How To Prevent Water-Damaged Nails From Your Summer Pool Days

You can fan yourself, mist yourself, or even drop some ice cubes down your shirt to cool off on a hot and humid summer day. But for a six-mile-high moment, few things can compare to jumping in a pool with oh-so-still water. Even if you don't swim, you can find unparalleled relief at the shallow end of the pool. Who wouldn't want to repeat this moment over and over again during a sweltering summer? If you're able, make the most of it. But if you're proud of your nails, or just want to keep them in good shape, be prepared to take a few defensive steps to keep them that way.

You're correct to think of chlorine as an instigator. It is added to pools to kill germs and bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella to keep the water sanitized. Produced from regular salt, chlorine contains chemicals such as hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ion — disinfectants that are harmless to people but still strong enough that you can often smell them from a distance (via Chemical Safety Facts). So, while you may wear sunscreen to protect your skin and a hat to shield your face, remember that your nails are fully exposed to summer elements like chlorine. Unless you shroud yourself in gloves, which is not a good summer look, your nails will need a little pre-pool care, and you can provide it without even working up a sweat.

Size up the challenges

Like many people, you may think of water as a gentle, sustaining life force. And to a great extent, it is. But it can also be extremely corrosive and damaging, especially to nails. They may seem hard, but fingernails are more vulnerable than they look. In fact, nails are "more permeable than your skin," the Cleveland Clinic says. Since they are more capable of being penetrated, they can act like a sponge and quickly soak up substances (like water and chlorine).

Soft, brittle nails are more likely to tear and break (via Healthline). They've been compromised in the first place. Sometimes, it doesn't take more than a minor bump against a cushioned surface to result in damage that looks like it's been caused by a much more serious trigger. Add chlorine to this dynamic, and now your nails are faced with a dehydrating element, too, since chlorine can deplete the body of its natural oils (via Live Science). And nails need natural oil to stay strong and healthy. The cuticle often pays the highest price; it can be stymied to such a degree that the nail refuses to grow. This is why nails should be fortified before you take another plunge into a chlorinated pool, whether in the shallow or the deep end.

Prepare your nails

Applying a quality base coat should be your first line of defense. This step is crucial because the base coat is the one that goes directly on top of the nail. Base coats usually consist of film formers, plasticizers, and resins (via NailPro). This is even better if you can find a base coat that includes fortifying vitamins and minerals, too.

The true warrior, the topcoat, should strengthen your nails so they are less likely to split, chip, and break, according to Women's Health. This is exactly where a little experimentation may pay off. For example, using a gel topcoat (or getting a gel manicure) may provide extra protection against chlorine. So may using glitter polish, which can be more resilient than regular nail polish, per Pretty Designs.

Either way, apply several thin layers rather than one goopy-thick layer. If you think nail polish can break off in large pieces under normal circumstances, remember that chlorine will exaggerate this. Once you're out of the pool, continue your nail care routine by avoiding nail polish removers that contain acetone. They work, but they also leave nails extra dry, which is the last thing your nails need. Then, be certain that you moisturize your hands, fingers, and nails. After splashing around in a chlorinated pool, be prepared for how quickly your skin absorbs the moisture.