How to keep your sweat sessions from beating up on your complexion… and other sensitive body parts
You hit the gym to be healthy and look hot, so it’s a bummer when you walk out with an embarrassingly bright-red face. Let’s not even discuss the backne, sports-bra-induced boob chafing, and hives. Or rather, let’s: “Internal factors such as allergies and skin type play a key role in how your skin responds to exercise, but external factors like clothing and the weather can help or hurt workout-related skin problems too,” says Jeannette Graf, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Meaning, you have a lot of control over how irritated your flesh gets. Besides, working out can be good for your skin. “Exercise increases circulation, which makes your skin glow,” says Graf.
Check out these four simple skin tips for what you can do before, during, and after workouts to reap the radiance-bestowing rewards, minus any flare-ups.
“This is the most upsetting workout-related skin issue I hear about,” says Graf. Especially for women who have rosacea or sensitive skin—those prone to severe flushing. “Women with rosacea have more broken capillaries, so any vasodilation caused by working out makes it worse. Sensitive skin just gets irritated very easily, so heat combined with sweat will cause a flare-up.”
Prevent it: Start using anti-redness moisturizers formulated for sensitive skin; soothing ingredients like thermal spring water, zinc, licorice extract, or feverfew will get your moisture barrier in peak condition and make skin more resilient. Try: (1) Eucerin Redness Relief Daily Perfecting Lotion SPF 15 ($15, drugstore.com). Avoid using treatments that irritate skin—such as retinol, acne products, or chemical peels—the night before a big workout.
Keep your body temperature as low as possible during your workout by spritzing yourself with a cooling body spray like Restore Instant Hot Flash Aid ($25, restoreaid.com). Another good find: Mission Athletecare Enduracool Large Instant Cooling Towel ($15, at Dick’s Sporting Goods); use it to wipe your face when you start feeling hot.
Cure it: De-toastify yourself fast. As your body temp drops, so does the flushing, says Graf. Suck on ice chips or splash cold water on your face. Rinse with an anti-redness cleanser, followed by an anti-redness face cream that contains licorice, green tea, oats, or feverfew. Try: Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF 15 ($17, drugstore.com). Cover remaining blotchiness with a CC cream, whose optical diffusers help visually color-correct redness, then apply a yellow-based concealer. Try:Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream SPF 30 ($35, clinique.com) and Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer Kit ($34, bobbibrowncosmetics.com).
“No sunscreen is ultimately sweat-proof, and a hard 30- to 45-minute workout is enough to sweat it away,” says Brian Adams, M.D., acting chairman of dermatology at the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine, who specializes in sports dermatology. Your burn risk rises if you’re working out around snow, water, or sand. Since all reflect sunlight, you get the rays not only from above, but bouncing up at you from below.
Prevent it: Avoid the peak UV hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and wear dark-colored clothes and a visor. Apply your sunscreen liberally 30 minutes beforehand, because it takes up to that long to become active. Choose sweat-resistant sunscreen formulas, such as LaRoche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid ($30, laroche-posay.us) for face andNeutrogena Wet Skin Spray SPF 50 ($12, at drugstores) for body. And be prepared: Slip a sunscreen cream compact in your pocket to reapply every 30 minutes if you’re perspiring profusely. Try: Eau Thermale Avene High Protection Tinted Compact ($32, at drugstores).
Cure it: Stay out of the sun for the rest of the day. “The more you inhibit the inflammation, the less damage you may have, so it’s crucial to treat it within the first 24 hours,” says Graf. Take a dose of aspirin or Advil every four hours. Every few hours, apply aloe gel, followed by a topical cortisone cream.
Notice blisters? They indicate a second-degree burn; see a dermatologist immediately. Shun the sun for several days until the burn has healed, says Graf.
Itchiness and Hives
Exercise-induced allergies like itching, stinging, or hives can happen to some people whether they work out indoors or outdoors. In women, they tend to start around the age of 20 and can recur for years. Your chances increase if you have other allergies, like hay fever. When body temperature rises during exercise, mast cells, a type of white blood cell linked to allergies, can release histamine, causing allergic symptoms like mild hives, trouble breathing, or low blood pressure.
Prevent it: Take an oral antihistamine like Claritin or Zyrtec before working out. “The hives may come and go with allergy seasons, and you may not need to pop a pill all year long,” says Graf.
Cure it: If you didn’t take an antihistamine before working out, take one as soon as you notice the hives.
When you get really hot, the natural oils on your scalp drip down your face and body and mix with your sweat, settling into pores along your hairline, neck, and shoulders, causing breakouts. Then your form-fitting workout wear seals it all in, increasing the odds of backne and buttne.
Prevent it: “Make sure you use a noncomedogenic sunscreen, which means it won’t clog your pores,” advises Adams. Dress in clothes made of moisture-wicking material like Lycra and nylon, which won’t trap sweat. “I like the Luon fabric, a mix of nylon and Lycra, that is used in a lot of Lululemon’s yoga wear,” says Graf. Post-workout, shower immediately with a cleanser that contains pore-degunking salicylic acid. Try:Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash ($6.49, at drugstores). Can’t shower? Wipe off breakout problem areas—T-zone, chest, back, and between your breasts—with a face-cleansing towelette. Try: Yes To Cucumbers On-The-Go Facial Towelettes ($3, at drugstores).
Cure it: Acne scrubs that contain 1 percent salicylic acid are great for adult breakouts; use it up to a couple of times per week. Try: Biore Acne Clearing Scrub ($6.49, at drugstores). Then spot-treat with concealer laced with salicylic acid. Try: Physicians Formula Blemish Rx Blemish Healing Concealer ($9, at drugstores).
Credits: women’s Health