apply anything to your body before you go swimming, but you should. 

A simple sunscreen application will ward off the worst effects of being in the sun for long periods of time, while a good moisturizing lotion can form a barrier between your skin and the water to prevent the drying effects of water (especially chlorinated water).

If you’re even considering becoming a more serious or competitive swimmer, you should apply one or both of these items every time you go swimming.