Essential advice to beat breakouts while you work your bod
Don't let breakouts put a damper on all the benefits your regular exercise routine provides. We asked skincare and fitness professionals (who sweat for a living) to give us their very best tips for keeping their skin clean and clear, even with multiple sweat sessions a day.
If a midday workout doesn't leave you enough time for a proper shower afterwards, cleansing wipes can come in handy. But there's no need to spend tons of cash to replace your stash. Try this $3.00 (or less) solution from Erin Akey, a certified personal trainer and water fitness instructor in Mobile, Alabama:
"One tip I give all of my runners is to buy a bottle of witch hazel and a pack of alcohol-free baby wipes (preferably with aloe). Pour the witch hazel into the pack of wipes so that they're all soaked through. Before each run, wipe your face well with a wipe. Then, wipe again after to get any dust and dirt from the road out of the pores (I always suggest doing this before they cool-down while the pores are open). This is a very inexpensive way to keep your face clear and glowing!"
Give your skin a boost after a sweaty gym session with this recipe for an all-natural, refreshing toner from Rebecca Pacheco, a yoga instructor at Equinox in Boston, Mass., and creator of OmGal.com: Simply brew your favorite green or herbal tea, chill it in the refrigerator, and then pour it into a spray bottle. That's it!
Use peppermint tea to energize, antioxidant-rich green tea to nourish, or chamomile or lavender tea to calm your face and your senses. It's inexpensive and you can stash the spray bottle in your gym or yoga bag for fresh, vibrant skin on the go, Pacheco says.
If you love working out outdoors, you know that sunscreen is a necessity for keeping your skin healthy. And there are a few natural ways you can boost the effectiveness of your SPF. For example, a daily dose of carrot juice can help safeguard your skin from the sun's harmful rays.
"Five carrots a day is equivalent to an added SPF 5 internally, and the carotenoids ensure a pretty bronze rather than a ruddy burn," says Melissa Picoli, an esthetician, former professional whitewater kayaker, and founder of BijaBody Health+Beauty.
Not a fan of carrots? Coconuts can deliver similar skin-protecting benefits. "Before a big day out, apply a light layer of coconut oil to your face. Coconut oil has been shown to have a potential sunscreen like effect, increases effectiveness of sunscreen products, and it keeps your skin protected during long hours in water," Picoli says.
Fitness enthusiasts produce more dead skin cells than the average person, and those dead skin cells trap oil and dirt that can lead to acne, says Sandy Alcide, president of the American Athletic Skin Care Association and founder of Motion Medica Skin Care. If you work out five or six days a week, Alcide recommends using a mild exfoliant two or three times a week—skip brands that contain abrasive ingredients like apricot seed or ground nut.
There's no need to use pricey products or gadgets (unless you want to); a cotton washcloth works great. Apply your cleanser to your skin first using your hand, and then use your washcloth in a gentle circular motion with light pressure for about two to three minutes. This works for both your face and body, Alcide says.
You may regularly wash your face after your workout, but it's a good idea to do it before you start sweating too. "I'm all for the after-work workout, but a quick face wash should always come beforehand," says Hannah Weisman, a varsity collegiate women's tennis player in Clinton, New York. "The foundations and powders from the day can get trapped in pores, as the sweat glands open during strenuous exercise. And waiting until a workout is complete can be too late."
Alcide agrees. "When you work out, your pores open naturally to expel sweat, and what you apply on your skin before [a workout] is key to healthy skin," she says.
Avoid harsh soaps and use a facial cleanser formulated to remove deep down oil and sweat without drying the skin.
Leaving your hair down during your sweat sessions does more than just distract you in the middle of a set, it could be causing breakouts! "Keep your hair pulled off your face," says Jennifer Purdie, a certified trainer in San Diego, Calif. "Grease and sweat will accumulate in your hair and your pores will suck that up."
You don't always have to sport that same boring ponytail. Try rocking one of these super cute hairstyles during your next workout.
It may seem like common sense, but how many times have you ended up spending hours running errands in your gym clothes after a workout? Staying in sweaty workout wear could be contributing to breakouts by keeping sweat and bacteria close to your skin.
"Keep skin clear by changing out of sweaty workout clothes and showering within a half-hour of finishing your workout," says April Zangl, a certified fitness instructor who teaches sweat-inducing classes like spinning and kickboxing at Gold's Gym in Issaquah, Wash.
Avoid wearing heavy makeup or creams when working out, says Jasmina Aganovic, founder of skincare line Stages of Beauty. "You want your skin to be able to breathe while you work out, and if it can't, you may get clogged pores."
If you just can't bear the thought of going bare-faced to the gym, try a tinted moisturizer, suggests Liz Barnet, a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and holistic health coach in New York City. Barnet uses a tinted cream that includes SPF protection for her outdoor workouts. "Although I take it easy on the makeup, I need to have on a little something to even out my skin tone," she says.
"Try not to touch your face with your sweaty hands," Aganovic says. "When your body heats up, your pores are even more open and able to take in elements from the environment. This makes your skin more susceptible to taking on bacteria and pore-clogging dirt and oil."
Grab a spare towel and lay it down before your hands and face hit the mat, floor, or weight machines. And be sure to wash your hands after your workout, especially after touching shared, sweaty equipment like treadmills and dumbbells.
More frequent workouts are a good thing, but it may mean you need to shower more often, which can cause your skin to dry out. "To keep my skin balanced and supple, I stick to a gentle, cream-based facial cleanser in the morning and more deep cleansing versions post-workout," says Barnet, who usually showers two or more times a day due to her training schedule. "And I always moisturize immediately after to keep skin hydrated," she says.