Next time we take stock of the benefits of exercise, be it improved strength, endurance or overall well-being, we can add skin health to the list, too. Exercise helps skin health in numerous ways. From increasing blood flow, delivering oxygen and nutrients, flushing out toxins through perspiration and improving skin elasticity, caring for your skin has multiple benefits. However, there are risks of developing skin issues due to sweat, friction, clothing, and other factors that are part and parcel of working out. Effective skincare before and after your workout goes beyond the application of products to protect and nourish the skin. It encompasses maintaining proper hygiene practices to protect your skin from potential issues.
Importance of pre- and post-workout skincare routine
Certain people, such as those with asthma or heart and lung conditions, should be careful while working out by warming up gradually and working out at a suitable intensity. Similarly, while exercising, it is essential to take precautions for the skin. Moreover, one should follow a pre- and post-workout skincare routine because aspects like sweating and clothing can cause damage, say experts.
“If you are continuously sweating, you are prone to fungal and bacterial infections,” shares Dr Sachith Abraham, consultant dermatologist, Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru. When in common spaces, such as gyms, the chances of getting these infections are higher. This makes it important to be informed about and follow safe skincare practices.
“Certain effects of workouts can hamper the skin and hair,” says Dr Smriti Naswa Singh, consultant dermatologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai. “Having a general understanding of what precautions to take helps not to end up with problems.”
Skincare routine before working out
Use sunscreen before outdoor workouts: Experts recommend wearing sunscreen before outdoor workouts. This protects your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays and reduce the risk of sunburn and skin damage.
“Sunscreen — specifically broad-spectrum sunscreen — is a must while engaging in outdoor activities like running or cycling,” says Dr Singh. “The use of physical sun protection like caps, and sleeves for hands and legs also acts as a barrier to protect the skin from ultraviolet rays.”
Moisturize the skin before swimming: The chlorine in the pool can cause itchiness and irritation in the skin. “It is always recommended to take a shower and moisturize the skin before entering the pool. This is because chlorine will seep into the dry skin pores faster. Keeping it moisturized stops the chlorine from easily entering the skin,” explains Dr Abraham.
Applying sunscreen is also advised if the pool is outdoors.
Choose apt clothes: Sweating causes skin rashes because of the friction with the fabric. To avoid this, you must choose your workout clothes based on the type of exercise you are doing.
“If you are into prolonged activities like marathon running or sports, you can use Dri-FIT technology polyester fabric or bamboo fabric because it wicks moisture away from the body,” says Dr Singh. “For people who are into milder forms of exercises like yoga, cotton or linen is ideal as it is a breathable fabric.”
Wear fresh socks: Socks are a necessity during a workout. However, wearing dirty and worn-out socks repeatedly can cause skin conditions like athlete’s foot. “Certain people do not change socks daily; they change it once in three to four days. This habit makes you prone to athlete’s foot, a condition which is common in sportspeople,” says Dr Abraham.
Itchy, red, and peeling skin between the toes is a common symptom of this fungal infection. It can be prevented by wearing fresh socks and using talcum powder or anti-fungal dusting powder in the toe spaces.
Tips for post-workout skincare routine
Change your workout clothes as soon as possible: Avoid keeping soiled gym clothes on after a workout. “While this is a common practice, it can trap sweat and bacteria against the skin, potentially leading to skin irritation and breakouts,” shares Dr Singh.
Post-workout shower: Showering immediately after the workout is crucial since it prevents the development of bacterial and fungal infections caused by sweating. “A lot of germs are present on the skin after a workout session — these may be from your own skin or get picked up from the shared spaces. Hence, it is essential to take a bath with soap after a workout, followed by moisturizing your skin,” says Dr Abraham.
Dr Singh advises warm showers for people prone to allergies or those with dry or sensitive skin. “Taking a shower in extreme temperatures of water can irritate their skin.”
Putting talcum powder or anti-fungal dusting powder in the skin folds after a shower prevents excessive dampness.
Hydrate yourself after a workout: Hydration is not only important for post-workout recovery but also beneficial for the skin. “Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can make your skin itchy. I recommend that after working out, people drink double the amount of water required when thirsty,” says Dr Singh.
- Factors like sweating, friction, and clothes during workouts can lead to skin issues. Thus, pre- and post-workout skincare is crucial.
- A good pre-workout skincare routine includes applying sunscreen before outdoor workouts, taking a shower and moisturizing your skin before swimming, wearing appropriate clothing, and wearing fresh socks.
- After a workout, one should take a shower, moisturize, change into clean clothes, and drink plenty of water.