Is exercise a part of your routine? 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. But if you are wearing a heavy foundation, I recommend washing your skin pre-workout as well. 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 additional sun protection, I recommend dusting on an SPF-infused mineral powder like ColorScience SPF 50 Mineral Powder. It’s lightweight, water-resistant, gives a tiny bit of coverage to even out your complexion, and, most importantly, it protects your skin from 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 steps to care for skin after you cool down.
- Cleanse: Post-workout, wash with a mild gel cleanser as this will help 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 to cool me down fast. (Summers in Austin, Texas are rough!) Whether after a workout or any time you wash your skin, be sure to avoid cleansers that contain Sodium or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. These ingredients will pull water out of the skin’s cells, leaving it dehydrated.
- Moisturize and Protect: After cleansing, wipe an alcohol-free toner over the skin and immediately apply a moisturizer 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 down by taking pressure off of capillaries.
- Cool Down: If you have the time when you get home, 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 down even faster. The skin feels sooooo good after it’s rinsed off. If you’re someone prone to clogged pores and breakouts, then Rapid Response Detox Masque is a cooling gel meant to reduce bacteria that leads to blemishes.
More Exercise and Skincare FAQs
Here are answers to the 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 pre-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 skin 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 skin becoming dehydrated. 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 your skin is not prone to breakouts, this may not be an issue for you. If you find that you’re getting clogged pores, try to keep your headband or bandana further back in your hairline, but not directly across the 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 workouts. 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!
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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.”