Exercise and your skin: the facts
We all know the benefits of exercise, but after sweating at the gym for an hour or two, I can’t help wondering if it is blemishing my skin or enabling it to form radiant new layers.
It turns out, exercise is a blessing and a curse when it comes to the skin, but the curse is temporary while the long-term benefits make it worth the minor skin setbacks.
Exercise increases general blood flow, which means that skin cells are getting more oxygen and nutrients. The blood also carries away waste products out of the cells. More blood flow means more turnover, leading to healthier, smoother skin.
Stress is a big factor in triggering skin conditions such as acne and eczema. Stress hormones stimulate oil production. Too much oil clogs your pores and causes skin inflammation and acne. But exercise reduces these hormone levels, meaning less oil production and less inflammation.
New research shows that it can even reduce skin aging. The study found that the inner and outer layers of skin were thicker and healthier in exercising subjects than the sedentary subjects of the same age. Still, working out won’t erase wrinkles or skin damage from the sun but its a great start.
If you exercise outdoors, overexposure to the sun can age your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. Avoid exercising during peak sun rays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and always wear sunscreen. There are many sunscreens designed for sweating so it doesn’t get into your eyes, but make sure to reapply often as sweat can increase your chance of burning. Sunscreen can exacerbate acne problems, but there are many oil-free and noncomedogenic options.
Tight workout clothes may make your muscles look taut, but they can irritate the skin causing rashes and acne. Wear loose workout clothes if you notice non-facial acne popping up. If you’re noticing facial acne, avoid wearing make-up during exercise, and shower as soon as you’re done sweating.
Working out can be a problem for people suffering from rosacea. Exercise heats up your body, making your skin flush and triggering rosacea. To avoid flare-ups, exercise at night when it’s cool or try swimming to avoid overheating.
Ultimately, the benefits outweigh the minor skin problems that can come with exercise. Eczema, psoriasis, and acne are nothing compared to heart disease, obesity, arthritis, and many other health conditions that can be prevented by regular exercise. In other words, a pimple is much more treatable than life-long diabetes.
Best Workouts For Skin
In all, we know that exercise is great for our skin despite the risks. So how do we know which exercises are the best? Here are 4 of our favourite workouts for healthier, glowing skin.
Vigorous workouts, such as running, spinning, boxing or dancing, that get you really sweaty are a great way to open congested pores. The benefit is similar to having your skin steamed during a facial.
The important thing to remember is that the sweaty workout is the starting point and not the treatment. Sweat does not detox your body or skin. For your skin to realize the benefits of a sweaty workout you still have to wash, exfoliate and moisturize your skin afterwards — and if you have acne prone skin, the sooner the better. Noncomedogenic cleaners will clean your skin without irritating it.
Low Impact Exercise
Less vigorous forms of cardio deliver all the health benefits of working out but can also be less irritating if you have dry, itchy skin. Both swimming and walking reduce perspiration and if done in cool air or water may also sooth inflamed skin. Just be sure to wear flip-flops to protect your feet from fungal infections commonly transferred at public pools and showers.
Vitamin D is commonly referred to as the sunshine vitamin. It is produced by the body when your bare skin is exposed to sun. To keep your bones and immune system healthy, you need to get sensible sun exposure several times a week. Be sure to read our Vitamin D Benefits guide to understand the correct amount of exposure you need.
It is also worth noting that a tan is not necessarily the image of health. It’s your skin’s injury response to excessive UV radiation. To reduce the risk to your skin be sure to wear sunscreen and protective clothing that deflects light and workout in non-peak daylight hours.
Yoga and mind body
Exercises such as Tai Chi and Qigong can make your skin less sensitive and reactive to the hormones that tell your body to make oil. Oily skin is more prone to acne and other skin issues.
There are many different types of yoga. If you have chronic skin issues look for restorative practices and Iyengar classes that are less sweaty. If you have congested skin try power yoga or other style done in a heated room. Just be sure to clean your skin after and follow with a good skin regiment to keep your skin looking it’s best.
First Derm Opinion
Our professional opinion couldn’t be more clear. Exercise is great for you and it is great for your skin. Just be sure to avoid too much sun and allow your skin to breathe. Naturally, you will sweat during exercise, just make sure you’re not clogging up your pores by allowing your skin to breathe. Otherwise get exercising and see your skin glow!
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Specialist doctor from the University Hospital in Gothenburg, alumnus UC Berkeley. My doctoral dissertation is about Digital Health and I have published 5 scientific articles in teledermatology and artificial intelligence.