As medical professionals, we’re big fans of developing and sticking with an exercise routine that works for you.
Exercise is great for both the mind and the body, but it can also be hard on your skin. That’s why we’re here with some tips on how to take better care of your skin and prevent workout acne, no matter when — or how! — you work out.
Pre-workout skin prep
Even if you know you’re going to work out, it’s still a good idea to wash your skin in the morning before you hit the gym.
After you’ve washed your face with an appropriate cleanser or lukewarm water, apply a lightweight serum (like Youth Serum) to give your skin a one-two punch of hyaluronic acid and peptides — keeping your skin extra-hydrated while you work out.
If you’ll be exposed to the sun — we’re talking to you, outdoor exercisers — it’s also important to apply an oil-free sunscreen with an SPF of at least 35 (Sheer Defense is ideal) before heading out the door.
The best after-workout routine
Exercise makes you sweaty, even if you’re not doing a high-impact workout. Allowing that sweat (and the excess oil that often comes with it) to stay on the skin can significantly increase the risk of clogged pores, which can trap breakout-causing bacteria inside and make your breakouts worse.
The more you work out, the higher your risk of post-workout acne — especially if you’re prone to breakouts in the first place.
To counteract that risk, try to wash your face as soon as possible when you’re done working out. While we recommend using a gentle cleanser to remove sweat and other build-up from your skin, even just rinsing your face with lukewarm water until you can get home and perform your full skin care routine can be helpful.
Other skin care tips for keeping your skin looking its best when you work out
It’s not just about washing your skin after you work out — there are also other things you can do to keep your skin looking its best when you work out regularly.
Make sure you’re always using a clean towel. You don’t want to keep spreading the same bacteria around your face every time you work out and continue the cycle of workout pimples.
Wash your hands before touching your face. Shared equipment also means shared bacteria, so don’t touch your face before you can wash your hands (plus, this can keep you from getting as many seasonal viruses).
Pay attention to what you’re wearing. It isn’t just the skin on your face that’s prone to breakouts — they can pop up all over your body. Try to wear loose-fitting workout clothes, change out of sweaty clothes right away after exercising and shower all of that sweat off your body as soon as possible to keep the bacne away.
Drink water. There are plenty of benefits of exercise for health and wellness, but you have to make sure to support your body when you do it. Drinking water can help keep you hydrated and keep your skin looking beautiful.
How many times do I need to wash my face a day?
We get it; it’s hard enough to find time to exercise every day, so you’re probably thinking, “Do I really need to wash my face that morning, evening and every time I exercise?”
While we can’t force you to do anything, the answer to that question from a dermatology point of view is yes, you do. Washing your face in the morning removes overnight build-up like sweat and dead skin cells, leading to clearer skin. Washing your face in the evening (and using an oil-free makeup remover) can help get rid of the build-up that accumulates during the day.
If you’re trying to remove a buildup of natural oils, try using a BHA, like salicylic acid, or a retinoid. These ingredients can help deep clean hair follicles and encourage healthy sebum production. Follow this up with a serum and a non-comedogenic, non-pore-clogging moisturizer.
Your post-workout wash is just as important — you need to remove the germs, sweat and whatever else you picked up from your workout off your face ASAP to prevent breakouts, dullness and other skin conditions and concerns. It’s not as hard as you think — and it’s worth the effort — once you make it part of your routine (just like your workout).
If you’ve tried everything and you still haven’t found a way to control your post-workout breakouts, try scheduling a visit with a board-certified dermatologist or healthcare provider.