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Does bathing in swimming-pools (e.g., at hotels or water parks), where chlorine is added to the water, brighten your skin?

I've heard from many different people that bathing in pools with chlorine water makes your tan go away, although my doctor friend undoubtedly says otherwise.

The claim is also made in this fake tan company's FAQ:

Yes. Frequent swimming will enhance your body's natural exfoliation. Chlorinated water also tends to lighten the skin, therefore fading your tan quicker.

and on this holistic supermarket's website:

Your tan will gradually fade in about a week to 10 days. Exfoliating, shaving, prolonged water exposure, (especially in chlorinated pools) and heavy sweating can lighten your tan, as all these things contribute to rapid dead skin-cell removal.

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    Welcome to Skeptics! In order to keep the scope of the site to a manageable size, we require proof that the claim questioned has proponents. Please edit your question with a proof of that. A quote or a link will do nicely, but "My friend told me that..." isn't sufficient proof.
    – Borror0
    Aug 15 '11 at 2:28
  • @bor: I don't have a link in English handy, but it's a common claim in Italy. See 10k+ results on google in Italian: google.co.uk/…
    – Sklivvz
    Aug 15 '11 at 16:18
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    I added a link to the claim, I think enough people believe this one for it to be notable.
    – John Lyon
    Aug 16 '11 at 3:43
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    Isn't that first link about fake tans? There probably quite a bit of a difference between a tan and a fake tan! For instance, I don't doubt for a second that fake tans lessen in chlorine water, but have serious doubts about real tans. (both unfounded at this moment, but as they are 2 different things, it seems incorrect to look at them the same way.
    – Nanne
    Sep 13 '13 at 17:08
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    The second is also about fake tans, but I'm guessing your doctor friend is talking about a real tan (his/her area somewhat, while for wake tans it doesn't seem necessary to add the doctor part
    – Nanne
    Sep 13 '13 at 17:11
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If it is a spray tan, yes

On this page, the word is...

Chlorine will break down your spray tan quicker than shower/bath water

...and they note that...

this means a swim in a chlorinated pool can help fake tan disasters too so take a dip to get rid of those streaky heels or stained palms

Spray tan acts very superficially, on the outermost layer of skin, the Stratum Corenum, while tan caused by the skin's reaction to sunlight comes from deeper in the skin, from Melanocytes in the Stratum Basale.

As such, spray tan is much more sensitive to abrasion and/or chemical interactions than melanin tan, since the melanin tan sits deeper in the skin.

Overall, bathing in chlorinated water is a stress on the skin — and should be accompanied by a shower afterwards to scrub off chlorinated water to prevent dryness and itchiness — and that puts the spray tan at risk.

"But does it actually make the skin whiter?"

I can find no such references. Searching for the effect of chlorine on skin, the majority of sources emphasise drying, irritation, the risk of rash and/or eczema. None mention any bleaching effect.

So, on the assumption that both sources speak of spray tan, the answer is yes: bathing in a chlorinated pool can make the spay tan go away, since chlorinated water is harsh(er) on the skin than salt water, and more chemically active.

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