This time of year, hot yoga classes are packed. It’s a way to temporarily escape the piercing cold and pretend you’re flowing in the sweltering heat of a tropical island. While some people don’t experience any negative affects from downward-dogging at temperatures reaching 105 degrees, hot yoga skin irritation overshadows any enjoyment for others.
Experts have noted that frequent attendance at hot yoga classes can cause discoloration and persistent redness due to the heat triggering your skin’s pigment-producing cells. But if your skin is even mildly sensitive, you might experience an immediate reaction to excessive heat.
“Hot yoga in particular can be especially irritating to your skin because it raises your core body temperature from the inside out, triggering what’s known as an inflammatory cascade,” says esthetician Jeannel Astarita, founder and CEO of Just Ageless in New York City. “The heat and inflammation causes the moisture that you naturally have in your skin to evaporate rapidly, leaving your skin dry, dehydrated, and irritated.”
Luckily, there are some ways you can prepare your skin that might be able to help alleviate the irritation. “Use a gentle cleanser before your hot yoga class, and wash up immediately after to rid your face of oils and bacteria, which can sometimes cause breakouts, itching, or dryness on the skin. Then, apply a hydrating water-based moisturizer,” says Lana Pinchasov, a dermatology-certified physician’s assistant in New York City.
Also, bring along a trusty, ice-cold water bottle for the ultimate relief. “The night before you go to hot yoga, fill a water bottle halfway with filtered water and freeze it. The next day, fill the rest of the bottle with more filtered water and bring it with you, along with a very soft muslin baby washcloth,” Astarita says. “After yoga, soak the cloth with your ice water and drape it over your face, allowing the cloth to draw out the heat and absorb it.”
If you’re still experiencing itching and burning—even after using these techniques—hot yoga might not be the best form of exercise for your complexion. To ease the itchiness, Pinchasov says to grab a low-dose topical anti-inflammatory cream—like a 1 percent hydrocortisone—and make sure your skin stays properly moisturized. Then, maybe cancel those remaining classes and find something you and your skin love.
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