Workout Skincare: What To Do Before, During And After Exercise


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Our skin is a robust hero that goes into overtime for us, but tbh it sometimes needs a helping hand. This is especially true when exercising, when sweat, bacteria, dirt, and grime mix together and potentially disrupt the otherwise balanced ecosystem. For the full rundown on how to take better care of your skin before, during, and after a good sweat sesh, follow this dermatologist advice.

How to Prep Your Skin Before a Workout

You know all the pores on your face that we try so desperately to conceal? They’re actually really important, and they’re majorly activated when we start exercising. Priming your skin so they can release sweat and sebum is pretty important.

“Ideally, you don’t want to work out in makeup, which can cause skin congestion and lead to breakouts and irritation,” says Dr. Nikhil Dhingra, a board-certified dermatologist at NYC’s Spring Street Dermatology. “Remove your makeup with something gentle like micellar water and a cotton pad, avoiding vigorous rubbing.” If you’re able to double cleanse before workouts, that’s even better. If you have a hydrating facial mist, give your face a quick mist post-wash to rehydrate your skin.

Dr. Dhingra says it’s also best to put your hair up and to throw on a sweat-absorbing headband. This keeps hair oils and sweat from further trapping skin cells, oils, and debris, which could also lead to breakouts.

Finally, if you’re outside, don’t forget to apply some sunscreen. Dr. Dhingra recommends a mineral-based, oil-free option with SPF 30 or greater. Try Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen Face Tint SPF 30, $21, or Versed Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum, $25. Both have a very sheer tint and are excellently formulated to go on light without a cast.


How to Tend to Your Skin During a Workout

It’s easier said than done but do your best to not touch your face during a workout. Having your hair up and out of the way will really help with this.

“Your hands are full of bacteria that you do not want introduced to the skin. Touching your face throughout your workout can lead to breakouts,” explains Dr. Anna Guanche, a board-certified dermatologist at the Bella Skin Institute in Calabasas, California. Also, if you’re doing things like burpees, planks, weight work, or bag work, then you’re likely touching a lot of different surfaces in a short period of time. Cool, but also yuck.

Finally, do bring a towel to mop up your sweat (this helps keep your hands off your face, too), but make sure it’s soft and gentle and that you’re patting – not scrubbing or wiping. “Vigorously rubbing a sweaty face with an abrasive towel will really irritate your skin,” notes Dr. Dhingra.

How to Take Care of Your Skin After a Workout

It is all too tempting to wrap up a workout and collapse into a sweaty ball for a while. Resist the urge and change/shower right away.

“Sitting in wet workout clothing can lead to bacterial and fungal infections of the skin as well as irritation, especially in skin folds where occlusive workout clothes tend to hug. Think under the breasts and in the groin creases,” says Dr. Dhingra.

While you’re in the shower, make sure to wash your face, too. You can even use a gentle exfoliator – like something with microcrystals or an AHA – if you want to do a little extra de-greasing post-workout. Try the ultra-gentle Wishful Yo Glow Facial Enzyme Scrub, $39, which has both!

When washing, use warm or cool water, and again, make sure to pat dry to avoid irritation. “Your face is already more flushed after working out from the blood pumping through your body and rubbing can lead to much longer periods of facial redness,” notes Dr. Dhingra. Be sure to follow with a hydrating skincare routine to replenish your skin.

Finally, we don’t always think about our scalp as being part of our skin, but it totally is. Ensuring you’re adequately cleansing your scalp after exercising helps avoid issues like hairline acne and scalp dandruff that can occur from oil buildup. A good wash with your favorite shampoo should do the trick. If you want a little more oomph, consider incorporating an anti-residue shampoo into your routine once a week, and something like this Hello Klean Exfoliating Scalp Brush, $12, can really help work products in and break up oil and product sitting on the scalp.

We’re curious to know if you’re guilty of any of the above mistakes, and also how you might adjust your skincare regimen after reading all this pro advice. Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

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