The Importance of Cleaning and Moisturizing After Exercise
If you haven't heard of the looooong list of benefits exercise provides to our bodies, you've been living in a cave all of your life! Exercise is even what the dermatologist ordered for your skin! The benefits of a good workout and physical activity can do all sorts of wonders for your complexion from helping to keep skin clear of acne, to appearing more firm and plump, thanks to healthier collagen and elastin. The act of sweating really does help to push toxins, dirt, and oils out of your pores, though you'll just make breakouts worse if you don't properly care for your skin afterwards.
"Enhanced blood flow can help skin cells regenerate and remove toxins more efficiently," says Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a New York City-based dermatologist. When you put energy into consistent, regular physical activity, your body increases blood flow and heart rate, pushing oxygen-carrying blood all through your circulatory system, including to the skin. Blood and oxygen help the skin by drawing out toxins, including all the gunk that works to clog pores. This enhanced blood flow helps to propel those toxins out. The act of sweating doesn't actually clog your pores, like many believe. It serves a very good function in being one of the body's primary ways of eliminating toxins. A really good sweat session is sort of like a stem clean for your pores, only from the inside. According to Dr. Adebola Dele-Michael, a dermatologist at Radiant Skin Dermatology and Laser in New York City, "Sweat purges the body of toxins that can clog pores and plague the skin with pimples and blemishes." All of that increased, nourishing blood flow also boosts cell renewal, which is wonderful for a glowing complexion. When you increase your body's metabolism through exercise, your skin cells' metabolism is also increased, promoting a faster turnover and renewal.
Add In Some UV Damage
Many people enjoy the glorious feel of sunlight on their skin as they take their daily jog through the park. There's definitely something to be said for that release of endorphins you feel from that experience. But there is a downside. "The main danger if you exercise outdoors is sun exposure," says April Armstrong, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the University of California, Davis. Remembering to apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen before you bounce out the door is only part of the battle. "Sweating can remove the sunscreen that athletes put on and there is evidence that sweating actually increases the chance of burning," states Brian B. Adams, MD, Associate Professor and Director of the Sports Dermatology Clinic at the University of Cincinnati. "After athletes sweat, it takes 40% less ultraviolet rays to burn than when they are not sweating." You can help to counteract that by wearing clothing that covers as much skin as possible, and donning a wide-brimmed hat to shield your face. But still, there'll be some UV damage accrued that can result in aging changes to your skin over the long run.
Here's Where It Gets Stinky. Sticky. . . . .
I Mean, Here's Where You Run Into Trouble
You've just done your skin a service by busting your tush, increasing your metabolism, and flushing toxins out of your skin, but now all that toxic waste-gunk is left sitting and festering on top of your skin, mixed in with the dead skin cells that your skin has exfoliated. If you don't get that stuff off of your skin, you're only negating the positive benefits the exercise provided. If you leave all of that salty stuff on your face to dry, you're just asking for acne flare-ups, clogged pores, irritation, and redness. The combination of body fluids, dirt, and oil will clog your pores and affect your skin's pH balance. "Research shows that most gym-goers don't shower after a workout," says New York City dermatologist, Debra Jaliman. "So they're literally sitting in bacteria,"
The Fix Is Simple
Jaliman indicates that many people exercise in makeup. Not at all a good plan. "You need to wash your face before you hit the gym or yoga class, otherwise the bacteria combined with the dead skin on your face (we all have it) will clog your pores." It's important to shower as soon as possible after exercising, paying extra attention to cleaning your face and other areas prone to breakouts. That'll help to take advantage of the detoxifying process your skin started and help to prevent clogged pores or bacterial and fungal infections. If you're not able to take a full-on shower, you'll need to give your face a good going-over at the very least. No sink? Bring facial cleansing wipes with you to the park. The main agenda is to get all of that grime off of your face!
What To Do
- Use a gentle cleanser to thoroughly wash your face. You'll want to stay away from anything that's overly drying. The idea is to get rid of the salty sweat with all of the dirt and sludge attached to it without irritating your skin. Use tepid water, and then end with a few splashes of cool (not cold) water. Your pores have dilated to release the sweat, and that may help to encourage them to close.
- Pat almost dry with a soft towel. If your face is already red from your workout, toweling off too vigorously could irritate it. Let it air dry the rest of the way.
- Apply a light moisturizer to soothe any inflammation before you reapply your sunscreen and makeup.
- Save any of your serious anti-aging or acne treatments for bedtime. Sometimes even normal skin can be more sensitive after exercise.