We all know that a consistent workout routine can do wonders for your physical health and mental wellbeing. But there is a potential downside: Breakouts. Having to keep your newly sculpted back or shoulders under wraps because of a sprinkling of blemishes is a total bummer, so we talked with the experts to get their tips on how to keep your workout from wreaking havoc on your skin.
Lesson 1: Gently cleanse skin after a workout to keep pores clean
You probably already know that working out with your makeup on can lead to clogged pores and breakouts, but it’s also key to cleanse after you sweat, too. To avoid over-stripping and irritating skin with over washing, reach for a gentle cleanser. New York Facial plastic surgeon Dr. Dara Liotta says that one of the biggest mistakes she sees women make is using too-harsh products, especially on sensitive post-workout skin. “They think that if they have acne on their face or body that is must be because their skin is oily, and they use over-the-counter products that are not appropriate for them,” Dr. Liotta explains. “When the skin is over-dried, or stripped of natural oils, it actually causes the oil glands to hypertrophy, or get larger, and produce more oil, and cause more issues.”
Lesson 2: Give sensitive post-workout skin a “cool-down” period
After your gentle cleanse, it’s best to hold off on applying any other products. “When you increase your metabolism the oil glands have a natural desire to secrete,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross. “Skin has yet to equilibrate so putting anything on right away may block the pores.” Wait for your skin to cool to room temperature, then apply your favorite serums and sunscreens.
On days when you can just barley squeeze in a workout and you’re in a rush (hey, life happens), Park Avenue Skin Solutions founder, Lauren Abramowitz, PA-C, recommends applying oil-free moisturizer and makeup.
Lesson 3: Prevent body acne with breathable clothing, a high ponytail and post-gym exfoliation
The culprit behind your bacne? It may be your sports bra. “The rubbing causes irritation of the pores, and then they become inflamed, trapping oil and debris,” says Dr. Liotta. Breathable clothing can help wick away sweat, stopping breakouts in their tracks.
A smart hairstyle can also help: “Wear hair up in a ponytail and bring along a headband to prevent strands from falling across your face,” says Dr. Gross, who explains that hair products containing oils and silicones can drip onto the hairline and back, clogging pores and causing acne.
Post-workout, try to shower in asap. “It is always a good idea to shower right after the gym as bacteria can develop from sweat and trap dirt and oil in the glands,” adds Dr. Gross. Aim to exfoliate once a week to ensure that dead skin cells aren’t clogging pores. “Washing with formulas that have benzoyl peroxide, salicylic and lactic acid will all help with oil control and breakouts.”
Lesson 4: Think beyond breakouts
Keeping blemishes at bay is important, but beautiful skin is also radiant, well-hydrated and even toned. All the experts recommend drinking lots of water to help keep skin hydrated and dewy looking. “There is a difference between moisturizing your skin—by applying products that affect the outer layers of skin—and hydrating your skin from within,” says Dr. Liotta. And on top of lots of water, Aesthetic Medicine Practitioner Abramowitz adds that electrolytes (such as potassium, magnesium and calcium) are also helpful for preventing dehydration. You can make sure you’re getting enough of them in vitamin form or through foods such as avocado, spinach, dark leafy greens, beans and nuts, and whole grains, says Abramowitz, a yoga enthusiast.
Rosacea can also be worsened by exercise thanks to the circulation of blood that rushes to your face causing inflammation through vasodilatation. To help calm skin, Abramowitz recommends using cold compresses and scheduling Intense Pulse Light treatments (such as Lumecca) which help break down the vascular component of acne rosacea, decreasing the inflammation that causes the redness and flareups.
Dr. Gross also recommends rotating between high impact and low impact workouts to slow down signs of aging. He says many of his patients who run a lot suffer from premature skin laxity and wrinkles. “If a woman’s foot strikes the surface, the force of her body weight bounces back off the ground and up into her body. I believe this jostling not only can damage joints but can cause collagen breakdown,” he explains. The health benefits of running are numerous, so don’t quit running altogether (especially if its what you love to do) but consider giving your skin a break by alternating exercises like yoga and meditation into your routine. (It’s good for you body, too, to mix up your fitness routine.) “They can help to reduce stress and alleviate facial tension,” says Gross.