There’s nothing like a daily workout to keep you on your toes. Just an hour at the gym can have you feeling refreshed, motivated, and ready to take on the world, not to mention all the benefits to your physical health.
But here’s a drawback you probably didn’t think of: exercise can also impact your skin. Those impacts aren’t necessarily always beneficial – especially if you don’t adapt your skin care regimen to compensate.
Everyone’s skin is unique. Some of us need extra attention after we rock it out on the aerobics room floor, and you know what? That’s okay! It’s still worth it.
We can’t tell you exactly how your skin might react to workouts, or if the issue you’re having is a result of exercise. But we can help you adapt if you suffer from breakouts, excess oil, or even just uneven tone after a workout.
You sweat through your skin, and that means anything you put on top of your skin can and will potentially interfere with the sweating process. When you don’t sweat correctly, your pores can become blocked; that’s a one-way ticket to breakouts, blemishes, redness, and infection.
Skin temperature also increases when you work out, which can cause cosmetics to soak in and absorb. As you might expect, this can also lead to blocked pores.
Essentially, your skin needs to be able to breathe in order to function correctly and remain healthy – and yes, that means before and after exercise.
So what does this mean for our exercise mavens out there? Cut back on the makeup before you head off to the gym or skip it altogether.
If you just can’t resist wearing a little makeup, or you have skin issues that make it impossible for you to comfortably work out without foundation, there are options. Try using a concealer stick to hide spots, or use a tinted moisturizer to achieve light coverage that doesn’t weigh you down.
No matter what you choose to wear, be sure the label specifies the product as “non-comedogenic.” “Comedones,” better known as whiteheads, often stem from clogged pores; non-comedogenic products are specifically designed to leave pores open, free, and clear.
SOFTER TOWELS TO THE RESCUE
When you’re struggling through an intense workout, the last thing you want to think about or experience is sweat dripping down from your face. To combat this, most of us just grab a towel from home or one of the cheap, rough towels provided at the gym.
We’re here to tell you that you shouldn’t do that. Remember we mentioned that rising skin temperature can leave your skin particularly sensitive? A cheap, rough towel can have an almost abrasive effect, especially on the sensitive areas of your cheeks, forehead, and chin.
That’s no bueno. While it certainly will wick away the sweat, you might be left with dryness or even irritation – and that’s a bad look for anyone.
Instead, grab a super soft microfiber or bamboo towel to take with you. Silver-lined workout towels are extra-useful because they’re inherently antibacterial; plus, they come out of the washer much “cleaner.”
In a pinch? Try an infant washcloth. They’re specifically designed to be gentle on skin, so they won’t pull or scrape, but they’re also remarkably absorbent.
It’s such a simple solution, isn’t it?
WASH YOUR FACE POST-WORKOUT
Wait… Doesn’t everybody wash their face after they workout? Well, yes, usually – but that doesn’t mean they do it “right.”
It’s easy to get caught up on a busy day and run out the door after splashing cold water on your face. Or, maybe you use your same nightly cleanser, thinking you need to strip away all that grime and oil. That’s logical, but not entirely accurate from a scientific or medical perspective.
Post-workout skin is sensitive. Bar soaps, anything with heavy moisturizers, and most products containing oil serums can be too harsh and irritating, as can high water temperatures, alcohol, antiseptics, and even salicylic acid.
Instead, try gentle foaming cleansers like CeraVe or Cetaphil. Both CeraVe and Cetaphil clean without interrupting the skin’s natural barrier or stripping away all natural oils. This prevents the excess dryness and irritation, or heavy oil serum delivery, associated with more specialized products.
In fact, they are so gentle that dermatologists (including Victoria Beckham’s specialist) often prescribe them to help their patients cope with problems like rosacea, cystic acne, or eczema. Your own dermatologist should always have the final say, though, especially if you struggle with skin issues yourself.
USE TONER PADS TO COPE WITH EXCESS OIL
Okay, so you shouldn’t use harsh products on your skin. But what if you’re one of those unlikely people who seem to produce a waterfall of excess oil everytime you exercise or sweat?
Most people will instantly turn to harsh products, like salicylic acid pads or astringent cleansers. These may be right, especially in complex cases where a dermatologist suggests them. But for combination or “average” skin, they may be too much, leading to additional redness or even dryness and flaking.
To intervene in the right way, pick up a pack of alcohol-free, salicylic acid-free toner pads. Use them to (gently!) wick away oil and sweat after your workout before you wash your face. You’ll restore your skin’s natural balance without over-stripping away oils, which can ironically cause your skin to produce more oil, instead of less.
POST-WORKOUT REDNESS TRICKS
Some people experience only mild flushing, no matter how hard we exercise. Others flush deeply and retain the redness for hours, leaving them looking as if they’re embarrassed or wearing too much blush.
There’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of, here; flushing is a natural response to capillaries opening up to improve overall blood flow. When you’re exercising, that’s important – it allows your cells to access more oxygen and provides nutrients for faster cellular repair.
But no one said you have to like the redness, either, or even put up with it! If you’d rather maintain a more attractive flush, or you just want your normal skin tone back faster, try these tricks.
Keep shower temperatures low, and skip the sauna before you head out. Additional heat will amp up the redness you experience, potentially causing broken capillaries. This is especially important for people with rosacea.
Try a cooling gel pack, and wrap it in a thin piece of fabric and hold it against your face for three to five minutes post-workout (or post-shower). This is often enough to take down any swelling or puffiness.
If all else fails, try a green cosmetic corrector under your regular foundation. Use it only in the zones with the most redness. Olive green shades counterbalance the color red, making it appear more muted, which may be enough to even out your tone.
Still can’t seem to get on top of skin problems? Your issue may be more extensive. Head to your medspa for a diagnosis and enjoy a soothing treatment at the same time. You – and your skin – are worth it!