There is nothing worse than taking steps to better yourself – like starting a solid workout routine – and then finding out that there are some unintended and not-so-fun side effects. One of the most common complaints I hear goes something like this:
Ever since I started working out, my skin has been going crazy. How do I fix these breakouts?
First, anecdotally, let me just say that I’ve been there, and I know how frustrating it is. But, I can also tell you with confidence that there are some easy steps you can to prevent any unnecessary inflammation and flare-ups. Second, sweating is actually really good for your skin, but there are plenty of reasons why it may backfire and cause some bacterial mayhem in the form of acne. Below are a few suggestions for minimizing inflammation – but be warned that there isn’t a one-size fits all solution, so test these out and give them a couple weeks to work before ditching.
- Wash your face before and after working out. The simplest way to reduce breakouts is to minimize the amount of product on your face when you start to sweat, so I’d recommend using a face wipe or cleanser beforehand. If that’s not feasible, try to avoid wearing heavy face makeup when you exercise, or else your skin can’t breathe properly and you risk clogged pores. Regardless, after a workout, wash your face again to remove any bacteria, excess oil, and sweat residue. Pro tip: use a gentle cleanser with a milky or creamy consistency. If you cleanse your face with a stripping solution too frequently, your skin will become quite angry with you! I like these options: Clinique Take The Day Off Balm, Acure Organics Cleansing Creme, Shiseido Ibuki Gentle Cleanser
- Don’t touch your face during your workout. Our hands are always pretty dirty from touching things, but they’re even worse after touching equipment, mats, and floors during workouts. Avoid wiping off sweat or touching your face to avoid transferring bacteria to your skin. In fact, stay away from wiping your face with anything other than a clean towel – when you are hot and sweating, your pores are more open and susceptible to bacteria, so it’s best to minimize exposure. Pro tip: Wash your towels/rags with scent-free detergent and softener if you find your skin has general redness and feels tender or itchy. If it’s already inflamed, scented products can further irritate your skin.
- Hydrate and moisturize – even if you’re oily. When we talk about skin hydration, there are really two different kinds. In laymen’s terms: When you are dehydrated, your deeper layers of skin aren’t plump or functioning properly, and while dehydration isn’t always obvious, it may manifest in dull skin or breakouts. What you’re probably more familiar with is hydrating the outer (visible) layers of your skin via moisturizer or facial oil. BOTH are incredibly important to a balanced ecosystem. One of the biggest takeaways I can offer is that no matter how dry or oily your skin is, EVERYONE needs to moisturize. When your skin isn’t properly moisturized, it overproduces oil, which clogs pores and causes inflammation. I know it sounds counterintuitive – particularly if you’re used to looking like a grease ball by 2pm – but you MUST moisturize to avoid getting too oily, and thus breaking out. Pro tip 1: The “oil-free” craze is mis-leading. Oils are incredibly nourishing to the skin and easily absorbed since they’re similar to the sebum we naturally produce. While not every oil will work for everyone due to differences in pore size and oil molecule size, anyone can use an oil once they find the right one for their skin. Pro tip 2: Anytime you cleanse or tone your skin, follow with a moisturizer/oil to avoid stripping your skin. I like: Acure Marula Oil, Herbivore Lapis Oil, Belif Aqua Bomb, Avalon Organics Intense Defense
- Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate! It is so important to slough off the dead skin and excess sebum that plugs up our pores by exfoliating. Not only will it reduce inflammation, heal breakouts quicker, and leave your skin soft and glowing, it will also heal scarring from previous breakouts and even out skin texture. Even if you’re following all the tips I’ve laid out above, you should also be exfoliating. There are two different kinds of exfoliation: manual and chemical. Manual exfoliation is the method most people are familiar with and usually involves a scrub with small granules that physically buff away dead skin. The chemical method is a bit more effective and uses gentle acids to remove the top layer of skin. Start exfoliating once or twice per week with either a physical or chemical exfoliator and work your way up to exfoliating daily with a chemical option. Pro tip: When using a scrub, it isn’t the pressure or grit that makes the difference – it’s the duration. So keep it light and gentle and rub with your fingertips in circular motions on your cheeks/nose, chin, and forehead for 30 seconds EACH, then rinse with warm water and follow with a moisturizer. I like: Drunk Elephant Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, Pixi Glow Tonic, Clinique Exfoliating Scrub, E.L.F. Exfoliating Scrub
I hope this sheds a little light on some super simple tips you can use to get clearer skin and avoid pesky sweat-induced breakouts. As always, give each method at least three weeks to work – unless you have an allergic reaction to one of your products. If you have just started exfoliating, it is totally normal to experience a week or two of worse skin as the gunk underneath is released and brought to the surface. Happy skin days are ahead, my friends!