How Working Out Affects Your Skin: Is It Damaging Your Dermis?
How Working Out Affects Your Skin: Is It Damaging Your Dermis?

How Working Out Affects Your Skin: Is It Damaging Your Dermis?

6 minutes read

Does exercise affect the skin? Do you care? When there you are, resplendent in shiny Lycra and practising the perfect downward dog. No, you’re too busy releasing all those feel-good endorphins (or wishing it was over) either way – the skin is the last thing you’re thinking about until it becomes a problem. 

So, if you’re having outbreaks of acne, pushing your rosacea to its crimson limits, or feel like you’re ageing at the rate of dog years – then maybe you need to have your own workout plan dedicated especially to your face. 

The experts weigh in on the dos and don’ts when looking after your epidermis while exercising – here is the fitness plan you need to ensure your face looks and feels as good as your body.

What is the Effect of Exercise on Skin?

Working up a sweat and exercise can undoubtedly have an effect on the skin, and the surprising news is it can be both a good and bad influence. Here is what you need to look out for. 

Should you Wear Face Make-up to the Gym?

If it makes you happy, then why not. It’s more important to get yourself there than worry about clogging up skin.

So, if you do feel the need to leave the house with the cover of foundation and concealer then choose a non-comedogenic product, as these won’t clog pores and allow the skin to breathe. Try Skin Illusion; it’s a hydrating foundation that manages to conceal and smooth without any heaviness.

Clarins skin experts suggest to cleanse before and after exercise to keep skin in tip top condition. Plus, there is a case for when you heat, your pores expand to regulate temperature and when you start to cool down dirt can become trapped. 

women sweaty from the gym

Can Exercise Irritate the Skin?

The skin type that needs to be especially careful is rosacea-prone skin and eczema, which can worsen when flushed and sweaty. The heat and salt from sweat are key triggers. You should try to keep your core body temperature low and instead of pavement pounding in the midday sun – try a treadmill with a fan or a swimming session that will keep you cooler. If you are exercising outside? Then find the cover of trees and keep a cold damp cloth (store muslin facial cloths in the freezer) to keep your neck cool.  

In addition, it might not be the exercise routine per se – but the class environment or a heated spa treatment, like the sauna or steam that might irritate the skin. A growing body of research warns that the heat generated can be as detrimental to the skin as UV damage from the sun’s rays.

The effects from a sauna or steam – which can show up like uneven pigmentation on the skin, cannot be simply protected by slathering yourself in an SPF as it’s actually the hot temperature causing the problem. 

According to a study from Seoul National University College of Medicine, just 30 minutes of heat exposure three times a week can be enough to change your skin for the worse, in as little as six weeks. So, it might be worth keeping sauna sessions to 1 per week. 

Keep skincare products in the fridge or invest in a cooling face mask to wear post-workout, it will feel divine, de-puff and cool skin in super quick time.

- Sarah Joan Ross, Editor

If you are reactive and heat-sensitive (you get a heat rash at the mere thought of an infra-red sauna) we recommend that you let your skin calm down completely before applying any active products – especially products that contain retinol. 

If you are into laps, then post pool swim, you need to shower the chlorine off your skin (and hair), use the Cleansing Oil for face and for the body something pH neutral like Eau Dynamisante Shower Gel, as it cleanses effectively, softens and also with it’s lovely feel-good scent banishes all trace of chlorine.

Lastly, apply something super nourishing to counteract the effects of the chemicals. For tight-feeling skin? Try the cocooning Calm-Essentiel Soothing Repairing Balm, to soothe sensitivities and help skin barrier repair and for the body, the Moisture Rich Body Lotion, as the shea butter-loaded formula will make skin feel fantastic. 

When Exercising Outside:

Sun is one of the biggest aggressors when it comes to your skin. So, you need to stock up on an SPF 50 and apply 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. And if you’re out for a super sweaty 10k run – then you might need to re-apply after 1 hour of exercise. 

Also, you need to re-think the dose you apply. McHale says: “You must use TWICE the amount of SPF than you would for your average day cream. So that’s roughly the amount of a 5 pence piece doubled. And do not forget the back of neck, tops of ears and any other exposed parts. I love UV Plus Multi-Protection as it protects from pollution too – so great for inner-city road-running.” 

If you are super sweaty, then something like the Invisible Sun Care Stick SPF 50 is excellent as it has a barely-there solid gel consistency and is less likely to run into your eyes. It’s also portable, so it can be stashed in your pocket for top-ups on the hop. Always wear a hat and look for workout gear with some in-built protection. 

Another stat to think about is, according to MedMD, “After athletes sweat, it takes 40% less ultraviolet rays to burn than when they are not sweating.” 

Your Post Gym Cleanse Routine

Charlotte McHale, Clarins Training Manager says, “Sweat on the surface of the skin (especially on oily skin types) creates a perfect environment for pollution, dead skin cells and bacteria. Team that with anything you pick up from the less-than-hygienic gym equipment and this is where you can run into problems; unless you have a thorough cleansing routine.”

McHale recommends: “The Total Cleansing Oil, as it dissolves eye all make-up, getting through grease, sweat and SPF. It’s really thorough and formulated to safely remove eye make-up, so no need to pack a separate product for eyes! It’s your one-stop cleanser.”

What do the editorial team love? The Hyaluronic acid products are a great inclusion here. Try spritzing the Hydra-Essentiel Hydrating Mist after cleansing; it will help keep moisture locked in and offers a cooling sensation. Follow with your favourite moisturiser and UV protection. 

bottle of cleansing oil for all skin

4 Ways Exercise Helps your Skin

  • It improves blood circulation and delivers essential nutrients and oxygen to the skin’s surface. 
  • In addition to oxygen, increased blood flow also helps flush away waste products, including free radicals, resulting in healthier skin cells. 
  • Happy endorphins are released. Reduced stress levels can make an immediate impact on your face. 
  • It helps to shift any stubborn water retention – so puffy faces, under-eye bags and bloating are all reduced.  

The bottom line: When it comes to fitness and skin – keep everything in moderation. A spin class or boxercise, the occasional sauna or one hot yoga session per week will not age you dramatically or upset your skin, and if you apply SPF when running curbside – that will undoubtedly up the protection factor. 

So, pack up your gym bag, slip into your trainers, and let’s get ready, set and go!

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