How to gym-proof your skin

The benefits of low-impact, moderate exercise are endless, not just for the mind and body, but for the skin too. Working out minimises stress, which helps with managing our hormones (and don’t they just love to disrupt our skin!).

Exercise improves blood flow, which increases oxygen and nutrient absorption in the skin; it stimulates the lymphatic system, which helps to drain away toxins and it can directly encourage collagen production. So know that, ultimately, exercise is great for your skin and the pros far outweigh the cons.

So what are some of the ways that exercise can negatively impact our skin? And what can we do to protect ourselves? Let’s find out… 

Overheating can clog our pores

Sweat isn’t really the enemy when it comes to breakouts. In fact, during exercise, provided skin is left free from product, it helps to flush out the pores and improve skin clarity. The negative impact comes from our oil glands going into overdrive due to the heat we generate during exertion, which can lead to inflammation. Add make-up or moisturiser to this situation and sweat can’t effectively wash away impurities, which leads to clogged pores and post-work out spots!

The solution: It’s best to avoid working out while wearing make-up if you can. It traps toxins, sweat and congesting ingredients against the skin, which can lead to post-exercise breakouts. Giving your skin a good cleanse before a workout means that you can reap the benefits of sweat flushing out your pores. If you feel that you need a little coverage, be sure to thoroughly remove your make-up or moisturiser from the day and re-apply a light dusting of mineral powder, which should help to limit any breakouts compared to keeping your normal base on.  

Heavy weight lifting can cause acne breakouts

When we lift heavy weights regularly, we increase our testosterone levels. This happens because testosterone is key in protein synthesis, which is how our muscles grow – the more muscle fibres we tear, the more progress we make and the more testosterone we produce. This can overstimulate the skin’s oil glands and impair the normal skin cell shedding process, making the skin more prone to clogging. This combination of pores that are more easily clogged and an increase in oil production can lead to the development of acne. 

The solution: Book in for regular clinical facials with extraction such as our Advanced Clarifying Acne Facial. It’s also important to make sure you are following an anti-acne skincare regime using medical grade skincare. If this is something you are struggling with, do book in for a consultation and we can create a treatment and skincare plan that’s tailored to you.

Extreme exercise can cause tissue damage and increase aging

Exercise can lead to the generation of free radicals, which damage the skin cells, break down healthy tissues and accelerate aging. Our bodies are pretty clever and produce antioxidants to counter this so that it isn’t a problem, but when we exercise excessively, those antioxidant levels can be depleted, leading to pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles.

The solution: Opt for low or moderate exercise to minimise the negative effects on your skin – think swimming, cycling, pilates or jogging on more shock-absorbing surfaces. Vitamin A, C and beta carotene have been proven in studies to help combat free radical damage, so eat plenty of bright-skinned fruit and veggies. You can also counter the effects by using antioxidant-rich skincare.

The heat can cause pigmentation & exacerbate rosacea 

If you’re prone to pigmentation, the heating of the skin and an increase in oil production during a workout can over-excite the melanocytes (those are the skin cells responsible for producing melanin), which can lead to pigmentation. Similarly, if you’re prone to rosacea, all that heat can exacerbate the condition as the blood vessels dilate to cool the body down, while an increase in oil production leads to more inflammation.

The solution: Workout in front of a fan or opt for swimming to keep the skin temperate. You can also book in for a series of rosacea or pigmentation facials, and follow a tailored, medical grade skincare programme to help alleviate your symptoms. 

Long-distance running can cause skin aging

If we were to look at a runner in slow motion, we would see how the skin is pulled upwards and pushed back down at the point of impact. This continuous repetitive impact during running can break down the elasticity and connective tissue in the skin, so we experience skin sagging. Regular long-distance jogging can also diminish the essential fat pads in the face that support the skin giving the face its youthful structure. 

The solution: Try running or jogging on more shock-absorbing surfaces and mix in other low impact and moderate types of exercise such as swimming, pilates or cycling. You can also book in for a 3D Skin Renovation facial to give you instant plumping and luminescence with lasting results. 

What else can we do to protect our skin?

The best way to protect your skin from any negative impact that exercise may have is to cleanse the skin before working out, and again afterwards. You don’t need to perform a whole skincare routine after working out in the middle of the day – you can just cleanse, use Oil Control or Complexion Renewal Pads and then finish with SPF. Your serums from the morning will have penetrated the skin deeply and won’t have washed off.

It’s also a good idea to hold off on showering until after you’ve cooled down. Most of us jump in the shower straight away, but taking time to stretch and let ourselves cool down properly allows the body to finish sweating before we cleanse the skin thoroughly and apply skincare. Otherwise we continue to sweat, which can lead to acne, as well as rosacea and pigmentation. 

Be sure to practice good hygiene in the gym. Try not to touch your face with your hands and have two separate towels – one for wiping your face, and one for the machines. Germs love to lurk on sweaty gym equipment, so it’s a good idea to use wipes to clean the machines down before and after use. Wear clean workout clothes every time and opt for man-made materials that are designed to wick sweat away from the skin. 

Last, but not least, remember that solar and environmental damage from the sun and air pollution can wreak havoc with our skin, so if you’re exercising outside, be sure to wear an SPF, sunglasses and a hat. 

If you take these simple measures, you can enjoy all of the benefits that exercise brings without worrying about your complexion. If you’re struggling and would like some support, feel free to get in touch to book a consultation and we will create a bespoke skin care plan for you.