Skin Hygiene during Exercise

The benefits of exercise have been well-documented and researched for years, making many aware of the positive ways in which physical activity can impact our bodies physically and mentally. As we exercise, endorphins are released making us feel better, have more energy, and lead to deeper sleep at night. In addition, recent growing evidence has given us one more reason to try and squeeze in that 60-minute workout: healthier skin!


And no, we’re not talking about face exercises that involve you making funny faces in the mirror. We’re talking about a full-on sweat session that increases the blood flow to the skin and can create positive changes over time that help our skin look supple and healthy. In order to so, maintaining appropriate skin hygiene before, during, and after your workout will help you reap the most benefits from your exercise session.

Pre-Workout Skin Prep

It’s inevitable – whether we’re walking into a crowded gym or taking quick run around the neighborhood, we are likely going to run into people. For this reason, some may not feel comfortable removing makeup before an exercise session. For those who choose to keep makeup on while exercising, aim for non-comedogenic products because they do not contain ingredients that will clog pores. While non-comedogenic products are a better option, it may still lead to acne.


Even if this is the case, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests removing your makeup before a workout. You can do so with an oil-free makeup removing towelette to remove makeup and oils that may have accumulated throughout the day. While eyeliner may not cause the skin much harm when worn during your workout, heavier products that cover the entire face, such as foundation, may be more likely to clog your pores if not removed before an exercise session. Once the workout has begun, anything remaining on the surface of your skin, including old makeup and debris, can enter your opened sweat pores and potentially cause breakouts.

Your Skin’s Response to Exercise

While working out, it’s common for your face to appear red and blotchy. This is completely normal! According to a study published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal, the reason this happens is because during exercise, the temperature of the body rises and causes the transfer of metabolic heat to the skin.


In addition, as your circulation increases with exercise, a greater amount of nutrients and oxygen are delivered to the skin. As all this blood flows to different areas of your body, especially your face, your skin benefits from the increase in nutrients that assist in skin repair. So while you may appear red at first, over time you may likely realize an improved, more youthful-looking skin.


A common myth is that exercise is a way of removing toxins through the skin, particularly in sweat. The reality is, the part of our body responsible for neutralizing toxins is the liver. Any “toxins” released through sweat are likely to be minimal. According to dermatologists, the role of sweating during exercise is not only for regulating our body temperature (thermoregulation), but it can also help flush out cellular debris from the system through exercise.


Are Your Breakouts from Exercise?

If you find yourself breaking out because of exercise, the truth is, it is not likely sweat that is causing your acne. There are a variety of hygienic factors that may be irritating your skin.


Whether you’re completing an at-home workout or deciding to make your way to the gym, think about everything you may touch from the mats you stretch on to the barbells you lift. Chances are, you are not the only one touching the equipment. Even equipment in your home may have bacteria from your prior workout still lingering. This especially applies to equipment like helmets, dance shoes, shoulder pads, and face guards. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), many athletes get acne mechanica – small, rough feeling bumps – as a result of unclean equipment where acne tends to thrive.


Before turning to medication, the AAD suggests applying clean, soft padding to equipment to eliminate skin irritation, as well as avoiding too tight-fitting workout clothes that may cause sweat to get stuck in your pores. A simple fix is to avoid touching your face while exercising to avoid transferring bacteria from the equipment to your skin.


Another way to keep your skin clear during workout is to eliminate any obstructions while working out, including hair. If you do decide to use a headband, make sure to wash the band regularly with your gym clothes so that it does not keep oil, sweat, and hair products that could spread to your face and cause acne.


Post-Workout Skin Care

After workouts, as a courtesy to fellow gym members and yourself, make sure to wipe down any exercise machines or mats. Once you make it back to the locker room, start by washing your hands and wiping your face to remove sweat and oils that may have accumulated while exercising. Face wipes are great to have on hand post-workout to make this step quick and easy. A gentle cleanser will also work well for those with more oily or combination skin.


Think twice before you grab for a towel at the gym. Even though your face is clean, you also want to make sure the towel you’re using is clean as well. This tip is especially relevant for individuals with sensitive skin who may experience allergic reactions to common detergents used at large gym facilities.


Lastly, don’t forget to keep your skin moisturized following a workout by applying a facial lotion after washing your face. Enjoy the benefits that exercise will bring to your skin!


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