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How to Take Care of Your Skin Before and After a Workout

Considering our natural inclination to jump straight in the shower immediately after a workout, most of us have always assumed dripping in sweat can only wreak havoc on our complexion, but that’s actually not true. In fact, whether it’s triggered by a sauna or hot yoga, there’s a reason why those who frequently find ways to sweat tend to have glowy, youthful complexions. There’s one caveat though: Taking care of your skin pre- and post-sweat sesh is vital. Read on to find out why sweating is the most underrated skincare step (plus a dermatologist’s recommendations). 

What Is Sweat, Exactly?

Quick science lesson: Sweat—or perspiration—is a mixture of primarily water and traces of other chemicals (like salt and urea) that is released by the body in an effort to cool itself down. When our nervous system detects a rise in temperature (triggered by exercise, fever, or even the “fight or flight mode” that comes along with stress and anxiety), our sweat glands release this liquid, which then evaporates to discharge heat and effectively regulate our body temperature. 

Yes, Sweating Is Good for Your Complexion

Sweating opens the pores and drags out all the gunk trapped inside along with it; its saltiness actually makes it a natural exfoliant. FYI: This doesn’t mean sweating is a replacement for your exfoliating routine, however. 

The addition of urea,
a natural humectant, also gives sweat a moisturizing effect, making sweating beneficial for those who are particularly dry. 

Sweating also has some indirect benefits for aging skin, too. Exercise (and the rise in body temperature that comes along with it) increases blood flow and collagen production, which gives our skin that post-sweat glow. Sweat also contains the protein dermcidin, a natural antibiotic that protects the body against infection and fends off germs, keeping our skin barrier and youthful complexion intact. Perhaps most importantly, sweating is a natural mood booster, improving sleep and fending off stress, both of which have enormous impacts on our skin health. 

How to Take Care of Skin Before and After Sweating

While sweat itself does not have a negative impact on our complexion, it does when it sits on the skin for an extended period of time. Acne thrives in moist environments, and the skin becomes a breeding ground for zits if sweat isn’t removed. Sweat can also throw off skin's pH balance, since it's so alkaline, which is why it's always ideal to use a pH-balanced cleanser (like Gentle Cycle). Clogged sweat glands are what cause millia as well, those tiny, hard, white bumps that are often found on the cheeks or eyelids. Plus, the salt that’s in sweat can dehydrate skin, making it feel itchy or worsening existing conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Here are some tips to ensure your sweat is working for your skin, not against it: 
  • Start with a clean slate. Always remove makeup and avoid applying heavier skincare like thick creams before you know you’re going to sweat. “If skincare products or makeup are particularly heavy or thick, sweat can get trapped underneath and not evaporate quickly” Dr. Nancy Samolitis, MD board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Facile Dermatology, warns. “This can cause breakouts or itchy bumps called miliaria”. If you’re going to be sweating outdoors, wear waterproof sunscreen or make sure to re-apply as soon as you towel off.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing where sweat may become trapped. “When excess sweating occurs, such as during exercise, it's a good idea to wear loose fitting and lightweight clothing to allow sweat to evaporate normally”, says Samoltitis. This is especially true if you’re prone to body acne. Beyond your outfit choice, keep a bottle of our Back-Up Plan Acne-Control Body Mist on hand to treat and prevent body breakouts that may pop up post-sweat.
  • Use a towel to wipe off excess sweat. While it’s a good idea to shower off ASAP, that’s not always possible. Cleanse sweat, dirt, and bacteria away immediately with our Baby Cheeks Hydrating Toner, which is easy to stow in a gym or beach bag.
  • Since we lose water when we sweat, it’s always a great idea to rehydrate afterwards. Cool down with our Hydrating Plumping Mask to help hydrate thirsty skin.