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Sweat It Out: Exercise and Your Skin

Summer hikes, trips to the beach, morning and evening runs, days spent at the pool…summer is full of opportunities to stay active! As beneficial as it is to shake up your fitness routine year-round, it probably happens much more during the summer- there’s nothing like the idea of being in a bikini tomorrow to get you to the gym today! Many take advantage of the warmer months to head outdoors for more workouts, which can be a great way to get fresh air and switch it up, but can also lead to a multitude of skin problems. We’re addressing common fitness and skin concerns that are particularly important during the summer.

Skin Hygiene and Fitness
Before and immediately after participating in a sweaty activity, wash your face with a gentle, pH balancing cleanser. This goes for men and women! You skin may be feeling oilier or more hydrated than usual because exercise promotes the production of your skin’s healthy, natural oils. This should give you a supple, glowing appearance, but if you are washing your face too harshly too often (morning, pre-workout, post-workout, evening), you will end up stripping your skin and causing it to overproduce oil in response. Be gentle enough to just remove makeup and other bacteria so it won’t combine with your sweat and sit on your skin. If you don’t have a sink or water available, keep makeup-removing wipes or baby wipes on hand to help cleanse in a pinch.

Depending on genetics and fitness level, some people sweat more than others. In humidity, sweat is less effective at cooling your body, so you may find yourself sweating even more than usual. This sweat accounts for about 10% of the water our bodies lose each day. You may have heard that sweat can cause acne, but this is not true. Sweat itself does not help or cause acne, but improper hygiene after sweating can lead to acne. Sweat is one of the few mechanisms our bodies have to rid themselves of toxins. If the impurities that you are sweating out stay on your skin, you may reabsorb them, which can lead to acne, irritation, or rash. Immediately after sweating, shower to rinse away the impurities that are now on your skin. Use pH balanced soaps, antiperspirant, and lotions since showering often can disrupt the natural pH balance of your skin.

When you are done with your workout, it may sound obvious, but if you can’t immediately shower, you still need change out of your sweaty clothing. If you start to pay attention to your own routine, whether it is because of a busy schedule, long drive home from the gym, or just laziness, you will realize how often you stay in your workout clothing until it is dry. If you are on-the-go and don’t have time to shower, use a baby wipe to wipe down before putting on clean clothing. If you have a little more time, hop in the shower at the gym, even just for a quick rinse (while wearing shower shoes, of course!) so you can continue on with your day in clean, dry clothing. Why is it so incredibly important to immediately change out of your clothes? Besides smelling unpleasantly, your sweaty clothing could end up causing rashes, fungal infections, and chafing if you stay in it for too long. Not ideal for the season that is notorious for having lots of exposed skin!

Common Skin Issues and Exercise
Exercise increases circulation to the skin, which boosts skin detoxification and cell renewal. Increased blood flow carries more oxygen and nutrients to your cells, improving collagen production. While all of this is great for your skin, you may notice that the increased circulation is making your skin is quite a bit redder after exercising. This happens particularly in people with rosacea or sensitive skin. Rosacea could be aggravated by the increased blood flow coming to the skin’s surface and sensitive skin can be reactive to the combination of heat and sweat. When you cool down and wash your face post-workout, be sure to use calming ingredients such as aloe, grape seed, and safflower to reduce redness and irritation.

During a workout, no one wants sweat dripping in their eyes, so naturally you are going to have the urge to wipe sweat, particularly from your forehead. But before you do this, consider where your hands or towel have been. You may be diligent about disinfecting exercise machines and weights after using them, but not everyone is. Keep your hands off of your face and towels off of the floor to avoid wiping bacteria all over your face. The same is true for yoga mats: if it is not your personal yoga mat that you know has been disinfected since last use, avoid touching your face or putting your face down on the mat. This spread of bacteria to your skin is an easy way to cause acne.

Acne is not the only skin issue that can come from your workouts. Wrinkles are more easily formed when you have an excess of free radicals in your system. As a byproduct of revving your metabolism with exercise, you will start to produce more free radicals. Counteract this by ingesting and topically applying powerful antioxidants to protect your cells and refuel your body. Do this in addition to drinking a lot of water to avoid dehydration and keep your cells plump and hydrated. Aim to drink 1 oz for every 2 lbs that you weigh.

Taking it Outdoors
Have you ever thought that because you are going on a run before the heat of the day or in the evening that you don’t need to apply sunscreen? Or that it is “only” thirty minutes? So many runners and outdoor exercisers make these mistakes. Just because you are not in the most intense heat of the day or only going out for less than an hour does not mean that the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are not damaging your skin. A recent study found that sweat can increase the sensitivity of your skin, making you more susceptible to UV damage. So even if you do not see a sunburn or tan line, UVA rays can still be causing photoaging, wrinkles, and potentially skin cancer. Sun damage is cumulative, so while you are racking up your miles, you are also racking up sun damage. No amount of time spent outside is not worth putting on sunscreen.

When applying sunscreen, make sure you are using one that is very sweat or water resistant. You do not want the product dripping into your eyes mid-workout. Apply it to your entire body 30 minutes before your workout, so it has time to become active before sun exposure. If you stay outdoors after your workout (after cleansing your face and taking off your sweaty clothing, of course), be sure to reapply your SPF. A 30-45 minute intense workout can be enough to wash away sunscreen. If you are working out around sand or water, your chances of being burned are increased even more, so be sure to reapply.

To help absorb sweat from dripping into your eyes, create shade, and give further sun protection, try wearing a hat during outdoor exercise. It will shade your eyes from squinting, preventing fine lines around the eyes. It will also help protect your scalp from sun damage. The scalp is often forgotten while applying sunscreen and can be one of the most dangerous places for skin cancer because the warning signs can be hidden by your hair. Wearing a hat is a stylish way to keep your skin safe.

Do you stay in your workout clothes or immediately jump in the shower? Let us know in the comments below!

Recommended by your Skin Authority Skin Coach:

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