How exercise effects our skin with Dr Katherine Armour

It's well known that regular exercise is great for your overall health, so it should be no surprise that prioritising a workout can have a significant impact on your skin. We've asked Dermatologist Dr Katherine Armour to answer your burning questions on how breaking a sweat can benefit your complexion. 

 

What happens to the skin when you exercise – and why?

When we exercise, the blood vessels that supply our skin open up and increase blood flow to the skin. This occurs to help us regulate our internal body temperature, and avoid overheating. This increased blood flow also increases the flow of oxygen and essential nutrients to the skin, whilst carrying away waste products. Exercise also decreases stress, which normalises blood cortisol levels. This is good news in terms of our general well-being, skin collagen levels (yes, wrinkle prevention!), and avoiding acne flares in those who are susceptible. For some of, this will lead to a red, blotchy face for up to an hour or two post
exercise. This is entirely normal, but, may be more significant in those with underlying skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema.

The other crucial thing that occurs within our skin when we exercise is sweat production.This is also part of regulating our internal body temperature.

 

 Are there any specific exercises that will result in these positive skin changes?

Anything that gets your heart rate up! So, anything from walking, running, HIIT, to cycling and Bikram yoga.

 

 

 As a result of the changes that happen to the skin due to exercise, why is it important to consider what you’re putting on your face both before and after a workout?

Contrary to popular belief, the pores in our skin don’t open and close. But, if you’re wearing heavy skincare or make up when you exercise, you do risk clogging your pores and causing the blackheads that are part of the causation of acne. Post workout, it’s ideal to apply soothing skincare to protect your skin barrier, and reapply a broad spectrum sunscreen if you’ll be heading outdoors after your shower.

 

 

In those immediate moments after you finish exercising, what do you need to be mindful of when it comes to caring for your skin/face?

Don’t be tempted to remove your sweat and sunscreen with harsh products such as make up removal wipes or foaming cleansers. That squeaky clean feeling means you’re potentially damaging your skin’s precious epidermal barrier. Stick with gentle, non-foaming cleansers. Do a quick double cleanse with these if needed to help your skin feel clean and refreshed.

 

 Is a shower (or at the very least a quick splash of water) beneficial for the skin after a workout – and why?


A shower to remove sweat, sebum, sunscreen and skincare from the skin is ideal post workout to avoid developing blocked pores on your chest, back and face that can lead to acne. At the very least, splash water on your face to remove some of these layers. Leaving sweat and sunscreen on our chest, back and buttocks can also lead to folliculitis due to inflammation or infection of the tiny hair follicles in these locations. Don’t forget that body odour can also develop if we percolate in our own sweat and lycra for too long post workout. This is because our skin’s commensal bacteria get to work on the sweat, sometimes creating unsavoury odours.


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