Gabrielle Kassel is a New York based writer who has a deep affinity for weight-lifting, living mindfully, and the em-dash. She has been published at Women’s Health Magazine where she is part of the online editorial team, and Feather Magazine, where she was a contributing health writer. In her free time she can be found reading self-help books, Tindering in public, and making soup.
While working out has positive benefits to our mind, body, spirit, and energy-levels, it turns out that our favorite fitness routines (SoulCycle, Barre, Crossfit… I’m looking at you) can negatively affect our skin. From body breakouts to general stinkiness, “runners face” to irritation, check out the strange ways that working out and our own sweat f’s with our skin:
Workout-related acne is something we are all familiar with: the spattering of spots and dots that appear along our backs, chests, thighs, and faces when we sit in those damp clothes just a little too long. The increased sweat on our faces and bodies combined with the extra oils and surfaced-debris get trapped on our skin when we don’t immediately wash our faces after a sweat-sesh.
Similarly, when the sweat gets trapped on and around our pores we become a breeding ground for bacteria (I know, gross), so when we don’t immediately remove our Lulu leggings and Nike sports bras, and wash the affected areas, we can say “hello” to chest-acne and thigh-zits.
The good news is that starving these zits off is easy: we can either jump in the shower and wash ourselves from head to toe (and wear a shower cap when we’re worried about our hair do’s) or smooth a facial cleanser wipe along the the areas of our bodies that are most prone to pimples.
When we go shopping for new yoga pants the tight hip-hugging fit is exactly what has up spending 80+ bucks on a pair of spandex bottoms. However, because the leggings are tight, when we hit the gym the friction causes our sweat to actually irritate our skin. Women’s Health reports that this irritation actually has a name: “folliculitis”, which is the bumps that are formed by dead skin cells and bacteria in the hair follicles. These bumps are the ones we recognize as butt pimples when we’re washing our booty and checking out our #bootygains in the shower.
Again, the easiest solution is to avoid sitting around in our sweat-soaked gym clothes (which like I said, are basically bacteria breeding grounds, ew) by hopping in the shower. When we’ re looking for a more “heavy duty” solution, Everyday Health says that, “often, ‘butt acne’ can be treated with a topical antibiotic cream or an antibacterial wash such as one that contains benzoyl peroxide”. So while we should consult with a dermatologist before putting prescription anti-acne medicine on our most private parts, most drugstore acne treatments and scrubs should do the trick.
Hitting the slopes to snowboard? Did you know that according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, higher altitudes mean an increased risk of sun-induced damage, since UV radiation exposure increases by up to five percent every 1000 feet above sea level? That means that we need to slather on the sunscreen when we hit the slopes just as we would if we were hitting the sand for a beach-run (Instagrammable beach runs, we miss you). When we’re protecting our face from the sun, we should also plan to swipe a layer of chapstick or lip moisturizer (with SPF) on our pouts, to keep those kissable lips from getting sun-parched and dry.
Good news, we can stop worrying about “Runner’s Face”, which is characterized by the look of a “sunken-in face” rumored to be caused by gravity. This is false, false, false! Well+Good reminds us that we don’t need to worry about “Runner’s Face” which actually results from fat loss/ loss of “facial volume” and the failure to wear sweat-proof sunscreen. So while losing fat in our faces may be a real effect of spending a large part of our day in fat burning mode, as long-distance runners or triathletes often do, a month or even a year of training won’t give us the look we fitness-lovers have learned to fear. HIIT-lovers, yogis, and weight-lifters, you’ve got nothing to worry about!
Food Allergy and Sensitivity
While food allergies or sensitivities may not be directly related to our workout-inflicted skin issues, Did your pre and post workout foods could be the cause of your irritated skin? In an interview with Elle UK, the Alicia Keys admits that she, too, has fought blemishes for most of her life but that cutting out dairy has helped her obtain clear skin. Well+Good reported that “Studies have shown that dairy is linked to acne—and it’s one of the foods that women’s hormone expert Alisa Vitti suggests we skip to keep hormonal breakouts from happening”. However dairy isn’t the only food and food group that can cause breakouts and inflamed skin. Women’s Health reported that chocolate and foods with high levels of refined sugar, low fat anything (yogurt, peanut butter, salad dressing, cookies, etc.), vegetable oils, wheat bread, and fruit smoothies (because they are high in fructose) can also wreak havoc with our skin. So while many of us grab crackers, chocolate milk, or greek yogurt to refuel from that tough AF ClassPass class, it could be a sensitivity (or allergy) to wheat or dairy that are making our skin act up. If you suspect your diet may play a role in your skin issues, check in with your doc.
Wash up and change clothes after your workout, not only will it keep your acne in check, it’ll also keep you smelling ~fresh~.
Remember that sunburn doesn’t only happen on the beach and be diligent about applying sunscreen and chapstick with SPF.
What you put in your mouth before and after your workout could also be your bad-skin culprit.