Tips for the Female Swimmer

Feature by Chelsa Messinger

PHOENIX, Arizona, November 26. IT was looking to be a great Thursday night. I was sitting on the couch with my newly-acquired, quarterback boyfriend and his friends watching Grey's Anatomy. It was mid-January, and I had just gotten back from a grueling workout. So instead of attempting to look attractive, I threw on my favorite pair of ratty N.C. State Swimming sweatpants with slits around the ankles from where I cut the elastic out of them. Feeling content and comfortable, I propped my feet up on the coffee table. Little did I know that doing so would change the whole complexion of the evening.

"EWWWWWW!!" shrieked one of the boys as he pointed disgustedly at the slit in my pants.

The slit had exposed a thick patch of long, dark leg hair from my unshaven swimmer legs, which I had unknowingly put on display for all to see when I put my feet on the table. Frantically, I tried to explain the premise behind not shaving during the season, but I could tell by his repulsed expression that I was fighting an uphill battle.

In that moment, I couldn't stop thinking about how much easier my life would be when I was done with swimming. No more wet hair at school dances, no more goggle marks under my eyes, no more disgusted football players. However, I still had three more years of college and I wasn't about to give up something I loved because of what other people thought about me.

I spent the next three years trying to find the cure for being a female swimmer in a world largely ignorant of swimming. No beauty magazine had advice on the best leg-hair dye, or best swim meet hairstyle (besides the "swimmer bun"), or how to grow back your eyebrows when the chlorine burns them off.

So, I compiled a cheat sheet of all the tips and tricks I have accumulated over the span of my swimming career:

PROBLEM: You're going on a date and practice ran late (Thank you, test set). You only have 15 minutes to get ready after practice.

SOLUTION: First, slather on some tinted lotion. It will quench your dry skin and reverse that dull, lifeless skin look that chlorine can create. Then, use tinted lip balm and/or blush to give some color to your face.

Next, generously apply concealer to cover up goggle marks and under-eye discoloration. Follow-up with powder all over. Apply mascara or any other makeup you have time for.

Braid hair into two pigtails. Take it out right before you meet your date for pretty, loose waves.

PROBLEM: You have to wear a dress for the family Christmas picture, but you are in the middle of the season with two-inch long, dark leg hair.

SOLUTION #1: Bleach leg hair. It sounds crazy, but dyeing your leg hair is actually quick, easy, relatively cheap, and really makes hair look less noticeable.

Chelsa's Pick: Sally Hansen Crème Hair Bleach for Face $5.61

NOTE: It can mildly discolor your skin for about an hour afterwards, but will fade shortly after.

SOLUTION #2: Boots. Boots are very "in" this season, and can hide the thickest region of leg hair (from the calf down), so you can still wear a dress or shorts. Also, if you need to get in some extra cardio at the local gym, knee-high socks (a la Holly Madison) can be a cute option for covering up.

PROBLEM: Your hair looks dull and lifeless, and feels like straw.

SOLUTION: ALWAYS put a leave-in conditioner in your hair before practice. The cream kind, however, will make your cap fall off, so the liquid, spray kind is the best. Also, use a conditioner with gelatin, it detangles the best and is a great hydrating agent.

Chelsa's picks: Aussie Hair Insurance $4.49 and TreSemme Vitamin B12 & Gelatin Anti-Breakage Conditioner $4.

PROBLEM: Your eyebrows are getting burned off by the out-of-control chlorine at your pool.

SOLUTION #1: Dab some Vaseline (or lotion, if you can't do Vaseline) on your arches before practice. It may look like your brows are greasy, but it could mean the difference between having eyebrows, or not having any at all.

SOLUTION #2: Pencil in eyebrows. Eyebrows frame your eyes and can change the whole symmetry of your face. You will never see a celebrity with patchy or non-existent eyebrows. To avoid the harsh look of over penciled-in brows, use short, wisp-like stokes to mimic hair growth.

PROBLEM: Your teeth and nails are turning yellow from the chlorine.

SOLUTION: Use a toothpaste with baking soda in it. The baking soda is the best agent to combat chlorine yellowing. For nails, run a lemon wedge over them. The acid in the lemon juice will eat away the yellow color on your nails.

Chelsa's Pick: Arm & Hammer Advance White Baking Soda & Peroxide Toothpaste $4

PROBLEM: You have permanent goggle marks.

SOLUTION: Use anti-aging undereye cream before you go to bed.

No, you don't have wrinkles, but the ingredients used to fight wrinkles are more hydrating than those used in face lotions. The skin under your eyes is very thin, and can be damaged and dehydrated more than any other part of your face.

Chelsa's Pick: Clinique All About Eyes $28.50