Why It’s Important To Shower Right After a Dip in the Ocean

Photo: Getty Images / Felix Wirth
The amount of time you should allow between swimming in the ocean and taking a shower is shorter than you think, according to new research.

A recent study published in the journal Environmental Research shows that participants had an increase in antibiotic resistance genes (ABRs) on their skin after being in the ocean. “The bacteria on the skin after a swim in the ocean may have more resistance to antibiotics making them harder to treat,” says board-certified dermatologist and founder and owner of AmberNoon, Dr. Erum N. Ilyas, MD.

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Elevated levels of ABRs on the skin lasted for six hours post-swim, according to the study To reduce the risk of skin infections, it's best to shower shortly after you've been in the ocean.

Much like with showering post-workout, a shower after the ocean washes away bacterium. And spending time at the beach is different from swimming in a pool. At the pool, you may just be doing laps or an aerobics workout, dipping your feet in to cool off or lounging on a pool float with a cocktail in hand. And it’s pretty clean all around—you may just smell like chlorine afterwards. A day at the beach where you’re playing around in the ocean opens up the possibility of more cuts and abrasions. “These are common and permit bacteria an opportunity to infect the skin,” says Dr. Ilyas.

How to shower after you've been in the ocean

Nothing fancy here: “The most important thing to do is to at the very least rinse off," says Dr. Ilyas. "Adding a cleanser is helpful, too, but there is no need to scrub or use an antibacterial soap—just soap and water are effective. Cleansing the skin with soap and water reduces the population of bacteria, directly giving these bacteria less opportunity to cause infection."

Dr. Ilyas also recommends avoiding loofahs or washcloths as they can increase the chance of bacteria build up, which can permeate the skin as you shower. You’re better just rinsing off and letting the bacteria go down the drain, rather than linger on your shower products.

Here's a dermatologist's shower routine:

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