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What really happens to your skin when you don’t wash your face, post-workout?


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You set the alarm for 6 a.m., slay a hardcore morning workout, and then sprint to the locker room to be first in line for the shower (which really should count as a second sweat sesh, TBH). On days when even the best efforts leave you toe-tapping for an open stall and running late, can you just throw up your hands and head straight to work with all of that post-exercise dew still intact on your complexion?

After all, some bacteria on your face is good, and many people have found that going a month without showering is totally fine. In the name of saving time and stress after workouts, I sought the advice of a couple of experts to find out whether it’s okay to skip the cleanse or if there are any complexion woes that might come as a result.

Keep reading to find out what happens to skin when it’s not cleaned after exercise.

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what happens to your skin if you don't wash it after a workout
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What you need to know about post-sweat skin

Your whole body (including your complexion) can feel somewhat grimy after dripping with sweat. That’s because you accumulated dirt during your spin class (or Pilates session or whatever your fitness passion of choice happens to be).

“One of the functions of skin is to act as a secondary channel of elimination to help rid the body of toxins,” says Milo Carter, vice president of medical at the beauty brand Lumion. “Sweat and sebum help to facilitate detoxification, which is good, but when these toxins reach the surface and aren’t cleansed away, they’ll reabsorb back into the skin.”

“When these toxins reach the surface and aren’t cleansed away, they’ll reabsorb back into the skin.”

Not only that, but your complexion has likely been exposed to environmental aggressors as well as germs at the gym. “You can introduce bacteria to your body by touching weights, treadmills, and lockers,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. “It allows more bacteria to grow. As a result, you risk inflammation, clogged pores, and breakouts.”

In other words: You need to wash your face.

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what happens to your skin if you don't wash it after a workout
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Try these post-workout face-cleansing tips

Ok, so you’ve got to cleanse. But just how low-key can you keep your routine before you rush off to work or evening plans? Sadly, even though a splash of cold water (à la Nicole Kidman) works in the morning before you sweat, it won’t do the trick after you’ve put in time at the gym.

Dr. Engelman explains that while this may help remove some bacteria, it won’t be as effective as washing with an actual cleanser. She suggests using a gentle formula to get rid of any lurking pore-clogging debris.

“A simple cleanser will remove any bacteria or dirt you’ve accumulated throughout a workout,” she adds. “I wouldn’t recommend anything with AHAs or BHAs because you don’t want to exfoliate—just gently remove sweat without stripping your skin of its natural oils.”

After nixing the boot camp-induced gunk, Carter recommends immediately applying a hydrating mist to keep the complexion dewy. Then, off you go to hustle through the rest of your day with skin perfectly prepped.

Now for your outfit—here are 3 effortlessly cool post-workout style hacks that Nina Dobrev swears by. And here’s the fashion-approved hairstyle that’s perfect for sweat-drenched locks.