Fitness Articles

An Exerciser's Guide to Skin Care

Can Workouts Cause Breakouts?

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Other Dermatological Drawbacks
While it seems odd to point out the negative aspects of exercise, there are a few issues to be aware of when it comes to skin health. These drawbacks don’t outweigh the many benefits of exercise, but knowing the potential for problems will help you avoid them.
 
The biggest drawback, particularly for athletes and gym-goers, is the possibility of contracting a skin condition. Outbreaks of ringworm, herpes, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are highly contagious among both athletes and average exercisers, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Physical contact, shared facilities and equipment, and poor hygiene all contribute to the incidence of MRSA. Athletes and exercisers should also watch out for ringworm and athlete’s foot, two fungal infections that are easily spread by close contact. The AAD advises that after working out or competing, athletes should shower immediately and make sure they wear flip-flops not only in the shower, but also when walking around in the locker room. This advice holds true for casual exercisers using communal locker rooms and showers at health clubs, too.
 
In addition to these conditions, working out can negatively affect those with chronic skin conditions as well. For people who have rosacea—a skin condition characterized by flare-ups of flushing and persistent redness, bumps and pimples—any activity that causes flushing or overheating of the face can spark a rosacea flare-up, according to the National Rosacea Society. Managing your workout can reduce the incidence of flare-ups, and the NRS recommends working out during the cooler parts of the day, working out in more frequent but shorter intervals and drinking cold fluids. Lower-intensity exercises and water exercise may also help.
 
The positive effects of exercise far outweigh the negatives, so check out these tips to keep your skin at its best when fitness is part of your lifestyle.
 
7 Skincare Tips for Exercisers
  1. Protect your skin from sun exposure. Wear sunglasses, a hat and other protective clothing when exercising outdoors. Sunscreen is the unbreakable rule. If you’re going to be working out in the great outdoors, wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen liberally to sun-exposed skin, even when it’s cloudy. The AAD recommends reapplying every two hours and after swimming and sweating, so if you’re working up a sweat, be generous with the sun block. For exercisers, look for "sport" sunscreens that are designed to stay put even when you sweat.
  1. Cleanse gently. To prevent acne flare-ups and scars, gently clean your skin with a mild cleanser twice a day (morning and night) and after heavy exercise.
  1. Avoid tight clothing. Tight clothing that rubs sensitive and acne-prone areas can irritate and aggravate preexisting conditions. Wear lightweight, breathable and unrestrictive clothing and change out of it soon after a tough workout.
  1. Wear flip-flops. Don’t walk barefoot through the gym or locker room. Wearing flip-flops to shower can protect your skin from fungal infections.
  1. Wash your hands. To avoid spreading germs, wipe equipment down before and after use and wash your hands after you work out.
  1. Avoid touching your face. Touching your skin increases the risk of clogging your pores with bacteria and oils, especially if your hands are already picking up bacteria and germs from touching workout equipment.
  1. Hydrate. Drink plenty of H20 to replace water lost during workouts. Proper hydration will keep your entire body functioning properly.
 
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About The Author

Erin Whitehead Erin Whitehead
is a health and fitness enthusiast who co-founded the popular website FitBottomedGirls.com and co-wrote The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (available May 2014). Now busier than ever with two kids, she writes about healthy pregnancy and parenting at FitBottomedMamas.com.

Member Comments

  • So, does sweating excessively from heat have the same good skin benefits? - 7/26/2014 1:22:03 PM
  • I sometimes read these articles again. There is always something you forget about. - 7/26/2014 9:05:07 AM
  • REHASHAIKH
    Diet and beauty are co related more healthy food you intake which gives natural source of vitamins and proteins make your skin supple and glowing.
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    - 6/16/2014 3:00:52 AM
  • I've had horrible acne, and I've used a lot of things to get rid/prevent it (topical gels, pills, you name it). A combo that gave me the best results (in my late teens) was proactiv and birth control, but even then I had moderate acne and would break out. After exercising regulary however, I barely have any acne, and my outbreaks are minimal. I thought sweat would clog pores, but reading and learning that it actually unclogs them is pretty cool! - 4/15/2014 10:27:47 AM
  • My skin has improved as a result of healthier habits.
    Thanks Sparkpeople!

    ~Sonya - 1/1/2013 11:45:14 PM
  • Cystic acne seems to get enflamed worse when working out. - 9/4/2012 8:53:39 AM
  • The flaky skin is probably a result of the shower being too hot or being in it for too long or too often. Is it possible to get the temp down a bit? Have you tried moisturisers?
    I used to wash or take wipes to control the worst of the sweat and change into clean/dry clothing at the gym, but come home to shower so I could control the temp and not be exposed to other people's bugs. - 9/2/2012 9:35:42 AM
  • What about the flaky skin caused by all the hot showers? Surely I am not the only one with this particular problem...??? - 8/5/2012 11:08:13 AM
  • CHRISCHUA
    Hey workout is really necessary and during workout hydrating body is really necessary, as during workout we sweat, all the toxics in body come out through sweat, so it is really good to drink water and sweat more... - 5/31/2012 4:27:44 AM
  • JOHNTB29
    The problem can be sweating whilst wearing gym clothing. Even after showering if you haven't cooled off completely you can still be sweating, especially if your in a dash to go somewhere quickly after a workout. I carry a product from oxederm that helps keep my skin clear from breakouts after going to the gym.

    - 5/29/2012 10:03:05 AM
  • FITJESSI
    In my experience, exercise has been my greatest tool in fighting acne. My skin has been the clearest when I have been involved in sports or more recently when I made going to the gym a part of my daily routine.

    As the article mentioned, it is important to develop some hygienic habits such as not wearing make up, not touching your face, and taking a shower as soon as possible after a workout. As much as its good to be informed, I really think that if you use common sense, you really don't need to worry about the "risks" to your skin if you exercise regularly.

    - 2/18/2012 5:07:12 PM
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