Here’s exactly what happens to your skin when you sweat - if you rarely wash your face pre or post workout this will make you change your ways immediately…
Before you confine yourself to the sofa for fear of clogged pores, it’s probably best to kick this skin-formative piece off by highlighting that exercise and working up a sweat have multiple benefits for both the health and appearance of your skin. From HIIT to jogging to boxing , any workout that gets your blood pumping is good news for your skin too, as increased circulation helps to bring oxygen and nutrients to the surface of the skin. Physical activity also plays out well where boosting collagen levels and slowing the signs of ageing are concerned, as internationally renowned doctor and dermatologist Dr Anita Sturnham explains:
"By the time that we hit our 40s we typically see up to a 50 per cent reduction in blood flow to the deeper dermal layers of our skin, which means that nutrient supply to the skin is reduced. As a result, we need to start thinking about our long-term skin health in our 20s and 30s, as we know that prevention is better than cure. Multiple studies have confirmed that regular exercise can boost new blood vessel formation in the skin, which means that we can take measures to ensure that the blood flow and nutrient delivery to our skin remains efficient, potentially delaying cellular ageing.
"This also means that antioxidants (that work by neutralising free radicals and therefore preventing cell damage) and oxygen can be delivered to the skin readily, helping to block the process of oxidation, which is the main trigger for cell damage and collagen breakdown."
As such, gym gains aren’t just for your glutes - your face serves to reap the rewards of a workout session too, with sweat playing its part in keeping skin healthy (it’s not called ‘glowing’ for nothing). Sweating helps to cool the surface of the skin, flushes out grime and impurities and can even prevent harmful bacteria such as E.coli and Staphylococcus from setting up shop on your skin. Given sweat’s generally terrible rep, this news may be a breath of fresh air for the sporty among you, but it’s when sweat is left lingering on skin that problems such as blocked pores, breakouts and even rashes can arise. In short, sweat = good, sitting around in your sweat = bad, and here’s why…
It can trap dirt and pollutants on the surface of your skin
The LUNA mini 2 cleansing brush helps to remove dirt, grime and bacteria-induced sweat after a workout.
Hold up, we just credited sweat with flushing out the crud on your face, so what’s the deal here? Essentially, if sweat isn’t rinsed away, the lovely congregation of unwanted suspects on the surface of your skin won’t be either, and left to fester they can not only increase your likelihood of free-radical damage but also aggravate any underlying skin conditions.
Your best bet is to clear the decks before the sweat sets in to remove potentially occlusive makeup and pollutant particles. Keep a pore clarifying salicylic acid based cleanser in your gym kit alongside a thorough, speedy cleansing gadget if you’re working out in your lunch break or at the end of the day. The LUNA™ Mini 2 Facial Cleansing Brush , £95.20, made by Swedish beauty and wellness brand FOREO, allows for a record speed facial before your warm-up - T-sonic pulsations from the gentle yet effective silicone bristles remove 99.5 per cent of dirt, oil and makeup residue in just a minute, which let’s be honest is far superior for both the health of your skin and the planet than a face wipe. If you're wondering how to get started, here's how it works
Simple steps to clean your face using a sonic facial brush
Four steps, one minute, go:
Step 1: Wet your face.
Step 2: Turn on the device, adjust the pulsations and add in your favourite facial cleanser.
Step 3: Gently cleanse your face using the LUNA mini 2 for 15 seconds on each 'zone' of your face, enabling it to work its magic on your skin by giving pores a deep cleanse.
Step 4: Wash your face and pat skin dry - the texture of your skin will feel much smoother. Most users report that the effect is noticeable even after the first usage.
The medical grade silicone is also quick drying and ultra-hygienic to prevent bacterial build-up and the bristles themselves are 35 times more sterile than nylon options offered by traditional cleansing brushes. To top it off, it’s seriously handy - it’s small, light and a single charge allows for up to 300 uses. If you thought all the tech belonged on the gym floor, you’d be wrong on that one, although bear in mind that an initial cleanse may not be enough...
It can be a breeding ground for acne bacteria
P.acnes, the bacteria responsible for many a breakout, can proliferate in warm, moist environments, i.e, your face after a workout. Given that 40 per cent of us admit to not washing our face after exercising, chances are that P.acnes is having a field day in sweaty pores up and down the land (apologies). While sweat doesn’t contain the bacteria itself, it’s the environment that it creates that’s so appealing to P.acnes, so make it far less welcome by washing your face immediately after a workout.
The FOREO LUNA™ 2 , £149, will take care of business in the most thorough manner possible by eliminating harmful bacteria from the surface of the skin thanks to its 8000 sonic pulsation per minute cleansing action, plus the larger head allows for fast, efficient cleansing and effective facial massage that’ll also optimise the absorption of post-workout skincare. As with the FOREO LUNA™ Mini 2 , the silicone bristles prevent bacteria growth on your gadget itself, and the fact that they’re soft and non-abrasive means that they won’t aggravate acne prone skin. In fact, there are four models to choose from tailored to different skin types and needs, from a more thoroughly exfoliating oily skin option to a more delicately bristled design for sensitive skin. Each Foreo Luna 2 is also waterproof so you can jump straight into the shower post-run or class and you’ll get 450 uses per charge to prevent faff, because who needs that?
Sweat rash is a thing
Sweat rash, or prickly heat , can be the bane of many people’s lives come summertime but it can also crop up during or post-exercise. Clearly you can’t prevent yourself from sweating as that would present problems in itself, but ensuring that workout wear is breathable and not too tight (friction makes sweat rash worse) and taking a cool or lukewarm shower and cleansing thoroughly as soon as you’ve finished exercising can take the edge off of sweat rash flare-ups.
It can make you more susceptible to sunburn
Sweat on your skin can leave you up to 40 per cent more susceptible to damage from UV rays, particularly since a drenched cardio session is highly likely to cause your sunscreen to rub or wash off. Go for high factor water resistant SPF formulas and wear a cap or visor and sunglasses when working out outdoors to minimise UV exposure.
It can aggravate eczema and dryness
Lingering sodium heavy sweat on skin can cause dehydration, which in turn can make skin itchy and dry. If you suffer from eczema like our Eczema Files columnist Ali, you may find that eczema patches can worsen after a sopping spin class, particularly if cleanliness levels at your local gym are substandard as you’ll be more vulnerable to bacterial infection (FOREO reports that 63 per cent of gym equipment harbours the common cold virus for one thing, so it’s probably not an optimum environment as far as potential skin infection goes either). A clean, sweat-wicking microfibre towel can help matters mid-workout, and as always an effective but non-aggressive one minute facial post-session with the likes of a FOREO LUNA™ Mini 2 , £95.20, will leave skin soft, sweat-free and less prone to irritation and infection.