Rutiga really wants to know…Is working out good for my skin? And if it is how does it work?
The Left Brain responds:
I looked for evidence that exercise increases cell turn over in the stratum corneum which would be measurable proof that working out renews skin more rapidly. While I couldn’t find a definitive study for this effect, I did find references from several dermatologists regarding the indirect benefits of exercise.
How exercise is good for skin
As you might imagine, exercise improves circulation which helps keep skin healthy. Increased blood flow nourishes skin cells and carries away waste products. (Remember that toxins are removed by the liver, not the skin.) (1)
Reduced stress-related breakouts
Exercise relieves stress and therefore can alleviate certain skin conditions that are worsened by stress, like acne and eczema. (According to sources, studies have shown that the oil-producing sebaceous glands are triggered by stress hormones.) (1)
Improved healthy glow
Exercise pumps more oxygenated blood to the skin which gives your cheeks a healthier glow. (2)
How exercise is bad for skin
While exercise is good for skin it does pose some potential problems as well.
1. Friction and chafing from work out clothes
Be careful that your exercise clothes don’t rub you the wrong way. Chafing can cause a special type of break out called “acne mechanica.” Rashes may also be worsened by a hot sweaty workout. For example, if you experience a rash in the groin, armpit, or neck areas, it may be a yeast-related condition called Intertrigo. Miliaria is another condition which occurs when the sweat glands are clogged with dead cells or bacteria (kind of like acne. This leads to clusters of little, itchy blisters. (3)
2. Increased body temperature
Increased body temperature can aggravate rosacea and, in some cases, can cause a condition called Exercise-Induced Urticaria which causes people to break out in hives. (3)
3. Increased sun damage
If you prefer to exercise outdoors, be aware of the potential damage the extra time in the sun could be doing to your skin. Don’t assume that a simple application of sunscreen is enough to protect you because sweating removes sunscreen. According to the reference I found, it takes 40% less sun exposure to cause sun burning after sweating. (1)
4. Salt on skin
Salt reside from sweat can trigger an eczema or psoriasis outbreak. Similarly, watch out for excessive chlorine exposure from swimming. (1)
5. Post-workout washing
Even though you want, and need, to clean your skin after working out, be careful! Washing too often can cause dryness and exacerbate eczema and psoriasis. (1)
Out with the bad, in with the good
Just because exercise can be bad for you skin is no reason NOT to exercise! Take these simple precautions to maximize the benefits of working out while minimizing the negative side effects.
Wear proper clothing
Use moisture-wicking clothing to keep skin dry and cool. Avoid tight fitting clothes that will chafe skin. (1)
Start clean, stay clean
Clean your skin of any makeup before you work out to help avoid clogged pores. And after your after-workout shower, be sure to apply a moisturize your skin liberally to help prevent dryness and irritation. (1)
Do whatever you can to avoid elevating your body temperature when you work out. Swimming is good in this regard because the water keeps your skin cool. When ever possible workout in an air-conditioned space (or wait until the evening time to exercise) to keep your skin from becoming flushed. (1)