Upon learning how to swim, the drawbacks of chlorine become as clear as chemically treated clean pool water: It hurts your eyes, leaves your skin feeling dry and chalky, and—oh, yeah—kind of reeks. (Even though it might actually help your gut.) But smack in the middle of a summertime heat wave, the idea of back-stroking through a sparkling blue pool sounds nothing short of divine.
Enter saltwater pools: a healthy alternative for swimming your way through a balmy, summer day.
Here’s what you should know about the benefits to soak up in saltwater pools this summer.
First things first: The key difference between a saltwater and chlorine pools
The main difference between a saltwater pool and a chlorine one is how the structure is set up and cleaned. While chlorine models are are consistently treated with the chemical in the form of sticks or tablets, saltwater pools self-produce chlorine at a more tempered pace.
And unsurprisingly, saltwater pools are consistently treated with, well, salt, which sanitizes the pool through a process called electrolysis. However, it’s worth noting that the average saltwater pool is only about a tenth of the salinity present in ocean water, so you won’t reap the exact same skin-smoothing benefits as you would surfing some waves (but hey, a small fraction of sodium beats none at all).
Swimming in saltwater gives your skin a boost
Some basically consider the ocean to be a cure-all. (In high school, I even tried clearing my acne with consistent trips to the beach with some success.) But the H2O legend isn’t strictly lore. “Salt is a catalyst, it detoxifies, it relaxes you and even helps skin-barrier function,” explains Elizabeth Trattner, an integrative medicine doctor based Florida. In fact, swimming through saltwater both sterilizes your skin and could lessen the mediators of inflammation.
Once your fingers start getting prune-y though, you may have overstayed your welcome and dried out your skin. So just make sure that your post-pool routine involves a moisturizing cleanser and face lotion to return your skin to its state of tip-top hydration.
Saltwater pools calm the immune and nervous systems
“The calming and detoxifying effects of saltwater pools can support the immune, nervous, and lymphatic systems,” says Trattner, adding that in Chinese medicine, salt is consider to be grounding. While scientists still have yet to conducted ample research on the effects of salt on human subjects, one 2014 study in the journal Appetite found that women with sodium-rich diets tended to be less depressed than other women. So dog-paddling through the stuff may offer the same benefits.
Plus, since salt is antimicrobial, it could also block any unwanted germs from ruining your summer fun (bye, summer cold). This is due to a chemical process called osmosis, which causes liquids to leave your cells—including bacterial ones, according to Science Focus.