No Sweat: Making Sure Your Skin Doesn’t Get a Workout at the Gym

Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma
Perspiring in saunas or hot baths has long been used to purify skin. But breaking a sweat can cause the opposite to happen—irritation and redness, acne flare-ups and clogged pores—when you leave the salty stuff on your face to dry. And by looking around the yoga studio and the gym, most people do.

“Research shows that most gym-goers don’t shower after a workout,” says New York City dermatologist, Debra Jaliman. “So they’re literally sitting in bacteria both on their bodies and on their skin.” Should you wash your face after a workout? Absolutely!

Keep reading for tips on how to wash a sweaty face and preventing workout-related breakouts.

Sweaty workout
Photo: Stocksy/Jacob Lund

Before your workout

A lot people exercise in makeup, says Dr. Jaliman. This is huge skin-care no-no. “You need to wash your face before you hit the gym or yoga class, otherwise the bacteria combined with the dead skin on your face (we all have it) will clog your pores.”

Woman looking in mirror
Photo: Stocksy/Lumina

After your workout

Wash your face immediately after your workout—before you leave the yoga studio, the gym, spin studio, or wherever you break a sweat. It's one a few skin-care rules that you should never break. You don’t want a cocktail of dirt, oil, and bodily fluids clinging to your skin, affecting its pH, and clogging your pores. No sink is no excuse! Bring cleansing facial wipes with you if there’s no running water (like in the park), or you know you won't be able to get to a sink promptly.

Woman looking in mirror
Photo: Stocksy/Dani Nevsky

How to wash your face after a workout:

The main thing is to get the dirt, grime, and sweat off your skin. The rest is icing!

Use a gentle cleanser. Stay away from cleansers that contain sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate, an ingredient that can overly dry skin. Try an anti-bacterial cleanser with tea tree oil in it, a cooling gel-based face wash, or a gentle milky one that contains calming chamomile or lavender extracts.

Try tepid water. And end with a few splashes of cool (not cold) water. The lower temp can cool your skin, of course, but it can help close your pores, which dilate to help release sweat.

Pat, don’t wipe, your skin dry with a towel. Sometimes toweling off can irritate skin, particularly if your face gets really red when you workout.

In fact, don’t dry your skin completely. Get it 90 percent of the way there, then let it air-dry. Somehow this helps curb an otherwise tight and overly dry feeling. (Though a milky cleanser helps.)

Calm your skin down with a face mist or toning spray. It’s like running through a sprinkler. Dr. Jaliman likes Arcona Triad Pads, laced with an antimicrobial cranberry toner.

Treat inflammation. If you have sensitive skin, apply a green tea or resveratrol-based gel, serum, or light moisturizer to soothe inflammation, says Dr. Jaliman. Then apply your sunscreen and makeup.

Save serious treatment products for bedtime. Even normal skin can be more sensitive right after a workout, so you may want to wait until redness dissipates or bedtime to use your super-active acne or anti-aging treatment products.

Want to go completely clean with your beauty routine? These are the three body care products to swap first when making the switch to all-natural. Plus, here's how facial oils give you glowing skin, not zits.

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