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Exercise + Skin Care – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Exercise and skin care – yes, it’s a known fact that every cell in the human body benefits from physical activity. It is also known that there is no supplement or medication that has proven to be as strong or effective as regular exercise for improving immune strength, cardiovascular health, bone density, and lowering stress.  Exercise is excellent to help maintain weight, and boost your mood and self-esteem.

The coveted swexy “post gym” glow is a combination of increased blood, sweat, and oils.   As your heart rate goes up, your circulatory system vasodilates which increases blood flow to the head. The result creates an erythematic response while delivering oxygen-enriched blood and nutrients to the skin and muscles.  We glisten and glow from sweat with a bit of a shine from our natural oils warming and coming to the surface.  There is also a release of endorphins during exercise. 

So, with all the good exercise does for our bodies . . . how does it affect our largest organ, SKIN???

The Good of Exercise and Skin Care 

We love exercise and when you combine exercise and skin care – there are many good things.

  •   Increasing your heart rate accelerates the speed of oxygen and nutrient delivery, improved cellular repair and replacement, and removal of metabolic waste, lactic acid, and free radicals from working cells.
  •   Regular exercise lowers stress which is known to trigger responses in the body that can lead to breakouts, irritation, inflammation, and sensitivity.
  •   Exercise can help reduce the overproduction of sebum which can lead to congested pores.
  •   Exercise helps to relieve stress and immediately lowers cortisol levels which allows you to sleep better and wake up refreshed.  When you work out, a message is sent to the brain to use cortisol for its intended purpose, movement.  
  •   With your body less stressed and sleeping better from exercising, it can focus on cellular repair.
  •   Sweat is a great way to clear out your pores.  Over time, dead skin cells, SPF, make-up, oils, dirt, debris, and chemicals, and environmental pollution can build up.  By flushing out these systemic toxins, you can help prevent congestion that leads to breakouts.
  •   Cardio-based exercise increases the amount of human growth hormone released in the body.  It can create changes in skin on a cellular level by producing ATP to feed all cell functions, produce collagen, produce new skin cells, hyaluronic acid, and repair skin damage.  All will help improve structural support, skin thickness, and elasticity.
  •   Exercise improves Lymph flow.  There are approximately 500 lymph nodes in the body.  About 300 are located in the head and neck!!  The lymphatic system is a very delicate network of vessels throughout the body.  It drains fluid (lymph) that has leaked from blood vessels into tissue and empties it back into the bloodstream via lymph nodes.  One role of the lymphatic system is to manage fluid levels. Exercise can help flush excess puffiness.
Cheryl Miller

Zen Miller, Master Esthetician, Massage Therapist, Fitness Instructor

Wife, Mother, Business Owner, Pilates Instructor, Skin & Body Guru, energy worker, medium, and a veteran. She has been in the wellness industry for decades and has a respected and loyal following of professionals who enjoy taking her classes. You can learn more about Zen’s courses and offerings at The Zen Lounge.

The Bad of Exercise and Skin Care

Yes, there are some bad things when we talk about exercise and skin care. 

  •   Swimming for exercise.  Most people are familiar with the uncomfortable tight, dry feeling after a dip in a chlorine pool.  Harsh chemicals strip away water and oils in our skin.  Prolonged exposure can cause rashes, blisters, eczema, and premature aging of the skin.
  •   Exercise can trigger rosacea which tends to worsen with increased blood flow and prolonged warmth to the area.  It’s best not to exercise outdoors during the mid-day heat.  Indoor exercise in a controlled environment with a fan blowing is preferred.
  •   Straining during exercise can lead to telangiectasia.  Keep your face, neck, and shoulders relaxed while you exercise to prevent the formation of any new fine lines or wrinkles.
  •   Runner’s Face – this phenomenon refers to premature aging that plagues many runners in their 30s and 40s.   While running doesn’t cause premature aging, the bouncing up and down on a hard service over a sustained period can play havoc with your skin’s elasticity and plumpness.  Being very lean can also play a role in sagging skin and sunken cheekbones.
  •   UV Damage – Sun exposure can cause hyper-pigmentation, elastosis, thinning of the dermis, and collagen degradation over time.  Combine this with wind, cold weather, and gravity and it can have a very negative impact on the skin.  We all know sunscreen is essential for sun protection, but fitness apparel, hats, and sunglasses are recommended as additional also.  A broad-spectrum, water-resistant, non-comedogenic sunscreen of 30+  is recommended and should be reapplied every 2 hours.
  •   Re-absorption – yes, sweating has many positive benefits for your skin including moisturizing, flushing pores, killing bacteria, and cooling the skin. If left on the skin too long, it can cause big problems. The impurities that sweating helps flush out stay on the skin and will re-absorb leading to breakouts, bacteria growth, dehydration from the sodium in sweat, and changes in the pH. All of which could lead to irritation and inflammation. 
  •   Ammonia and urea in sweat can cause irritation and inflammation if left on the skin for too long.
  •   Heat and humidity can cause congestion in the pores leading to heat rashes or acne.  Ice or any type of cryo cooling helps reduce discomfort.
  •   Wearing a face mask or articles of clothing that cause chafing of the skin can lead to clogged pores, friction burns, irritation, and acne.   
  •   Warm, moist areas such as your armpit, inner thigh, under breast, and buttocks can quickly grow yeast and clog pores.  Change your clothes ASAP after working out.
  •   Exercising in make-up is never a good idea.  Oil and perspiration from your skin will mix with your make-up causing too many issues to list here.  Don’t do it.  Worst case scenario . . . use a gentle, non-comedogenic face wipe.
  •   Chronic elevated levels of cortisol (stress) can accelerate collagen loss, premature wrinkles, and sagging skin. It can also negatively affect skin and hair, especially for those with chronic skin conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis.

The Ugly of Exercise and Skin Care 

Yes, there are some ugly things when we talk about exercise and skin care. 

  •   Rubbing your face with a dirty or sweaty towel is a BAD IDEA. Towels harbor a ton of bacteria which can be spread easily leading to breakouts and infections.  Washing your linens with harsh chemicals and synthetic fragrances can also cause skin issues. 
  •   Air Pollution – excessive UV damage isn’t the only thing to be concerned about, environmental pollution has been linked to making chronic and genetic skin conditions worse. 
  •   “Free Radical Theory” – some research suggests that impact cardio training can cause free radical stress that may damage collagen and elastin, vital for providing tensile strength and support for our skin. 
  •   Excessive sweat can lead to seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff. Both are caused by yeast and thrive in a warm, oily, moist environment. Dry shampoo is a good option but skipping too many washes can make dandruff worse. 

Takeaway . . . the benefits of regular exercise far outweigh the negatives as long as you know all the factors to consider. Stay active my friends.


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