We all know exercise is great for the lungs, heart and waistline, but a lot of us have concerns about the scourge of the gym—exercise acne.
Despite men swearing that power lifting increased their acne and women claiming pimples popped up after spin class, the complexion benefits of exercise probably outweigh the risks. In fact, a 2005 Stanford University study concluded that exercise doesn’t cause acne.
While exercise does affect some hormones that can cause acne, it also has an impact on other hormones that can actually help acne by reducing stress and enhancing sleep. In women, exercise may even lower levels of acne-related androgens.
But working out in a gym does expose your skin to warmth, moisture, and lots of potential acne-causing bacteria. So instead of letting fear of acne keep you from exercising, counter the hygiene concerns with these nine good habits and keep exercise acne at bay.
Showering after a workout? Of course. Cleansing before a workout? Yes! Use a gentle cleanser and lukewarm water or a simple makeup removing towelette to remove the oil, makeup and bacteria that can mix with sweat and clog pores. We like the Truth To Go Wipes from Ole Henriksen.
Before exercising outside, apply a waterproof sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. It protects your skin from damaging rays and sunburn-related acne.
Exercise wearing loose-fitting clothes made from moisture-wicking fabrics. Some brands such as Nike, Adidas and lululemon even offer clothing with antimicrobial properties.
If your gym doesn’t offer antibacterial wipes, bring your own and swab down machines and weights before using them. Focus on areas that might contact your skin.
Instead of wiping away sweat with your hands, dab your skin with a clean, soft towel. It keeps gym germs away from your skin and reduces irritation. Use another towel to cover mats and benches.
Sweating and washing frequently can dry skin. Consider exfoliating once a week to remove pore-clogging dead skin cells and reveal a natural glow. We like gentle chemical exfoliators with salicylic acid. If you like a physical exfoliator with grit, use it very gently and go for something natural, like Pangea's Egyptian Geranium with Adzuki Bean & Cranberry Facial Scrub.
Remove sweaty clothes as soon as possible. The less time they spend rubbing against your skin, the less likely blemishes will appear.
You are what you eat, so make it good. Avoid sugars and highly processed foods while saying yes to water, lean proteins, whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies.
Consistent exercise increases blood flow, helping nourish skin cells, and sweating rids the body of toxins. Just as your muscles become accustomed to exercise, so will your skin.
So are you ready to sweat? The benefits of exercise far outweigh the risk of a few blemishes, especially if you take the right precautions.