10 ways working out can help — and hurt — your skin

iStockExercising can have some positive and negative impacts on your skin.
  • Working out can impact your skin in some positive and negative ways.
  • Exercise can give your skin a slight glow and help your skin look a little bit healthier because of the increased blood flow that occurs when you work out.
  • In some cases, working out can cause chafing and rashes and you might clog your pores if you wear makeup during a workout or don’t shower after you hit the gym.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Breaking a sweat can positively impact your overall health and well-being in many ways, so it’s not too surprising that exercise can also influence your skin. After all, your skin is your body’s largest organ and it’s affected by so many of your lifestyle habits and choices, including your workouts.

INSIDER spoke with two doctors to learn about the many positive and negative ways working out can potentially impact one’s skin.

Exercise may actually help keep your skin feeling and looking healthier

Keeping up a regular fitness routine can improve your skin’s overall appearance, as Dr.Marisa Garshick, board-certified dermatologist, told INSIDER.

“Exercise, by getting the heart rate up and improving blood circulation, can help to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the skin which keeps the skin healthy, promotes collagen production, and promotes new skin cells which keeps the skin looking glowing and is also helpful for anti-ageing,” she said.

She also said that sweating while you exercise can help clear out your pores “as long as you make sure to clean [your] skin prior to exercise removing anything that can potentially clog the pores, [like] makeup or other skin-care products.”

Increased blood flow during exercise could lead to a ‘post-workout glow’

If you’ve ever noticed that your skin has a certain glow after a jog or yoga class, you’re not imagining things – the “post-gym glow” is real and it can last for several hours after your workout, according to our experts.

“The post-gym ‘glow’ that people describe is likely a combination of the increased blood flow [which can promote circulation in the skin], dewy appearance from sweat, and the endorphins released during exercise,” said Dr.Kathleen Cook Suozzi, assistant professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine.

Outdoor workouts can up your risk for sun damage if you’re not careful

SunscreeniStockAlways apply sunscreen if you plan on exercising outside.

If you decide to head outdoors for your workout, you’ll want to liberally apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin before you get outside, no matter the time of day or projected weather forecast.

Garshick said you’ll want to use a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply at least every two hours. And, if you sweat, you may want to take note of your sunscreen’s water-resistant properties and apply more frequently than usual.

For your face, she said you’ll want to use sunscreens labelled “oil-free and water-resistant to prevent the sunscreen from clogging the pores or dripping off with sweat.”

Exercise can sometimes cause chafing and rashes on different areas of your body

Garshick said chafing and rashes can result from friction and moisture build-up in certain folds or areas of your skin.

When this happens, you might want to try using a strong over-the-counter antiperspirant to help prevent the excess sweating that causes chafing or slathering a thick layer of a moisturizing ointment in the area where you experience chafing.

And if you want to avoid getting certain rashes, Suozzi said it’s very important to dry off folds of your skin, including your inner thighs, buttocks, and under your breasts. “If these areas stay moist for prolonged periods, you can develop a condition called intertrigo, which are red itchy patches, often associated with yeast overgrowth on the skin,” she explained.

Working out might exacerbate rosacea

Sweat workoutiStockFor some, working out may trigger rosacea flare-ups.

“Exercise can be a trigger for some patients with rosacea, which tends to worsen with increased blood flow to the skin, leading to redness,” said Garshick.

She said there are a variety of long-term treatments for rosacea including oral medications, topical creams, and lasers. But in terms of a short-term remedy for post-workout flare-ups, she said you may want to look for calming serums designed to help reduce the appearance of your skin’s redness.

Read More: 10 skin-care trends you’re probably following but shouldn’t

If you wear makeup during a workout, you may clog your pores

“If you work out with makeup on, the makeup can clog your pores, preventing the release of sweat leading to breakouts and blemishes,” said Garshick.

She said you should remove your makeup and thoroughly cleanse your skin before exercising to help prevent post-workout breakouts. And she suggests using a gentle cleanser, makeup wipe, or micellar water to do so.

Read More: 10 myths about pores you need to stop believing

Skipping that post-gym shower can cause or exacerbate acne

Soap shower washing bodyiStockYou’ll probably want to shower after a workout.

Even if you remove all your makeup or aren’t covered in sweat after a low-impact workout, you’ll still want to change out of your gym clothes and hit the shower as quickly as possible, said Garshick.

“We know that when sweat sits on the body for too long, it can attract bacteria and clog pores so if not properly rinsed off, can make someone more prone to breakouts and acne,” she told INSIDER.

Exercise might also cause scalp issues for some

“Increased exercise can increase sweating on the scalp which, for some people, can lead to scalp irritation or itchiness,” said Garshick.

She said the more oily one’s scalp is, the more likely it is for yeast to grow there, which could lead to seborrheic dermatitis, a skin condition that can cause dandruff, scaly patches, or redness on many parts of the body, but especially the scalp.

Garshick said anti-dandruff shampoo can oftentimes help with this. And, fortunately, this condition can oftentimes go away without treatment, per the Mayo Clinic.

Working out in shared spaces may expose you to certain skin infections if you’re not careful

Rolling up yoga matiStockYou’ll want to clean equipment before using it.

Suozzi told us that certain fairly common skin infections such as ringworm, the strain of HPV that can cause plantar warts, and impetigo, which is caused by bacteria entering a cut or abrasion and oftentimes results in skin sores, can be acquired at shared centres.

Fortunately, many of these infections can be easy to treat with over-the-counter products or a visit to a medical professional. And the possibility of exposing yourself to certain gym germs is definitely not a good reason to skip working out, said Garshick.

Garshick said it’s just important to be mindful of cleaning off equipment you’re using and avoiding sharing towels with others. Suozzi also said that gym goers should wipe down yoga mats before using them, frequently use hand sanitizer while at the gym, and wear shoes while in shared showers.

The stress-relieving properties of working out can also benefit your skin

Regular exercise is known to be stress-reducing and working out is known for positively affecting one’s mental health. It might not seem like this link would extend to your skin, but a fitness routine that you enjoy can help your skin look its best.

“Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress and we know stress can affect the appearance of the skin, leading to breakouts and [irritation],” said Garshick. Stress can also cause eczema and rosacea flare-ups, and even hives.

And so, Garshick said, when you reduce stress by exercising you can improve your overall skin clarity.

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