Working out regularly can have a number of benefits for your health—whether at home, outdoors, or at the gym. These benefits include improved cardio health and circulation, a boost in mood and energy, and detoxification for your skin.
However, attempting to improve your skin health through exercise can backfire if you don’t take the necessary steps to prepare properly beforehand and clean up afterward. Here are six tips to help you look after your skin when working out.
1. Start Your Workout with a Clean Face
It might be tempting to head to the gym with your best makeup on, but this layer of powder and oil can wreak havoc on your skin during exercise as the pores open up and allow larger particles to enter the skin. Before you begin your workout, clean your face thoroughly with a cleansing wipe or non-toxic makeup-removal cream to ensure there’s nothing on your skin that you don’t want to enter the pores. Cleansing wipes are an especially practical option for those who head to the gym on their way home from work.
For those who will be competing in marathons or triathlons outdoors, a sweat-resistant sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30 is a must—the same goes for joggers and sportspeople. If you will be photographed at the end of the event and want to wear just a tiny bit of makeup to look your best, Livestrong suggests the following on top of your water-resistant sunscreen:
- Spotting blemishes with a light concealer
- Using a tiny bit of waterproof mineral makeup (for sensitive skin)
- Highlighting the brows and setting with sheer wax
- Using lip balm instead of lipstick
- Applying a little cream under your eyes an hour or two before wearing goggles
- Avoiding red blushes and face powders
2. Avoid Touching Your Face During Your Workout
While you’re running, dancing, lifting weights, or using machines, avoid bringing your hands to your face as much as possible. Not only are your pores wider open when you exercise, the gym environment especially is a breeding ground for germs and bacteria that you’re touching every time you use shared equipment. In fact, a study commissioned by FitRated found that free weights in gyms can have around 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat!
To avoid bringing these germs to your face, take a clean towel for dabbing the sweat off your forehead and utilize a natural antibacterial spray to wipe over the equipment before and after use. If you are exercising at home or getting fit out and about, it’s also a good idea to pat your face dry as you exercise. Suitable materials for an exercise towel that won’t damage your skin include cotton, microfiber, and bamboo.
3. Shower Immediately After Working Out
You might know that sweating is a great way to detoxify, but did you know that among the chemicals and substances released by the body when exercising can even include heavy metals like cadmium, lead and mercury? People who exercise and then leave the sweat on are not only missing an opportunity to remove some harmful toxins from their bodies but may even be adding to the load as gym bacteria is added to the mix. This can result in breakouts, irritation, and redness. Definitely not the look you want when you’re feeling fit and fabulous!
As soon as you finish your routine or class, head straight for the shower and wash all that muck and grime off your body. You will feel fresher and more invigorated and can relax, knowing that you won’t be absorbing any nasties back into your skin. If you’re exercising out and about and won’t have access to a shower, at least take a towel and a bottle of water and gently pat/wipe the sweat away.
4. Use a Gentle Cleanser
When you exercise, your skin is more tender and vulnerable than usual and needs to be treated with special care. Instead of using harsh (or cheap) skin cleansers that contain alcohol or SLS (sodium laureth sulfate), opt for micellar waters or a nourishing soap that contains moisturizing oils such as olive, coconut, almond, and shea butter. Other options if you’re not having a full shower are to splash your face with an antibacterial tea tree oil wash, milk or buttermilk wash, or to simply refresh with some tepid water.
If you do have time for a full shower, continue to treat your skin gently afterward by patting yourself dry rather than wiping. Leaving your skin just a little bit moist can also go a long way towards protecting the skin barrier as it allows moisturizers to penetrate deeper into the dermis.
5. Moisturize with Anti-inflammatory Plant Extracts
Once you’re clean and semi-dry, moisturize your skin with a quality, residue-free body oil or cream moisturizer that contains anti-inflammatory plant extracts. Green tea, chamomile, calendula, and aloe are especially well known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Swimmers who spend a lot of time in chlorine need to pay special attention to moisturizing after the shower to avoid dryness and skin damage. Coconut oil is an affordable option for whole-body moisturization that possesses antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties to help to soothe the skin and protect against acne-causing bacteria. Complement your choice of a whole-body oil with more targeted products for your face, hands, and feet. Many are even starting to use CBD lotions, creams and gels to help their skin and claiming it helps everything from pain relief to acne and other irritations.
6. Individualize Your Post-Workout Skincare Routine
Depending on your skin type and the climate you live in, you’ll need to tweak your post-workout skin routine to suit your individual needs. There are three main types of skin when it comes to skincare, and those are: oily, combination, and dry.
- Oily Skin: Oily skin typically requires more frequent washing (no harsh cleansers, please) and a lighter moisturizer than average, with spot treatments and anti-inflammatory toners to help prevent breakouts. Blotting paper and an absorbent towel for during workouts can also be useful for keeping your skin dry gently and without causing irritation.
- Dry skin: Dry skin tends to be more sensitive to fragrances and chemicals in skin care products, so go for natural and fragrance-free formulations. You’ll need to go easy on the soaps and cleansers when in the shower and use a heavier moisturizing cream at night (preferably at least a few hours after working out).
- Combination skin: Combination skin is somewhere in between the two, with the T-zone and chin typically displaying oily behavior while the cheeks can tend to be dry. Use a heavier moisturizer on the dry areas and a lighter one where you tend to get breakouts.
A Word on Climate
Similar to skin type, you’ll need to adjust the intensity of your cleansers, toners, and moisturizers to match the humidity of the climate where you live. Use a heavier moisturizing cream in dry climates and a light, residue-free one in humid climates. You’ll also need to drink a larger amount of water or electrolytes while working out in the heat and humidity to replace the liquids you’re losing.
In all climates, protect your skin from excessive sun exposure while exercising with appropriate clothing, a hat, UV-protective sunglasses, and a mineral sunscreen as needed. A little sun can provide much-needed vitamin D—especially outside of the heat of the day—but too much can contribute to skin damage and accelerate aging. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen that won’t come off when you sweat, and you’re good to go!
By following these six tips, you are giving yourself the best chance of maximizing the benefits of your workout and protecting your skin. Choose one action point to put into practice today and happy exercising!