How To Care For Your Skin Before & After You Work Out

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Most women have their morning and evening skin-care routine down pat, but whenever I ask about their post-exercise skin care, I'm typically met with a blank look. And I get it. Many of us barely have time to squeeze in a workout; adding a separate regimen on top of that is no easy feat. Yet, it's essential to incorporate one after exercising to ensure happy, healthy skin.

One pre-exercise skin-care tip: Even though we all want to look good at the gym (you never know who you're going to run into), it's really important to remove your makeup before you hop on the treadmill or stationary bike.

In fact, it's important to wash your face — and certain key areas of your body — even if you're not wearing makeup. Cleansing the skin before you start working up a sweat removes bacteria and other impurities, thereby reducing the risk of clogged pores and acne. Because it's still important to wash up after the workout, I recommend a gentle cleanser for your face and a cleansing cloth for your body.

Showering before a workout is hardly practical, which is why I recommend using cleansing cloths for areas that are prone to acne or folliculitis — for most women, this includes the chest, back, and shoulders. If you know you're acne-prone, a wash or towelette with mild acne-fighting ingredients can be beneficial, but don't use anything too harsh or drying as this can irritate your skin during your workout. I often prescribe antibiotic wipes to use before and after exercise. After cleansing, apply a hydrating oil-free moisturizer to the face and skin, and if your workout is taking place outdoors, don't forget the sunscreen.
Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
As soon as you're finished exercising, get out of your sweaty clothes and into the shower. Warm, damp clothes are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast, so leaving them on longer than you have to increases your risk of yeast infections, acne, and folliculitis. If you're short on time, take a quick, lukewarm shower and use a gentle hydrating cleanser. Sweating during a workout is great because it helps flush out impurities, but it can also rid the skin of its natural lubricants, making it feel dry. A long, hot shower will only exacerbate that dryness.

If you absolutely don't have time to shower, wash your face with a gentle cleanser and use a cleansing cloth on your body, especially those acne-prone areas.

And if your face is very red after exercising, splash cool water on it two or three times after cleansing. This not only helps cool the skin but also tones down any redness by constricting blood vessels. A hydrating mist, such as Avene's Thermal Spring Water Mist, is a great alternative that you can easily use on the face and body. Just spritz it on and gently pat dry after two to three minutes. A calming alcohol-free toner can also be helpful. I especially like ones that contain rosewater, as they not only calm the skin and reduce redness, but also hydrate and provide antioxidants.

For any areas that appear oily after cleansing and cooling the skin, try using blotting papers. As even normal skin can be more sensitive right after a workout, save the super-potent acne or anti-aging treatments, such as retinoids, for later.
Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
If you need to wear makeup after exercising, I generally suggest skipping the heavy foundations, especially if you're still overheated post-workout. Instead, go with a tinted moisturizer or BB cream and focus on the cheeks, eyes, and lips. Prolong those rosy cheeks (unless you feel you already look too rosy) with cheek stain or a tint with a sheer finish. Since the skin will look and feel dewy after a good workout, a powder blush can look caked-on, so skip that.

In case you still want to wear a heavier foundation, start with a primer before you apply the base. The primer will help reduce sweat and oil on your skin, especially if you're the type of person who continues to sweat after exercising (as many of us do until we fully cool down). A primer will help your makeup stay in place and last longer, and it will also work to seal the pores by creating a sort of blanket over them (before the base is applied) without clogging them.

With these tips, you'll be able to keep up with your exercise routine while keeping your skin radiant and blemish-free.

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