Updated: May 25, 2022
By Chasity Reynolds
Exercise can improve the health and appearance of your complexion. Give your skin the love it needs by practicing these pre- and post-workout habits.
Washing off your makeup before your sweat session has been said to be unnecessary. However, if you ask me, I do recommend that you definitely should wash off post-workout.
Just as exercise is good for muscles, it’s also good for the health of your skin. Studies suggest that both endurance exercise and high-intensity aerobic training may help prevent and reduce signs of aging in the skin.
Stress reduction, reviewed in Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports, noted that exercise can help fight stress — which, when chronic, can contribute to skin aging and exacerbate skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne, according to another review about inflammation and allergies.
Now that you know just what exercise can do for your complexion, you’ll want to maintain the skin-care habits that prevent acne, improve hydration, and reduce irritation and damage. Going that extra mile — in the gym or with your skin — can help turn back the clock.
1. Before You Break a Sweat, Don’t Forget to Apply Sunscreen
If you’re going outside for your workout, don’t forget to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30. Dermatologists everywhere will tell you the same thing. Note- This advice applies even if you’re working out in a gym with windows that let light in. Anytime there’s visible light, you’re exposed to some part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Growing evidence is now showing that all light is important when it comes to skin damage and aging.
2. What to Do When Summer is Here
Because you’ll likely be sweating, and especially so if it’s hot out, you’ll want to ensure your SPF is sweatproof, too. Sports sunscreens usually have this in mind; the label should also list how many minutes the product is both water- and sweat-resistant.
Apply it to your face, throat, chest, and back of the neck. The last is the spot most people forget, and these are often those who are surprised when they see signs of aging, like discoloration, appear in their late thirties and forties.
3. Skip the Heavy Moisturizers
One thing you don’t want on your face as you suit up to sweat: a heavy moisturizer. Some moisturizers put a barrier on skin that prevents the evaporation of water.
Not only is there a pore-clogging concern, but it’s the evaporation of sweat that cools you down. So if you're tempted to add more moisturizer before working out, don't.
4. After You Exercise, Hit the Showers to Wipe Away All the Sweat
Now that athleisure is a thing, it’s socially acceptable to sport the leggings you wore at the gym while you're out running errands or to breakfast later. Not so fast. Sweating creates a warm and wet environment for bacteria to grow.
At the very least, rinse off to remove built-up sweat, oil, and germs. This is especially important if you’re acne-prone. In that case, try a gentle wash that contains bacteria fighting ingredients such as tea tree, probiotics or willow bark.
As a rule, always change into new clothes. If acne still remains, it’s time to see your esthetician or dermatologist who may recommend stronger prescription options to clear your skin.
5. If Nothing Else, Be Sure to Wash Your Face Post-Workout
If you’re not showering at the gym, at the very least clean your face before you pack up and leave. Avoid harsh washes and opt for a gentle or mild cleanser instead.
A facial wipe can be used in a pinch if you’re running out the door. If you’re acne-prone, a wipe with salicylic acid can help prevent clogged pores that lead to pimples but facial cleansers do it best!
Next, top with a lightweight moisturizer to help your skin retain water.
6. Apply a Tinted Sunscreen When You’re Done Washing Off
Yes, you’ve heard over and over again that you should use sunscreen. Honestly, estheticians and dermatologists agree that this constant reminder is critical for the future health of your skin. Sunscreen guards against the UV rays that degrade collagen, the proteins in skin that keep it springy and line-free.
Most likely, if you were working out, you were sweaty, which makes this step all the more key. If you sweat, the sunscreen you applied prior to your workout is now gone.
7. Just as You Let Your Muscles Relax After Exercising, You’ll Want to Cool Down Your Skin
You know you need to cool down your muscles after exercise by walking or stretching, and your face needs a break, too. Heat can damage the skin by inhibiting its restorative processes.
Just as you protect your skin from UV damage from the sun, you should guard your complexion against heat energy, too. This is especially important after prolonged heat exposure, such as a hot yoga class. Also for those that are prone to hyperpigmentation.
Luckily, it’s relatively easy. Simply wash your face with cool water if you’re on the go, or apply a cooling mask at home. Another way to cool your face is by using one of my favorite tools: the jade roller. Keep one or two in the fridge and it is a real treat!