Updated 4/1/21. Is exercise a part of your daily routine? Are you wondering how to care for your skin before, during, and after a workout? Here’s my expert skincare advice to stop breakouts, protect against the sun, and keep your skin hydrated when you exercise.
Remove heavy makeup before you exercise.
It’s more important to wash your skin after working out than it is to wash your skin before working out. This is because oils, bacteria, and sweat will have accumulated on the skin. However, if you are wearing a heavy foundation, I recommend washing your skin pre-workout as well, since heat, sweat, and makeup can be a bad combination. Before you workout, cleanse with a mild, non-drying cleanser. Follow with an alcohol-free toner, and lastly, apply a lightweight, oil-free lotion like Skin Recovery Lotion.
Protect your skin.
If you will be exposed to daylight during exercise, use a lightweight, non pore-clogging moisturizer with sunscreen, like Weightless Protection SPF 30. To give your skin additional sun protection, I recommend dusting on an SPF-infused mineral powder, such as ColorScience SPF 50 Mineral Powder. It’s lightweight and water-resistant, and it gives a tiny bit of coverage to even out your complexion. Most importantly, though, it protects your skin from damaging UV rays.
During a Workout
Keep your hands off your skin.
Avoid touching your face during workouts, especially when using cardio or weightlifting machines. These machines breed bacteria, so it is best to keep your hands off your skin. You don’t want to introduce bacteria to the skin, as this could possibly result in new breakouts or in the spreading of existing breakouts. Always wash your hands before and after working out.
Four ways to care for your skin after you cool down.
- Cleanse: Post-workout, wash with a mild gel cleanser to thoroughly remove oil, toxins, and sweat. I LOVE using Luxe Mint Cleansing Gel because the mint botanicals feel so refreshing on the skin, and it helps cool me down fast (summers in Austin, Texas are rough!). Any time you wash your skin, be sure to avoid using a cleanser that contains sodium or ammonium lauryl sulfate. These ingredients pull water out of the skin’s cells, leaving it dehydrated.
- Moisturize and Protect: After cleansing, wipe an alcohol-free toner over the skin. Immediately follow that with a moisturizer that’s meant for your skin type. If it’s still daytime and your skin will be exposed to daylight, be sure to either apply a moisturizer with sunscreen or dust on an SPF mineral powder.
- Soothe: If you have a lot of redness in your skin after your workout, look for moisturizers or skin serums with soothing ingredients, like white tea, sea whip, azulene, chamomile, and bisabolol (found in Redness Care Firming Serum). This will help calm the skin by taking pressure off of capillaries.
- Cool Down: If you have the time, apply a thin layer of a gel-based mask like Bio Calm Repair Masque. This will cool heat-activated skin and infuse water deep into the cells. If you keep it stored in the refrigerator, it will calm the skin even faster (trust me, your skin will feel so good after it’s rinsed off). If you’re someone who’s prone to clogged pores and breakouts, then Rapid Response Detox Masque might be the product for you. It’s a cooling gel mask that’s formulated to reduce bacteria that lead to blemishes.
More Exercise and Skincare FAQs
Here are answers to the most common questions I hear from customers about caring for their skin when working out.
Should I remove all of my makeup before a workout?
Eye makeup and lipstick are fine to wear. If you’re wearing a light foundation, tinted moisturizer, or mineral powder, you may be just fine leaving your skin as is and waiting to clean it off post-workout. If you wear a heavy foundation, I recommend removing it before you workout.
Should I use a misting spray while working out?
No! If you mist your skin with a water-based toner and do not apply any moisturizer over it to seal in the hydrating ingredients, the moisture within your skin will evaporate out, leaving it feeling tight, dry, and dehydrated. This is also true of misting your skin on an airplane, which so many people do.
Should I wash my face before working out and skip moisturizer?
I never suggest leaving the skin bare after cleansing, because this leads to dehydration. Using a lightweight moisturizer after cleansing will help your skin retain water. If you are exercising outdoors, it’s best to use a very light moisturizer with a sunscreen.
Should I wear a headband, hat, or bandana to stop the sweat from dripping down my face?
For acne-prone skin types, headbands, hats, or bandanas across the forehead are not recommended, as they may cause a backup of oil and perspiration in the pores. This results in small, clogged bumps or breakouts. If you find that you’re getting clogged pores, try to keep your headband or bandana further back in your hairline—not directly across your forehead.
How important it is for my skin that I drink lots of water before and after a workout?
Since you lose so much water from sweating, it is crucial that you replace it by drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after a workout. Drinks that replace electrolytes are especially helpful for rehydrating the body. That being said, research concludes that drinking water is the least efficient way to actually hydrate the skin, and that skin hydration levels have much more to do with what you are using topically.
Keep up the great work and follow these tips to ensure your skin stays clear and healthy-looking!
You can also learn about how I personally care for my skin when working out in this article.
What to Read Next:
- What to wear during exercise to protect your skin.
- Here are my best sweat-proof sunscreen tips.
- Does sweat cause acne?
- Drinking water won’t hydrate the skin—but these three things will.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”