By Nicole Namubiru
Why it’s a dangerous combination with chlorine and soap
The feeling one derives from taking a warm bath on a very cold day is heavenly. On the contrary, taking a cold bath on an equally cold day feels like chewing sour herbs. But, how about, it is the sour herbs that will save you? That is what you should consider the next time you are tempted by a hot bath.
Dr Fred Kambugu, a dermatologist from the skin clinic of Mulago National referral Hospital says hot water on the skin has the effect of opening the pores or the millions of tiny holes of the skin that allow natural oil produced under the skin to come to the surface and protect the skin.
The pores are also the home of the millions of hairs on all bodies. Unknown to most people, humans have the same number of hairs on their body as apes – about 5 million on adults. The only difference is that most human hair is so tiny it is not visible to the eye. Each hair equals a pore on the skin.
Therefore, at the same time when hot water on the skin widens these pores, it also allows unwanted agents to penetrate it. In case of a typical bath, soap is used. These are harsh chemicals that the skin must now contend with. The soaps strip the skin of its natural oils and proteins which are needed to protect it from dryness. This then leaves the skin looking pale, cracked or scaly which results in the early onset of wrinkles. The most vulnerable part of the body to be affected would be the face. The facial skin happens to be very delicate and repeated washes with hot water can cause capillaries to get weak resulting in dry skin.
People with oily skin are less prone to these effects of soap and cold water because their skins continue to produce natural oils that keep their skin from getting scaly. What makes the skin look smooth is the water in it. This is held firm by the natural oils. Continuous baths with artificial soaps robs the skin of these.
Dr. Kambugu thus advises that less soap is used while taking baths apart from certain parts of the body like the armpits that need thorough cleaning.
He also notes that chlorine, an oxidant used to treat tap water in our homes and make it safe for consumption, causes extensive dryness of the skin, wrinkles and premature aging.
Research further says that the gas compounds of chlorine will also cause tissue damage at a molecular level. The repeated use of hot water with chlorine to bathe will then cause the skin to lose its elasticity and overtime damage cellular tissue which will lead to an early ageing and wrinkling of the body.
Swimming pool water has a high concentration of chlorine compared to normal tap water. This means it causes even more skin tissue damage unless precautions are taken. One can avoid this by smearing themselves with Vaseline before swimming which prevents the penetration of chlorine into the skin.
Another dermatologist, Dr Malik of Unity Skin Clinic in Kampala says continuous use of hot water on our skins, in extreme circumstances, could lead to a condition known as eczema for those allergic to chlorine.
Despite these cautions, the skin needs regular cleaning to open up the sores, wash away the dirty used natural skin oils, and allow the skin oil to be refreshed. The dirty skin oil is dangerous if it accumulates as it harbours disease-causing bacteria.
Therefore, if you cannot use cold water, it is important to use lukewarm water or relatively warm water when taking baths other than hot water. This avoids the danger to the skin while allowing it to refresh itself. Instead of dry, wrinkled skin, you end up looking younger in the long run.