When I first took up swimming, I spent most of my time considering what swimsuit would complement my new hobby best. I spent no time at all thinking about how chlorine and salt water would affect my hair and skin.
Needless to say, I quickly realised that was a huge mistake on my part as my combination skin quickly became unimpressed with my new regime and I found it irritated by even the most gentle actives I’d used for years. In short my moisture barrier was compromised and my usual routine wasn’t cutting it.
But after a few months of testing new products and badgering my fellow Go-Toer and long-time swimmer, designer Kate Jennings, about her routine, I’ve finally landed on a swim care regimen that complements my day-to-day.
What follows is said beauty routine (with splashes of Kate’s) to help keep our skin and hair happy and healthy.
Before I dip into the water I apply Kora’s Noni Glow Face Balm, it’s super occlusive and the fact that it comes in a little stick means it goes everywhere with me and I can apply seconds before I jump in the water. So. Useful.
I run a little of Bumble and bumble’s Hairdresser's Invisible Oil through my hair to keep it protected under my cap—super simple compared to curl-owner Kate, who follows a more strict routine.
“My hair and skin are always dry because of all the hours I spend in the chlorine and curls need A LOT of moisture,” Kate chimes in. “So my number one for hair conditioner. I have a bunch on rotation that I put on my hair to use under my swimming cap when I remember (let’s be honest, that hardly ever happens) and then I add more conditioner to my hair as a daily leave-in treatment.”
If it’s outdoors, it’s sunscreen only. I love the We Are Feel Good Inc Signature Sunscreen SPF 50+ or Ultra Violette’s Extreme Screen SPF 50+ Hydrating Body & Hand Skinscreen.
If I swim in the morning, I’ll skip the in-shower cleanse and just allow H20 to do it’s thing then follow with a mist (whatever I have on-hand) and then apply CosRX’s Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence—it’s so gentle and hydrating and all my skin can tolerate post-dip. Then it’s onto Much Brighter Skin and SPF.
For PM, take my layering about as seriously as people can take such things: Mist, a hydrating serum, snail mucin and then Face Hero (at least ten drops), which I let sink in and then I usually, just before bed, reapply my mist, Face Hero and then Very Useful Face Cream to lock in all in. I skip actives like retinol or lactic acid on days I swim, it’s just asking for trouble.
Kate, who says her skin type is dry, keeps things very simple after a swim, noting she’s trialling the “TikTok ‘botox’ hack” (matrixyl and argireline) before applying “sunscreen, moisturiser and a lil Laniege lip mask” for day.
Then it’s onto ‘slugging’ a K-beauty term that essentially involves applying a super occlusive layer over your skincare layers to lock in the goodness and create a barrier of sorts between your skin and the outside world.
“Night time is where I really invest in recovering my skin from all the chlorine exposure,” Kate elaborates. “I’ll chuck on a little retinol followed by a heavy moisturiser but I also like to do slugging a few times a week (like five), so I’m popping on my moisturiser followed by some Egyptian Magic. This method is a * chef’s kiss * for dry, chlorine-exposed skin.”
I always wash my hair after a swim but I’m not married to any shampoo or conditioner combination. But I do love Olaplex’s No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner and No.8 Bond Intense Moisture Mask for a bi-weekly treatment. My hairdresser (the lovely Penny at Barney Martin) advised me to use a clarifying shampoo (R+Co Oblivion Clarifying Shampoo) once a week to fend off chlorine build-up. I always follow up with oil on my ends post-shower (sometimes Face Hero, sometimes Bumble and bumble) and let my hair air dry.
Kate on the other hand, maintains her curls with a more diligent routine to them in check:
“When I do a proper wash (once every week or week and a half is good for my curls), I’ll do a proper mask or treatment (DevaCurl Deep Sea Repair or Aveda Be Curly Intensive Detangling Mask) and always sleep with my hair in a braid,” Kate says of caring for her curls.Body
So you want to get into swimming too now you have the beauty routine to complement your new-found love of laps?
“If you’re a complete newbie, definitely get some lessons, especially if you’re going to the beach,” Kate advises. “I was lucky enough to do Nippers when I was young and surf awareness is so important. If you want to get back to the pool and start doing laps then an adult refresher class is great.”
I’ll second Kate’s motion to get some lessons, as I found jumping back into the pool after years of leisure swimming (floating on a blow-up flamingo does not count as laps, apparently) I needed some time to get back into the rhythm of breathing and maintaining good form.
“I think one of the things adults struggle with the most is breathing and making the mistake of holding their breath instead of blowing bubbles out their noses,” Kate continues. “You won’t be able to start working on your technique or endurance until you master this! This is also where the meditative aspect of swimming comes in. The slow, controlled deep breathing is great for your mental health! I say ditch the yoga class and go for a swim!”