Some tips to help you avoid eczema flares include wearing protective clothing, applying emollient ointments, showering immediately after swimming, and wearing sunscreen, among others.

Eczema is a chronic condition that causes skin inflammation, irritation, and itching. It’s most common in young children, but it may also affect teenagers and adults.

A 2021 study suggests that eczema is more common in frequent swimmers and lifeguards. Long-term exposure to a swimming pool environment may also change your skin barrier function, which could lead to eczema flares.

However, some research also suggests that swimming may help with eczema symptom management.

Keep reading to learn more about how to manage eczema flares while swimming.

According to a 2023 review, little research exists to support whether applying a barrier cream or ointment to your skin before swimming may help protect and moisturize it.

That said, the National Eczema Society and the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) both recommend applying some type of ointment to your skin before swimming. This may include:

  • petroleum jelly
  • moisturizing cream
  • emollient cream

These could help keep your skin moisturized and protect it from the chemicals in the pool.

After swimming, it’s also important to moisturize your skin. Once you get out of the pool, it’s best to take a warm shower with your usual soap. Then, pat yourself dry and apply a moisturizer within 3 minutes of your shower.

If you’re swimming outside, it’s important to protect your skin from sun damage. According to the National Eczema Society, wearing sunscreen with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide is best if you have eczema.

They recommend applying ointment 30 minutes before applying sunscreen. This can better protect your skin and help prevent eczema flares while swimming outside.

Wearing clothing or a swimsuit that has built-in ultraviolet (UV) protection may help protect your skin from sun damage. This could help you avoid eczema flares, as sunburns are a common trigger for symptom flare-ups.

This is also a good option if you feel self-conscious about your eczema symptoms. UV-protection swimsuits typically have more coverage. These may cover areas that are more prone to skin lesions, such as your elbows and behind the knees.

Other protective clothing options include:

  • rash guards
  • swim shirts
  • swim shorts, pants, leggings, or tights

It’s vital to change out of your swimming clothes as soon as possible after swimming in a pool with chlorine. This is because chlorine water remains in your clothing, which could cause eczema flare-ups.

Take a bath or shower when you’re done swimming. Use cool or lukewarm water rather than hot water. After, gently pat your skin dry and apply a moisturizing cream or ointment to it.

You might also find it helpful to speak with a mental health professional who has experience supporting people with chronic skin conditions. They may be able to help you cope with stigma and body image challenges.

The National Eczema Association suggests other tips to help prevent eczema flares while swimming, including:

  • Hydrating: It’s important to hydrate before swimming, as physical exercise causes you to sweat and lose water. High pH levels and chlorine could also affect your skin barrier. This could result in moisture loss.
  • Wash your bathing suit after each use: This could help you get rid of excess chlorine, calcium chloride, and any other chemical that could irritate your skin and cause eczema flares.
  • Using proper swim gear: Some materials of bathing caps, goggles, and swimming masks may irritate your skin. It may be best to use silicon swim gear instead of rubber or latex.

Several factors may influence how your skin reacts to swimming in a pool.

pH levels

Properly treated pool water has a pH level between 7.2 and 7.4, which is slightly alkaline. Your skin has a pH level that normally ranges from 4.1 to 5.8, which is more acidic.

Swimming may affect your skin barrier, known as the acid mantle. The skin barrier is responsible for retaining moisture in your skin. It also helps protect your skin from external irritants, toxins, and allergens.

If your skin becomes too alkaline, it will become drier. This may increase your chances of developing an eczema flare-up.


Chlorine is added to pools, which may cause skin dryness and increase eczema flares.

A 2021 study involving elite swimmers found that swimming for 2 hours increased transepidermal water loss (TWEL). This refers to how much water leaves the outer layer of the skin.

That said, the authors of a 2023 review suggest that chlorinated water may also benefit eczema flare-ups. This is because chlorine could help kill bacteria and other germs. It could also help reduce skin inflammation and itching, without damaging the skin barrier.

If you’re unsure about how chlorine will make your eczema flare, speak with a healthcare professional. They can offer you advice based on your health conditions.

Calcium chloride

Calcium chloride is added to pools to keep the water hard. This protects the surfaces of the pool from corrosion.

Some research suggests that calcium in hard water may damage the skin barrier, increasing skin dryness and irritation.

Is swimming in the ocean bad for eczema?

According to the National Eczema Association, some people find saltwater irritates their skin. Others find it soothing. More research is needed to learn how ocean water affects eczema symptoms.

Can water flare up eczema?

Research suggests that swimming in some types of water may cause eczema flare-ups. These may include water with high pH levels, chlorine, or calcium chloride. However, more research is needed to fully explore the relationship between water and eczema.

Is the beach good for eczema?

This may vary for each individual. You may find the salt water and sun soothing, while others may find them irritating. If going to the beach triggers eczema flare-ups, speak with a healthcare professional. They could help you find ways to better prevent flare-ups.

More research is needed to learn how swimming affects eczema symptoms. You may find that swimming helps soothe your symptoms. Others may find it irritating.

Speak with a healthcare professional if swimming causes eczema flare-ups. They could help develop a management plan that’s right for you.