Just as exercise is good for muscles, it’s also good for the health of your skin. A study published in August 2015 in Aging Cell suggests that both endurance exercise and high-intensity aerobic training may help prevent and reduce signs of aging in the skin.
Stress reduction is a key reason to stay fit. A review from December 2016 in Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports noted that exercise can help fight stress — which, when chronic, can contribute to skin aging and exacerbate skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne, according to another review, published in June 2014 in Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets.
Now that you know just what exercise can do for your complexion, you’ll want to maintain the skin-care habits that prevent acne, improve hydration, and reduce irritation and damage. Going that extra mile — in the gym or with your skin — can help turn back the clock.
We talked to two dermatologists about what you need to do to prep your skin before and after exercise.
1. Before You Break a Sweat, Don’t Forget to Apply Sunscreen
If you’re going outside, don’t forget to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30, says Deirdre Hooper, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans and an associate clinical professor in the Department of Dermatology at Louisiana State University and Tulane University. Here’s the thing: This advice applies even if you’re working out in a gym with windows that let light in. “Anytime there’s visible light, you’re exposed to some part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Growing evidence is showing that all light is important when it comes to skin damage and aging,” she says.
Because you’ll likely be sweating, and especially so if it’s hot out, you’ll want to ensure your SPF is sweatproof, too. Sports sunscreens usually have this in mind; the label should also list how many minutes the product is both water- and sweat-resistant.
Apply it to your face, throat, chest, and back of the neck. The last is the spot most people forget, and these are often the folks who are surprised when they see signs of aging, like discoloration, appear in their late thirties and forties, she says.
2. Believe It or Not, Don’t Worry About Washing Off Your Makeup Pre–Sweat Sesh
This may come as a shock, but Dr. Hooper says it’s okay to skip washing your face before a workout. “You’ll sweat and it’ll get a little messy, but it’s not bad to have makeup on your face during exercise,” she says. That means it’s totally fine to schedule a lunchtime workout and head straight for the treadmill.
One thing you don’t want on your face as you suit up to sweat: a heavy moisturizer. “Some moisturizers put a barrier on skin that prevents the evaporation of water,” says Charisse Dolitsky, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Long Island, New York, and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate. Not only is there a pore-clogging concern, but it’s the evaporation of sweat that cools you down. So if you’re tempted to add more moisturizer before working out, don’t.