There are a lot of skincare benefits associated with working out: "Exercise helps maintain healthy levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol," esthetician and founder of Stacked Skincare Kerry Benjamin explains. "A high cortisol level could lead to breakouts or cause the collagen in your skin to break down, which can increase wrinkles and sagging. A good workout will actually help your body in the production of collagen, and this keeps your skin firm and supple." She adds that aerobic exercise gives your skin a hit of oxygenated blood for glowy skin.
However (because of course there's a however), if you don't take care of your skin after you work out, the sweat and dirt can cause you to break out. "The longer sweat is on your body and face, the increased chance it [can] get in your pores and attract things like dead skin cells and bacteria," says Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, a New York City–based dermatologist. Cool. Just what we wanted: a side of breakouts with our SoulCycle. We asked Benjamin and Bhanusali to share their tips for creating a solid post-workout skincare routine. Keep reading to see their advice.
Get Out of Your Clothes
"Workout clothes like leggings and compression tops look super cute during your sweat class, but they aren't great news for your skin," Benjamin says. "Tight, moisture-wicking materials generally aren't breathable, and can trap oil and dead skin next to your skin for hours and hours, creating the perfect storm for a body breakout. After your workout, be sure to get out of those tight clothes right away."
Wash Your Face ASAP
No, but seriously: Wash your face as soon as you're done working out. Benjamin recommends using a salicylic acid cleanser. "This is the best choice to thoroughly cleanse and dislodge the pores from debris, sweat, and oil to prevent breakouts," she explains. Bhanusali also recommends a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide.
Skip the Scrub
Whatever you do, don't go scrubbing at your face post-gym sesh. It'll do more harm than good. "Post-workout skin is especially delicate and prone to micro-abrasions, so using a gentle cleanser instead of a harsh exfoliant is a better option to refresh your skin," Benjamin says.
Apply a Gentle Serum
Benjamin says to apply a gentle, nurturing serum post-workout to help with redness and blemishes, and encourage a healthy glow. She recommends her EGF Activating Serum because it's rich in epidermal growth factors—vegan proteins meant to boost cell turnover and nurture the skin's healing abilities—and also triggers skin regeneration.
Don't Forget About Your Body
Here's a scary thing we didn't know we had to worry about: fungal acne. "There's more and more 'fungal' acne coming in, which is common in the gym population," Bhanusali says. He recommends alternating between antibacterial soap and antifungal soap in the shower. His pro tip: Use a product like Suave Men 2-in-1 Anti-Dandruff Shampoo & Conditioner as a body wash to help treat and prevent body breakouts.
Keep reading to see more of our post-workout skincare routine product recommendations.
The perfect stow-and-go product for your gym bag, Lumion Miracle Mist is fortified with HOCL, which is found naturally in your white blood cells and serves as a defense against harmful bacteria and inflammation. It'll help calm sweaty, flushed skin and prevent post-gym breakouts from popping up.
Fré is a line of skincare that was designed specifically for "skin that sweats," meaning you can rest assured the products aren't oil-packed and comedogenic, but rather light, waterproof, and effective. Its tinted moisturizer, suitable for all skin tones and types, helps to blur uneven skin tone while offering light hydration via hyaluronic acid and linden blossom flower extract. It's also got SPF 15 so you can leave your fitness class and head straight to lunch.
Snow mushrooms are anti-inflammatory and moisturizing, which makes them a superstar hydrating skincare ingredient. This serum combines snow mushroom plus skin-calming marin water meant to boost collagen production and keep skin healthy.
An oldie but a goodie, this simple salicylic acid face wash is a pro at getting skin squeaky clean without over-drying.
An impressive serum from new Japanese beauty brand Katess. The gel formula quickly soaks into skin, and it's packed with nourishing ingredients like astaxanthin (a powerful antioxidant) and wasabi (an antimicrobial).
A coconut milk-based cleanser that contains a blend of salicylic acid and strawberry extract meant to gently whisk away pore-clogging sweat and dirt.
A body wash from anti-acne guru Dr. Pimple Popper that's infused with salicylic and lactic acids plus soothing aloe meant to keep breakouts at bay.
Next up, 11 ingredients to avoid if you have acne.
Rayner BS, Zhang Y, Brown BE, Reyes L, Cogger VC, Hawkins CL. Role of hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and other inflammatory mediators in the induction of macrophage extracellular trap formation. Free Radic Biol Med. 2018;129:25-34. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2018.09.001
Lin CP, Tsai SY. Differences in the moisture capacity and thermal stability of tremella fuciformis polysaccharides obtained by various drying processes. Molecules. 2019;24(15):2856. doi:10.3390/molecules24152856
Lu Z, Dockery CR, Crosby M, Chavarria K, Patterson B, Giedd M. Antibacterial activities of wasabi against escherichia coli O157:H7 and staphylococcus aureus. Front Microbiol. 2016;7:1403. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.01403